Union match reports

Match report: D.C. United 3-1 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

D.C. United raced Philadelphia Union straight out of Audi Field Saturdy night by way of a 3-1 scoreline.

Despite gifting the Union an own goal, the home team were the clear favorite to collect three points. The comeback victory was well deserved.

The result snapped D.C.’s 10 game winless streak against Philly, which equalled the longest such streak in club history. Their last win against the Union came all the way back on Feb. 4, 2017.

It was the third and final meeting of the regular season between the Union and United, and the former took all three points in both prior contests.

The biggest prematch storyline came in a surprising switch for the Union. Instead of the preferred 4-4-2 diamond setup, Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin went festive with his formation. The Villanova alum opted for the Christmas tree 4-3-2-1, allowing for midfielders Jamiro Monteiro and Daniel Gazdag to play in a more forward role just beneath striker Kacper Przybylko. It didn’t work.

It may have been a response to their poor road form, going 0-3-4 in their previous seven games away from Subaru Park.

D.C. entered the match conceding 10 goals in their last three games— all loses. Before that stretch, United allowed 10 goals over their previous 11 matches.

The game opened with free flowing soccer before shifting toward D.C. dominance. The home side played with confidence, megging defenders and playing attacking football while Philadelphia struggled to connect consecutive passes to break the pressure.

Pressure built to the point of bursting. A wonderful would-be goal was chopped off as right wing back Julian Gressel was well offside. Minutes later the German was denied by a diving, full stretch save by All Star goalkeeper Andre Blake.

And yet somehow the Union opened the scoring with an equally surprising goal in the 22nd minute.

Przybylko played a ball wide for Alejandro Bedoya. The captain’s cross was more prayerful than precise, but it caromed off the chest of United’s own captain, Steve Birnbaum. There was nothing a helpess Jon Kempin could do as the keeper watched the ball roll into his net.

Yet D.C.’s momentum continued to build. In the 28th minute, Blake made a save which no words can do justice. Seriously, just watch it.

The release came in the 36th minute after VAR correctly granted a penalty to United. Alvas Powell, Curtin featured at right back in favor of Olivier Mbaizo, took down Yordy Reyna. It looked clean, but the Jamaican never made contact with the ball after review. Up stepped forward Ola Kamara who sent Blake the wrong way for his 12th goal (third most in MLS) of the season.

A needed change came for the Union to start the second half. Philadelphia switched back to their diamond, but United continued to roll. Four minutes after play resumed, D.C. took the lead.

Gressel’s cross found the head of Kamara, who beat center back Jakob Glesnes. While Blake was their for the initial save, Reyna was their to hammer home the lead.

Just inside the hour mark, Curtin made his first personnel adjustments. Quinn Sullivan and Cory Burke replaced the ineffective Gazdag and Przybylko, respectively.

Whether it was the scoreline or an increase in physicality, the Union began showing some fight around the 70th minute. At that point, Mbaizo replaced Powell and 17-year-old Paxten Aaronson came on for Monteiro.

Conversely, United were content to absorb pressure and preserve their slim lead.

Yet Philadelphia couldn’t truly trouble a cynical D.C. defense. In the end, it was D.C. who would put the exclamation point on the result. Ramon Abila hammered home United’s third late in stoppage time. Even he, along with a lazy Union defense, stopped for a moment believing the forward to be offside.

For all their struggles on the road, the Union hope to keep their home unbeaten streak alive against Supporters’ Shield leading New England Revolution. The next match comes Friday night in Chester.  The visitors saw their nine game unbeaten streak snapped by NYCFC.

Three points
  • Lump of coal. That’s all that was underneath the Christmas tree.
  • Goalkeeper of the Year. Everyone know Matt Turner will win the award this year, but are we sure Andre Blake isn’t still MLS’s best keeper?
  • Hateful Eight. While the Union can’t lose at home, they can’t win on the road. That’s eight straight matches winless on the road.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake; Alvas Powell (Olivier Mbaizo 73′), Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner; Alejandro Bedoya (Anthony Fontana 85′), Jose Martinez, Leon Flach; Daniel Gazdag (Quinn Sullivan 60′), Jamiro Monteiro (Paxten Aaronson 73′); Kacper Przybylko (Cory Burke 60′)
Subs: Davo, Jack McGlynn, Stuart Findlay, Matt Freese

D.C. United

Jon Kempin; Tony Alfaro, Steve Birnbaum, Andy Najar; Yordy Reyna (Felipe 86′), Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Julian Gressel (Frederic Brillant 78′); Kevin Paredes (Joseph Mora 78′), Ola Kamara (Ramon Abila 78′), Edison Flores (Drew Skundrich 60′)
Subs: Griffin Yow, Moses Nyeman, Chris Seitz, Yamil Asad

Scoring Summary

PHI: Steve Birnbaum — 22′ (own goal)
DC: Ola Kamara — 36′ (penalty)
DC: Yordy Reyna — 49′
DC: Ramon Abila — 90’+5′ (Felipe)

Disciplinary Summary

DC: Andy Najar — 55′ (foul)
PHI: Jack Elliott — 59′ (foul)


  1. Last season the Union played as a well oiled machine that was greater than the sum of its parts.
    This season the Union are 11 players each of whom has absolutely no clue what anyone else is doing.
    With 8 players gone for Friday night’s game the Union have no chance against New England even without Matt Turner. If it wasn’t for the fireworks after the game I probably wouldn’t bother going and I don’t ever remember feeling that way before.

    • Yeah but it’s a chance to start the teenagers (for real this time, right!). Maybe something astounding will happen. And New England won’t have Buchanon either, their best player. Too optimistic, I know.

  2. Call me when Bedoya isn’t starting anymore. Till then, this team isn’t worth watching.

    • Something you and I agree on! I like the fella, he’s just done. He’d be good to bring on to defend a lead as a d mid or a central defender. I won’t question his heart.

      • IMO he hurts the team every time he steps on the field. What I fear now more than anything is that he’s actually going to hurt someone. He’s slow and late into every tackle. He runs around chasing and very rarely catching, and when he does, he’s getting the player not the ball. Kevin Paredes legs must be all black and blue. Now while I’d normally be fine with that if it were from clean play, this wasn’t.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      You might as well skip Friday’s game. They will need him to get 11 bodies on the field assuming Blake, Burke, Powell, Martinez, Monteiro, Mbaizo, and Gazdag are all missing in addition too Elliott.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        You may have noticed that the commentary by DellaCamera and Higginbotham after Elliott’s yellow card said the Union would be missing eight players Friday. That seemed to confirm that all seven internationals will be away.
        Using the 4 man back line struck me as preparation against the eventuality that one of Glesnes or Elliott might pick up a fifth yellow.
        It further suggests that Collin is not considered an option to start at this point.

  3. Desh Bouksani says:

    Tonight’s post is a Desh Bouksani post because in truth this team has been moving towards one for months now. It’s been a couple years since Desh has been paged by The elephant… and he’s been grateful.
    So unimaginative and boring. I watched LAG to start the evening then both games at the same time for 25 min… LAG went into LAFC and played a great game. Dynamic. Cohesive and attacking. A total joy to watch… Union go in to Audi Stadium and it’s cross. Useless CROSS. Hopeful cross. Early cross. Same old cross. “Up for grabs” CROSS. Cross. cross. SSORC. just every possible cross… all ending in nothing but turnovers in possession and Just dull as a dull can be soccer. Nothing dynamic. No real individual skill on the ball. No one trying to get the end line. No creativity. No movement that confounds. Just fucking jump it upfield cross after useless fucking cross. It does not represent me. I love the team and do not expect 3 points every night. DC United ‘needed’ the game and took it to them…
    To boot. The final insult to injury tonight…?
    Flach’s excellent slide tackle in stoppage time…which turns over United -to whoever winds up on the ball— & attacks the space vertically — only to then pass the ball right to a United player which is U8-U13 level travel soccer stuff—- which then leads to Flach’s complete blunderbuss defensively inside the box —- THIS..…the poster child for the way the team has been playing for large chunks of time this season. All I could do was chuckle and shrug a familiar apathetic shrug … I thought I was cured of.
    el Trafico. Thrilling football thanks to LAG bringing something excellent to the rivalry tonight.
    Union v United just dreck thanks to Union having NO IDEA how to Just Play Well & getting capped by a North African fictional assassin below an I95 overpass somewhere between Havre de Grace and Jopatown.

  4. Hernan Munster says:

    DC a tougher nut to crack with a real coach now, huh?
    3-4-3 exposes them, shows carrot top is still a paint-by-number pony. PU has never seen a pass they were capable of connecting.

    Their CF’s look like refugees from a turtle rescue.
    What they know about “close control” is best evinced from a urinal.

    U suck at this sport so bad, I’m half convinced you’d even lose to Arsenal at this point.

    I’m fully convinced last year was fraudulent.

    • Last year was a fluke Which is why I decided not pick up a partial plan on tix. I gave them up after 2019 season. I thought about it for a minute but this team has no manger of a real style of play. After 10 years of disappointment I’d had enough. I can’t remember the last time I saw this team string more that 6-7 passes moving forward. Or 4 passes within 20 years of the goal. It’s lateral or long passes up the wings then throw it in the 18. No creativity at all. They will not make the playoffs.

  5. In Tanner We Trust says:

    DC was better for just about all 90. Powell isn’t good enough. Flach isn’t good enough yet, he’s 20 and needs time, just not right now. Bedoya has fallen off hard compared to last year, much empty running and needs a smaller role to thrive. Gazdag doesn’t look like he has any clue where anyone else is. And ultimately, Przybylko isn’t good enough. Credit for all the goals since 2019 but I’m sorry, he’s not cutting it. He can’t start right now. Burke is also on a brutal cold stretch. We have no answers.

    • Bedoya misses Gaddis. Ray knew how to make overlapping runs, and how to make inside channel runs, and he knew how to put in an early cross, but he also knew how to drive to the end line and cut it back. Mbaizo gets the ball, steps on it, slows it all down, and then puts in the same lazy cross I haven’t seen a good cross from Mbaizo since the Saprissa games…

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        That leads me to the other point I wanted to make. Aside from the strikers being horrible at their jobs lately, let’s think about our 3 worst positions this year:
        1) #10. Remember the debate preseason? Is it Monteiro out of position? Fontana? Is Aaronson ready yet? None of those 3 have been the answer yet, and Gazdag has largely disappointed so far.
        2) the Bedoya/RB partnership. With Gaddis gone, there is a real struggle on that side of the field, offensively and defensively.
        3) McKenzie’s spot next to Elliott. We were concerned about the lack of speed between Elliott and Glesnes in preseason and it’s proven to be an issue. Let’s call it what it is: a bad pairing. Glesnes has had a pretty bad year.
        I still believe in Tanner long term but as of now we have no replacements for our 3 big losses. Let’s hope Aaronson and Harriel develop quickly, and that Findlay proves to be an upgrade, especially when it comes to speed.

      • Bedoya misses his legs and his youth, not Gaddis.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        To many people saw Raymond as a liability in possession. Simply not true. His skill was understanding space and timing often resulting in controlled opportunities deep in the attacking third.. unlike Mbazio constantly thumping it into the box.
        He moved and created space. Often as deep as the touch line.
        But whatever.

      • The curse of good defenders. People don’t usually notice when they’re effectively doing their job. They only notice (and complain) if they aren’t flashy moving forward. Well they got a Flashier player in his place. One who’s way worse at actually defending and arguably worse going forward too. But at least he dances with the ball and tries to needlessly take defenders on.

  6. Went to DC for the dumpster fire. Hot garbage. The ‘performance’ not just spoke for itself but ignited itself. They better find solutions rather than excuses for it.

  7. No Ground Game … # 1 Priority

    As was said by Desh the Union attack is can be summarized as a series of predicable easily defended hopeful crosses and an occasional hail Mary over the top.

    If Tanner does not go out and make a deal for a hi-quality
    # 10 he should resign. There is nobody on this team who has all those necessary skills to play that position and can compete at this level.

    There are a lot of needs on this team but a hi quality #10 can make mediocre forwards look good and give the young midfielders more confidence.

    Even Sugarman must understand that.

  8. The Union don’t need a 10. They have Monteiro, Gazdag, and Aaronson. What they need is a coach who encourages/forces them to play passes, take shots in the center of the pitch when attacking. Instead of the endless crosses. Curtin just not good enough.

    • Ben I have never been a Curtin fan but Montiero , Gazdag and JR Aaronson are not natural # 10s.

      They dont have all the skills to play through the middle.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      I don’t think Aaronson is ready to run 60 minutes a game at this level yet, but I think he’ll be a good #10 in the future. Gazdag hasn’t had a break in forever and I tend to think he’s exhausted from the long season in Hungary right before he joined us. And he did pick up an injury in Euros. Let’s hope there’s a good reason he’s looked quite lazy lately cuz it’s been frustrating to watch. And Monteiro is not a #10. The fact that he’s one of the best players on the field despite always being misused is kinda incredible.

      • Aaronson looked good. He checked back to find space and find the ball, which Gazdag and Pryzbylko did not do…

  9. What a disappointment. They really needed to show up and win last night, not just for standings but to set the tone for the next two games against some of the best. What I can’t settle on is if they do have the talent to succeed and just aren’t clicking yet, or if Bedoya is too slow for the system, Gazdag hustles but isn’t that good, Montiero is playing like he is still half out the door (no intensity), Kaspar has bricks for feet. There is of course the question of coaching effectiveness as Ben mentioned.

  10. If we’re to conclude this team has no natural #10, then playing a formation that calls for two of them seems to just double the issue. Curtin needs to find the system that works for the players he has. And I think we need a little less Flach and Bedoya in the midfield. I like both players, but we don’t need a bunch of poor-passing runners.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Yep, they’re both good at what they do (or Bedoya was) but their offensive weakness is too much to ignore. Flach deserves consideration as the long term 6 when Martinez gets sold to Europe but he’s not working at the 8. And he has no chemistry with Wagner. Always very basic passing schemes.

  11. Deez Nuggs says:

    Curtin changes the formation for the first time and it’s clearly done because he can’t bring himself to choose between benching Bedoya or Flach. And with less than a week to “practice” it predictably plays out mixed Mixed Up Mothergoose. No one had a clue what to do. They leave acres when they should press and press when there’s no support.

    For me, though, Powell is hard done by for the penalty. Contact is minimal, dude jumps, and he does get a toe on the ball but not much. But when the U play badly, the ref’s mistakes are all the more glaring.

  12. OneManWolfpack says:

    Where is the team from May? How can they have gone down hill so quickly? Game vs NE and game vs CA are going to be disasters. Not optimistic at all. I think they’ll squeak into the playoffs, but they aren’t winning anything, barring a miracle run/return to some sort of form. Tanner has his work cut out for him and Curtin needs to figure it out quick – and I don’t even know what “it” is. Feel like they are more talented than the results they are getting. Maybe that’s an optimistic view, but these games lately… even the wins… have been so frustrating to watch.

  13. Well, there went a couple hours of my life that I will never get back. What a disaster that was.

    The Trafico in LA was really cool, but this was simply dreadful, and DC United are not even very good. What does that say about the Union? Curtin has no answers as the team fades, and it gives me little hope that MLS takes pride in losing players to European sides.

    Thank goodness college football has started, ’cause I don’t think I can watch anymore of this fraudulent excuse for a professional soccer league.

    And, does it drive anyone else crazy listening to J.P. do his play-by-play and call PU players by their first names? All the more reason to watch this dribble in Spanish.

    There is not hope on the horizon, either, and those uniforms are just abhorrent.And what happened to all of those promises that the investors made to Chester? All those tax breaks? Great! All those mediocre foreign players brought in for the fraud? What a total joke. I give up on the PU.

    Please, please bring back Roger Torres already!

    Ed the Red

  14. Rich Myers says:

    That was a very poor showing last night by everyone connected with the Union. It had very little to do with the formation–it had to do with personnel and lack of effort. Personally, I am willing to put up with mistakes if they result from effort.

    1) Alvas Powell flat out cannot play in this league. In the first half, the Union right side was like I-95 at 2:00 a.m.–no traffic and no obstructions. Powell was consistently beaten and lacked the pace to catch up. His poor defense is matched by his equally poor offense. I cannot remember as single instance when the Union successfully played from the back right side into the offensive third. His penalty was deserved and ill-timed. With the Union up 1-0, why slide-tackle in the box?
    It is much more risky than trying to block a shot with the legs and giving Blake a chance to make a save (or have the offensive player miss). This one is on Tanner–whatever the Union paid should be refunded. Unless Mbaizo is hurt or suspended, I want to see him at right back. He is young and I believe he will develop into a good player, particularly because he had good speed.

    2) Przybylko gave the Union nothing last night, nor did Gazdag. I cannot stand watching them just standing around in the middle of the field. They, and the entire team for that matter, need to be moving into positions where the ball might come their way when the Union (hopefully) gain possession. I haven’t looked at the stats, but my recollection is that Flach and Martinez had a number of tackles but no outlets once they gained possession. I continue to believe that they are misfits for this team seeking to play a counter-attacking style. Corey Burke, though his skill set is limited, at least tries hard. The Union missed Sergio Santos who has both speed and skill–he is a good fit for a counter-attacking scheme.

    3) The Union failed to adjust to the officiating last night. In the last match between these two teams at Subaru Park, the referee called DC United for all of their 2-hand pushes and you could see them complaining. Last night, they were allowed to freely push on balls in the air to their advantage. The Union should have done the same.

    4) The only person who had a worse night than the Union was the AR who worked the the near side to the TV cameras in the first half. When a player is 2 yards offside, the flag should come up. Since ARs make mistakes, it is fine to let play continue when the call is close. It is not fine to let play continue when it is not close because eventually, a player will be injured. Granted, I was watching the game last night on TV and the camera angle may give a different perspective, but there looked to be some other instances when DC was obviously offside and play continued.

    5) It is time to start the kids. They will give maximum effort.

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