Union / Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-0 Columbus Crew

Photo: Stephen Speer

It was an overcast spring evening in Chester and the Union offense spent two whole minutes searching for a goal before they found relief in a frankly shocking mistake by Eloy Room which saw the Crew keeper catch a José Martínez cross and then bounce-pass the ball into his own goal.

The start of the game saw Alejandro Bedoya return to the starting eleven after skipping last week’s meeting with Charlotte FC due to an abundance of caution about him experiencing soreness after pre-game warm-ups. There was one additional personnel change from last weekend, specifically the first time off-season signing and designated player Mikael Uhre started for the Union. He was partnered with Julián Carranza, marking the first time the two designated players have started together for the Philadelphia Union.

Once the dust had settled from Columbus’ surprising own goal, the game settled into a more predictable pattern. Columbus had the lion’s share of possession through the first half, with Darlington Nagbe in particular creating a lot of trouble any time the Union got the ball. The half finished with the Union ahead of the scoreboard, but trailing three to eight in shots, 35% to 65% with possession.

The start of the second half saw the Union attack come out a bit sharper, with shots from Bedoya, Carranza, and Uhre all coming in short succession. Unfortunately these shots only served to remind everyone that despite what his early performance would have you believe Eloy Room is in fact a quite capable keeper. The Union continued this pressure through the end of the game, narrowing but never closing the statistical gap. But scores not stats are what get logged on the table and the Union saw out the game with impressive defensive performances across the board, keeping Columbus contained and allowing the team to extend their unbeaten and winning streaks to six and five games respectively.

Three Points
  • Gazdag has arrived. The Hungarian was a stand-out performance on the night, putting in effort for shots of his own as well as setting up teammates.
  • Uhre tries stuff. The only way you score fourteen goals in twenty seven appearances (like Uhre did for Brøndby last season) is by taking shots. And Uhre is taking shots for the Union already, with plenty of opportunistic and creative attempts on the night. None of them found the net, but expect that to change as he gets more integrated with the team.
  • Flach needs work. The young German-American still shows prodigious skill in defending and speed. But if he can’t turn those gifts into opportunities, or at least control, for the Union then it’s time to start questioning his position in the starting XI.
Lineups

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Nate Harriel, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner, José Martínez, Alejandro Bedoya, Dániel Gazdag (Paxten Aaronson 90′), Leon Flach, Julián Carranza (Cory Burke 61′), Mikael Uhre (Quinn Sullivan 79′)

Unused subs: Matt Freese, Matthew Real, Stuart Findlay, Olivier Mbaizo, Jack McGlynn, Jesús Bueno

Columbus Crew

Eloy Room, Pedro Santos, Miloš Degenek, Jonathan Mensah, Steven Moreira, Darlington Nagbe, Artur (James Omonigho Igbekeme 62′), Derrik Etienne Jr., Lucas Zelarayán (Alexandru Mățan 84′), Yaw Yeboah (Aidan Morris 84′), Miguel Berry (Gyasi Zardes 72′)

Unused subs: Josh Williams, Marlon Hairston, Jalil Anibaba, Evan Bush, William Sands

Scoring Summary

PHI: Eloy Room — 2′ (OG)

Discipline Summary

CLB: Steven Moreira — 66′

PHI: Quin Sullivan — 79′

Statistics
PHI Statistic CLB PHI Statistic CLB

31.4

Possession % 68.6 51 Duels Won 53
10 Shots 19 10 Tackles Won

3

5

Shots on Goal 4 4 Saves 5
2 Blocked Shots 4 25 Clearances

7

276

Total Passes 590 12 Fouls 8
65.6 Pass Accuracy % 86.6 1 Yellow Cards

1

4

Corners 8 0 Red Cards 0
6 Crosses 28 1.9 xG

1.3

0

Offsides

4

41 Comments

  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Aside from one small mistake, Rule was probably the best player on the field and kept the game close.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    Score early. Give the other team the ball to the tune of nearly 70% possession.
    .
    Win 1-0.
    .
    That is the model. It works.
    .
    I’d rather dominate the ball.
    .
    Congrats to the Union though. They are one tough fucking team to beat at the moment… let alone score against.

    • Dominating the ball would be nice. I’d settle for hitting the players making the runs but the Union managed to pass out of tight situations several time in the game which got me excited. The final passes weren’t always there and the scoring touch is still a work in progress but, as El P says, “they are one tough fucking team to beat.”

  3. How many 1 on 1’s is Uhre going to get before he finds the back of the net? I get needing time to adjust but there’s no excuse for not netting at least one of them. Otherwise, hard fought game and a good win. Had my doubts but glad they were able to hold strong. Good game boys!

    • Personally I am still just happy he IS getting so many chances. Przybyłko is a good player and we had success with him, but he was not capable of creating chances for himself like Uhre. Having someone like Uhre just creating great chances for himself already feels good.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Imagine leaving your home country. Joining a new culture. Joining a new team. A new coach. Physio. Team trainer. New home. New food. New tv stations. New language. New rules… stated and unstated. Imagine playing the game at the highest level in that country. Assimilating. Building relationships. Trying your dam Dest to understand how these other 17-25 guys see the game. Thinking and managing ALL those things in the span of about 4 weeks…while missing a couple clear gol scoring opportunities and having a fan be impatient with you. Is it inane or insane? Just curious.
      .
      Welcome to Philly Mr Uhre. Welcome to Philly.
      .
      Just the truth.

      • Agreed. It works, but sure is a tough way to play all the time. And it’s a little jarring to concede that much possession at home. As a fan, i like winning games first and foremost, but it would be great to see them knock the ball around a little bit more. 30% is a Championship level side playing Manchester City. Would love to see us on offense more, but tough to argue with undefeated and first place.

  4. Was telling my bride how good Room is pre-game. Then he pulls that gaff! She just looked at me….”oh he’s hood all right”..can’t argue that! Not a great game but they need at least a few games to really get going with Uhre. Lots to improve but lots to like as well! 6 points clear for now !!

  5. Was right behind the goal opposite the River End and was treated to the better half of the Union attack. Uhre is going to get his goals. Dude knows when to run and where. He gets in. He had two really good chances and Gazdag another. To Room’s credit, after what might have been the worst keeping gaff I’ve seen in Chester since Mbholi, we missed out on some good chances. The amount of possession we concede at home is really going to take some getting used to, though. Oof.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Agree entirely. The ball is the object of the game. It’s the plaything. A bit like being a golfer and throwing the ball around the course. Tough philosophy for me to get behind at times especially on their home field.

  6. Union fan says:

    I’ll take a win anyway they can get it. That was a good opponent. Just a statistical fact I looked up since I was curious: the last time the Union were .500 as a club, Sebastian LeToux scored a hat trick vs DC at Lincoln Financial to put them at 1W-1L-0D all-time. Haven’t been .500 since or close really. They have never been above .500 of course. With tonight’s win looks like they stand at 147W-151L-101D. Would love to see the U reach a winning record all time this year…the sooner the better!

    • Gotta say this is the first time I feel like they’re starting a season without questioning how good they will be. Sure, last season the expectations were high after shield, but the distractions of CCL, the strikers, etc.
      — the future looks bright.

  7. Andy Muenz says:

    And thanks to a questionable (but in my opinion correct) offsides call the Union are now the only undefeated team in the league.

  8. OneManWolfpack says:

    A win… is a win… is a win? Unbeaten. Last team in MLS to be unbeaten.
    .
    What I take from this game is that teams can’t score on the Union. At no time did I think Columbus would threaten. Maybe I’m stupidly confident, but the defense is just so solid and in tune I was never worried the wouldn’t win this game.
    .
    They’re going to do big things this year. They are incredibly legit.

  9. The early fluke goal really took a lot of the potential life out of this one, I thought. The Union are obviously comfortable ceding possession and playing on the counter. I don’t mind that style, but it’s easier on the eyes when played with intensity and an intelligent press. But with the early goal there wasn’t quite the same incentive to up the intensity and do what the Union do at their best, which is impose their style and pace even without the ball. The game plan instead seemed to turn to making Columbus break down the Union with numbers behind the ball which, credit to the Union players, is really hard for opposing teams to do right now. Six games in the books and only two goals against.
    .
    That said, I thought the Union carved out the chances to bag at least one more. Gazdag in particular had two gilt-edged chances that I’d favor him to score more often than not. And Uhre added another one or two half chances that I suspect he’ll start to connect on. It’s good news that the Union were able to see that one out despite not being at their best on the finishing front. Three points is three points.

  10. John P. O'Donnell says:

    Love the points and the start but it’s fair to say they aren’t playing their best yet. You keep seeing little bounces they don’t get or goaltenders making every save that just doesn’t seem possible. It’s not hard to imagine this team can play even better yet. The offense looks like it can go on a roll once they start getting consistent minutes together and the back line and Blake might be top five in the league.
    .
    At some point you can see a rotation of the strikers plus Flach, Bedoya & Martinez for the kids. On the other hand, I wouldn’t change anyone on the defense as they look like the best four this team has ever had.
    .
    On another topic, the Union II name needs an upgrade and every team in the league with a two attached. Hearing the and announcer in a game say Union II three, Miami 2 one is annoyingly confusing. I know the Steel was a thing but you can’t go that route in Chester. I was thinking Union Bridge.
    One for the obvious reason and two as it’s a bridge for the youth to the senior team. Oh well, it’s probably not going to change…. But it should.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Imitate the principle behind “Los Dos” in LA , or Dynamo Dos” in Houston, but pick a language more appropriate to Philly than Spanish.
      .
      Various Slavic use “diva” for two. French and Italian use the sound “do.”
      .
      German uses “zwei”
      .
      Or use the Spanish – Philly Dos.

  11. Buccistick says:

    Blake’s scare with the post got Freese warming up continuously from before half well into the second.
    *
    Breathtaking phone-booth flick by Uhre in the second half to spring Ale.
    *
    SoBs on point tonight, from the seasonally appropriate tifo, to the chants that dogged Room (“You f–ed up!”) and elicited appreciation from Uhre.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I much prefer “It’s all your fault” and I wish they would completely retire “You suck, a****le.”

      • Buccistick says:

        +2

      • +3 – It would be nice for once to not be the least classy fans. Just sounds like we’re all sophomores at a high school game.

      • Yeah, it’s really crappy that YSA is being resurrected after being gone for almost 8-9 seasons now. Sadly the drunken fools in the upper reaches of 138 keep bringing it back each game now….

      • “You f-ed up” has a long Philly history, dating back to when ECW was taping wrestling shows at the old Arena. The crowds would chant it when a wrestler did something obviously wrong or staged…
        .
        YSA never went away. It has always been there.
        .
        I’ve been seeing a lot of new faces in the River End, some of which see them as the “cheap seats,” sadly, and not the supporter’s section it is.

    • The Uhre chant and his subsquent acknowledgement and interaction with the fans was a great highlight of the match the other night. Very, very cool.

  12. Getting to the game late, I ended up hearing the own goal while my son streamed ESPN+ in the car. I was glad the Union put enough pressure on C-Bus and Room for him to make that mistake. Was that Room’s first touch of the game? Later in the game, Room was a wall so we were fortunate to get one good bounce against him.
    .
    The rest of the first half was a tense game as the Union struggled to connect passes to runs and control the ball. While the U did generate some shooting opportunities, it took a determined performance from the back 6 to keep the Crew from getting good chances.
    .
    The Crew’s frustrations continued to mount in the second half as Blake saved any shots the defense didn’t snuff from inside his 18-yard box and all of their shots from outside the box went off target. The Union grew into the second half with Bedoya, Gazdag, and our strikers finding better space and opportunities. The U needed to take more one time shots as the Crew smothered everything they could get set in front of and the Union should work on pouncing on the chances they generate.
    .
    I thought the game would be over once Zelarayan was subbed off but the Crew’s subs did spark some fight. Bedoya looked done by the 75th minute and I really hoped he would get a break since he had played an amazing game until then. Despite some tired legs at the end, and the sparks from the Crew substitutes, this was a game won by our defense.
    .
    As they say, you need to score to win but you’ll never lose if you never give up goals. Also, Defense wins Championships.
    .
    C’mon, the U!

    • Andy Muenz says:

      It was Room’s first touch. Uhre was fouled a few seconds after the kickoff. Wagner’s free kick was cleared to Martinez who took it around a couple of defenders on the outside and then sent it in front of goal and that was that.
      .
      Only reason the goal wasn’t in the first minute was the time it took Uhre to get up and for the Union to unsuccessfully argue for a card.

  13. Like most Philly “sports reporters” who never played, complaining about Urhe form is a total Joke.

    Urhe played GREAT today… so glad he’s getting in form.

    And BTW, Kasper was a meh player with Union. Wait till Mr. Urhe gets in form. We’ll forget all about Casper The Friendly Ghost.

    MLS Cup 2022 hosted in Chester!

    In Herr Tanner we trust.

    Curtin too now.

  14. Now that the Union are getting good I’m trying to look more objectively at their play. Defense was pretty good but a couple of open looks from Columbus were not well finished and could have ended up changing the complexion of the game. Not sure if the Union offense was in sync enough to respond to that, had it happened. That being said, the offense looked like it was playing a pre-season game with the ideas being there but the connections were a step or two off. Once they play together a little longer that will tighten up and they could be scary good on the counter.

    I’m still not sure what’s going to happen when we face a team that bunkers and counters. Gazdag looks much more comfortable and may be able to break down those teams with Carranza and Uhre in front of him but that will be a different test and if they fail, that will be the game plan against the Union until they figure it out.

  15. Thanks to all the lads who gave me pointers on pubs a while back and the grounds. Enjoyed the match last night on the tele in the flat, but I am surrounded by boxes and can’t really get out to the grounds yet. All that said, I will surely give the pubs a whirl soon.

    Your left back is fantastic, as is the 10, that Gazdag bloke. Enjoy watching them and happy for the win. Quickly becoming a local and a supporter. Now if I could only figure out the whole baseball thing!

    Londoner now in Philly. Grew up spitting distance from White Hart Lane and as a kid saw my first ever match there with Glenn Hoddle in the lineup. So, yeah, I despise Arsenal and worship Gazza.

    Goon on y’all. Cheers, mates!

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Baseball is a game whose sole purpose is to make football fans miserable when our teams play at NYCFC (subsidiary of Manchester City) because they insist on playing on a baseball field that is not really regulation size (they can’t play their CONCACAF Champions League games there).
      .
      The Union’s left back is one of the top left backs in the league.
      .
      As a fellow Tottenham fan I have to say that Lloris had an incredible first half yesterday.

    • While I am a Chelsea fan, I lived closer to Tottenham (in Leytonstone) and will always root against the Gunners.

      I’ll explain baseball if you explain cricket. Deal?

    • Took in a Spurs match during a brief stay in London. Had the best time of our trip after the game in a supporters pub about 1/2 block from WHL stadium. There was a courtyard behind the pub with a killer band playing to a packed crowd after the Spurs tied Liverpool late. I had the pleasure of sitting in with the band and they made a big deal that a bass playing yank came across the pond to take in a match. What started out as 1 drink post game visit for my wife and I turned into a 6 hour hang. Made a pile of new buddies that we’re still in contact with.

      The MC Liverpool match today is possibly the best game I’ve ever seen for pure class. Made it tough watching bits of other games later.

  16. Deez Nuggs says:

    Batte of the keepers yesterday. Two of the best in the league. One blunders, the other doesn’t. That’s the difference in the match. Both teams played well. Both created solid chances from open play and set pieces. Both keepers stood them up.
    .
    Columbus is a better team than their record. And they came with a good plan to press us. We figured it out better in the second half. And maybe could have got a couple more if not for elephant in the Room.

  17. Andy Muenz says:

    Union 2 did not look good tonight in losing to Crew 2 0-1. The bad news is that 9 of the 11 starters were first team backups and they really didn’t generate any dangerous chances. Freese, Real, Findlay, Craig, Aaronson, Turner, Sullivan, Bueno, and McGlynn all started.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      They were playing the first-team’s style, as they should be. But they did not have the first team’s pace and technique at striker.
      .
      Sullivan does not currently have the ability to create separation, for all of his dedication, courage, and marvelous conditioning. Nelson Pierre was away with the U17s at the GA Cup, where he scored the match’s only goal to in it.
      .
      Probably that’s where Darboe was, as well as Westfield, but I am only guessing while still hoping to find a lineup.

  18. Wonder was the expected goals number was for Saturday? There were so many chances, felt like it could have just as easily been a 4-2 final score Union win.

  19. Here are my observations from Section 105:

    1) I was glad we got there early to see the Room blunder–I don’t think that I have seen a gaffe that bad outside youth soccer. Yes, the ball was curving AWAY from goal because of the spin, but its arc was outside the frame. Room’s footwork looked as though he was trying to avoid stepping in dog poo. We were laughing and dooping at the same time. I turned to my companions and said, “How would you feel if you were Room and that goal decided the game?”

    2) Ale Bedoya is the best leader the club has ever had, period. But he has lost several steps. The counterattacking style no longer fits his game (because it involves too much running and demands more pace than he currently has). I think that he needs to be limited to 60 minutes a game. There will come a time this season when the Union will need his experience and all the speed he can muster, and it behooves Curtin to keep his tank full.

    3) I was watching Kai Wagner during the 2nd half since our seats were proximate to the Union’s left defensive side. My goodness, this man is a wall! The Union were basically daring Columbus to take the ball down Wagner’s side by overplaying to the middle. The defensive communication between Flach and Wagner was excellent. I do not remember a single instance where Columbus created a chance from that side in the 2nd half.

    4) Can we hire Ilsinho to teach the rest of the team how to play with the ball at their feet?

    5) While I am fine with the Union ceding a lot of meaningless possession, I do think that there are times when the Union needs to possess the ball in an effective manner. In extra time during the second half, I was yelling for Cory Burke to take the ball to the corner, which space was wide open. Surely these players know how to wind down the clock without feigning injury.

    6) Andre Blake may be the Union’s all-time greatest player. The save on the Zelarayan free kick was superb and critical. His decision-making and positioning was similarly outstanding all night. This team has a chance to establish some MLS defensive records this year, I think.

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