Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 0-0 D.C. United

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Neither Philadelphia Union nor D.C. United could produce a goal across 90 minutes on Wednesday night at Subaru Park.

Returning home from a long road trip, Jim Curtin changed his side’s formation from the 3-5-2 that defeated Colorado Rapids on Saturday night. Instead, he opted for the 4-3-2-1 “Christmas tree,” making three personnel changes in the process. Joaquin Torres started as one of the No. 10s, coming in to the midfield in place of Jack McGlynn, who is off on international duty with the U.S. U-20s. Matt Real got the nod as one of three deep-lying midfielders, effectively replacing Damion Lowe. Real was preferred to offseason acquisition Andres Perea, who again missed out on a spot in the lineup. At right back, Nathan Harriel came in for Olivier Mbaizo. Jose Martinez and Mikael Uhre both made the bench in their returns from injury.

The match started lively and open on a beautiful night in Chester. The visitors, so putrid in two matches against Philly last season, looked brighter, with Mateusz Klich forcing Andre Blake into a quality save after seven minutes. The recent signing from Leeds United created a pocket of space at the edge of the box and curled a long-range effort toward goal, but the Union’s longtime keeper extended to full stretch to parry the shot away. At the other end, D.C. keeper Tyler Miller found himself in serious trouble nearly 50 yards away from his own goal, just managing to get the ball away from the sniffs of Torres and Julian Carranza.

D.C. continued to have the better of the chances. Christian Benteke, another former Premier Leaguer, nearly put his side on the board in the 28th minute with a powerful shot from the outside of his foot. Blake was beaten, but the ball flew just wide of the post. On offense, Philly struggled to get the ball into dangerous areas, with United’s pressure keeping Daniel Gazdag off the ball in the attacking half.

Blake came up big again in the 35th minute, stoning a point-blank shot from Theodore Ku-DiPietro. Kai Wagner attempted to clear a cross from Benteke, but it fell right to Ku-DiPietro at the six-yard box. His one-time finish looked a certain goal, but Blake managed to stop the shot and smother the rebound.

The halftime whistle blew right after a limp transition attempt by Torres missed the goal by about 25 yards.

Jack Elliott sent a warning shot across Miller’s bow early in the second half, aiming an audacious free kick at D.C.’s goal from his own half. The attempt sent Miller scrambling, but ultimately drifted just wide of the net.

The Union upped the intensity. Matt Real had Philly’s best chance so far in the 53rd minute, a looping cross from Alejandro Bedoya finding his head right in the center of the box. But the header went wide of the goal, and the game remained scoreless.

In the 57th minute, Curtin inserted Uhre and Martinez for the ineffective Torres and Real, allowing his side to return to the familiar 4-4-2 diamond for the final third of the game. The changes immediately tilted the field in the Union’s favor, as United struggled to get out of their own half. One poor turnover from Miller led to a long-range strike from Carranza, forcing the keeper to make a leaping save.

Benteke probably should have opened the scoring for D.C. in the 68th minute, rising above Jack Elliott and hammering a cross from Gaoussou Samake past Blake. Fortunately for the Boys in Blue, the header found the crossbar and pinged harmlessly off of it.

In the 72nd minute, Curtin introduced Perea and Mbaizo for Bedoya and Harriel, like-for-like changes in search of a winning goal. But the match stayed spiky and scattered, with few clear-cut chances coming. Leon Flach worked his way into a good spot in the 82nd minute, but he scuffed his shot well wide of Miller’s net.

A high-speed collision in the 84th minute between Uhre and Russell Canouse left United’s captain with a bloody face and both players on the deck.

Perea had the last good chance of the match in second-half stoppage time, hitting a teasing ball from the top of the box toward the top corner. Like so many chances on the evening, it drifted just high and wide, and the points were shared in Chester.

It’s another quick turnaround for the Union, as they host New England Revolution for the conclusion of MLS’s “Rivalry Week” on Saturday night. Kickoff at Subaru Park is at 7:30 p.m.

Three Points
  • Coal under the Christmas tree. The 4-3-2-1 has worked at times for the Union this year, but it looks a lot less impressive with Matt Real playing left midfield. Philly brightened significantly when they changed shape early in the second half.
  • Jakob Glesnes. The reigning Defender of the Year took on the task of bodying up a savvy, strong veteran striker in Christian Benteke. As Union fans have come to expect, the Norwegian effectively handled United’s danger man despite D.C.’s barrage of crosses (23 in total).
  • The opposite of unforgettable. A home draw against a mid-table side is a perfectly cromulent result for the Union after three straight wins.  In a month, no one will remember that this game ever happened.

Philadelphia Union 

Andre Blake, Nathan Harriel (Olivier Mbaizo 72′), Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya (Andres Perea 72′), Matt Real (Jose Martinez 57′), Daniel Gazdag, Joaquin Torres (Mikael Uhre 58′), Julian Carranza

Unused subs: Joe Bendik, Damion Lowe, Richard Odada, Jeremy Rafanello, Chris Donovan

D.C. United

Tyler Miller, Victor Palsson, Derrick Williams, Donovan Pines, Theodore Ku-DiPietro (Cristian Dajome 75′), Russell Canouse, Lewis O’Brien, Gaoussou Samake (Jacob Greene 75′), Mateusz Klich (Yamil Asad 83′), Chris Durkin, Christian Benteke

Unused subs: Alex Bono, Brendan Hines-Ike, Matai Akinmboni, Jackson Hopkins, Kristian Fletcher, Erik Hurtado

Scoring Summary


Discipline Summary

PHI: Julian Carranza — 9′ (dissent)
DC: Derrick Williams — 48′ (foul)
DC: Lewis O’Brien — 74′ (other reason)

PHI Statistic DC PHI Statistic DC


Possession % 54.4 42 Duels Won 57
16 Shots 12 7 Tackles Won



Shots on Goal 4 3 Saves 2
6 Blocked Shots 6 22 Clearances



Total Passes 441 11 Fouls 12
74.7 Pass Accuracy % 77.5 2 Yellow Cards



Corners 4 0 Red Cards 0
15 Crosses 23 0.7 xG







  1. So, when are the Union going to again look like a top team? So far, not.
    Scrambling defenders, no midfield control of which to speak and attackers who play like they just met each other.

  2. I’m not sure what to make of this team lately. Has the league largely figured out how to play us by dragging each game into a CONCAFian street fight? Have we just lost that much from last season? Whole team played below avg or worse tonight and didn’t look like much until the last 20 minutes. I’m left relieved we managed the draw.

  3. Was Gazdag actually on the field tonight? One of the few times he has been complete dogshit in a Union shirt.

    And don’t get me started about Flach…

    • I actually couldn’t say whether Gazdag played. Neither saw him nor heard of him all match, although the Route 1 offense did him no favors.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        Completely invisible first 60 minutes. Then looked better after the change to a 4-4-2.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    Absolute shit soccer. This is it? This is the best this team can do? What happened. This is my bipolar post because that’s what this team of bipolar with underlying major depression.
    Mistimed play
    Mis touched passing
    Absolute shit soccer. It is unacceptable. Last week Jim tweaks it to a 3-5-2 the team shows signs of likemindedness in and then he drops a Christmas tree out there. Fuck sakes. I can’t take it.
    If you can’t play well get the hell out of here. All of you. I’m sick of it.
    Jag’off tonight with that. FIX IT.

    • Atomic Spartan says:

      Too many games, too many road games, too much travel, coming back from altitude, the kids playing elsewhere, insufficient recovery time, Curtin being Curtin, an improving opponent, this economy-based roster was not built to accommodate so many challenges. Good luck v the Revs. Take the tie, leave the cannoli.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Man. Something. They’ve always thrown a ‘junk ball’ but it is especially erratic. It’s wearing thin. Moonballs. Passes to no one. Second touches that have to correct first touches which lead to 7th grade clearances. This is the highest level of the game here and it is unacceptable. I can not forgive technical error when it’s the mean.
        I was magnanimous about things for weeks. Can’t be any longer.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Maybe it’s time for Jim to stop making excuses publicly about things and chew out some assess behind the door.

  5. Deez Nuggs says:

    Most keepers saves goals. Blake saves games.

  6. The Chopper says:

    I have not paid for the MLS package on Apple Plus. Too much quality soccer on TV for free. I watched tonight to take advantage of the free feed and that match, TV production ( they missed Elliot’s Chip attempt) quality of overall play pretty much justifies my decision.

    • FCdelcofella says:

      Spot on. I watched a few games on fox during the champions league run and it was awful to watch. Why the F would I pay extra for that product? I check here in to see the scores because, unfortunately, I still give a shit and want them to do well. 0-0 on a Wednesday night game….? WOW! God bless the people who rushed from work and are getting in late to see that slop. Highlights on apple are trash too btw.

  7. So I sat there for the entire game, 8 rows from the field, and just nothing. Sure, there were a few ‘close ones’ and as usual Blake saving Curtin’s job as he has for years… but this team is just disjointed, like after a bender, a hang over that won’t stop.

    What we saw tonight was pitiful, playing down again to a lesser quality team……… making a joke out of ‘home field advantage’.

    And yeah, the league has figured us out, wasn’t hard… because like “Doc” adjustments???? We don’t need no stinking adjustments!

    That’s a joke.

    But I’ll be damned…. substitutes at before 60?… because now we understand why Montreal let Torres go…. and why a front line of Torres, Gasbag and Carranza doesn’t work.

    And one more insight…. we’ll see Sat, but Bruce Arena and NER are gonna kick our *sses if we continue to play like strangers, like tonight, past few weeks.

    And that’s just the start of a tough schedule where we play how many squads above the playoff line?


    I put $10 on FCC to win it all a few weeks ago. Albright and Noonan have something special going on in Cincy…. Kineer the wizard behind the scenes.

  8. Pragmatist says:

    I’ll be the silver lining…that was crap, but they got a point. Take the point, but fix it.

    • Wherever Miller wanders…..wherever he roams says:

      You can’t fix stupid. Curtin reverting to the mean was inevitable, but for the first time in his tenure-Tanner disappoints me.

      Not the way you want to build on a season. The inter-league trading was a dead giveaway-and told you all you needed to know. Midfield wasn’t improved, and forwards have regressed.

      Compared to last season DC was brilliant. Better talent = better results sure, but the high press with better speed and far better skill pulled their pants down and exposed their overall lack of ability perfectly.

      Guess that “anonymous GM “ was right after all huh?

      Took a bite of the big Apple TV …..don’t find no maggots. Shattered

  9. BTW… where does MLS get these refs? The guy last night was ‘inconsistent’, and let’s leave it at that.

    Caranza’s yellow card was laughable.

    I guess the ref wasn’t used to players disagreeing. In U14 girls they rarely talk back.

  10. Andy Muenz says:

    Union’s best shot at scoring would have been to try to kick the ball downfield and over the DC keeper’s head. Other than that possibility they barely had any decent chances.
    Barring a major change, I think the best we can hope for Saturday night is another 0-0 draw against a rested New England team. (Once again, F**k MLS for having an odd number of teams.)
    Unlike the 2nd of the Three Points I did not think Glesnes played particularly well. He had a couple of major issues with ball control that almost led to breaks the other way.
    The discipline summary is missing Martinez’ yellow card at the end.
    I realize TV is a factor, but if the game isn’t going to start until 7:55, why do they advertise it as a 7:30 start. At least make it 7:45.

    • SoccerDad says:

      The delay might of had something to do with getting most of the fans inside as one of the gates wasn’t working until just before game time.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        If the game were just on Apple, I might buy that, but given that it was a Fox game, I’m thinking that they started whenever Fox wanted them to, regardless of how it affected the fans (and I was one who had to go around to the other gate).

      • The 7:55 kickoff was announced a couple of days in advance.

      • Where was there an announcement for a 730 game that started at 8…STH for 10 years…the email from the TEAM day before game says 7fuckin30 dude

      • Sry Micha I don’t mean to come on here and seem too stand-offish but the times lately have me pretty upset..I’m still livid over the 9pm concacaf game o and the way the team has looked this season as well

      • Kmax,
        Didn’t mean to sound like a scold.
        Just letting people know that it wasn’t because of the gate, it was pre-planned. I saw it in Jonathan Tanenwald’s preview article in The Inquirer.

        Sure, it would be nice if the Union gave their fans a heads up about late kickoff times, but then they would sell less beer

  11. narbrich says:

    I don’t disagree with many of your comments, but their are some explanations for the play apart from formations. Here is my own idiosyncratic view from Section 105:
    1) DC are much improved from last year. Though Benteke is not the player that he was in the EPL, he is a focal point of the offense on every set piece. I did not realize until seeing him in person his substantial physical presence. Wagner did a pretty decent job defending him most of the night, but he very nearly had the game winner for DC in the 78th minute or so when his header hit the underside of the bar but stayed out.
    2) And yes, Glesnes had an off-night with several “unforced errors,” including the one that led to the build-up on the Benteke near-miss.
    3) I liked that Curtin subbed at the 58th minute. The Union got some life then.
    4) In 15 minutes with two shots over the bar from distance, a near fight and a yellow card on the night, El Brujo is back!
    5) Elliott’s shot from distance was very close to going in. I would have liked to have seen Glesnes try one of those. The DC goalkeeper was extremely aggressive about moving up and playing out of the back.
    6) The officiating. I have seen much worse than last night. The problem was the ref’s interpretation of the “shoulder-up” rule. In this ref’s interpretation of the game, even from behind, a player could use his shoulder to knock an opponent to the ground so long as he didn’t use hands or arms. On the first non-call on Carranza in the first half when he was flattened by a shoulder, I saw the ref pointing to his shoulder as he let the play go. Shortly thereafter, Carranza jockeyed for position from the front and, in the ref’s opinion, used his forearm and hand to establish that position and was whistled for a foul. Carranza was railing against what he viewed as the ref’s inconsistency. He got a yellow card and no love the rest of the night.
    7) The Union missed McGlynn’s precision passing last night and when they play at DC with him in the lineup, I think the Union will get a result.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      I’m going to say I have an unpopular opinion… it used to bother me when Brujo would shoot from distance and miss. But… I really enjoy it now. Seriously. Obviously when he does score one (and one day he will!), we will all go nuts. But it’s just the Devil-May-Care attitude of trying it over and over. I love it!

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I’m going to disagree a bit on the ref. He was terribly inconsistent. There were several 2 handed pushes to the back that went uncalled (including one where Glesnes sent Benteke to the ground right in front of us upon which my wife commented that she’d never seen Glesnes play so dirty before). It was really hard for the players to know what was a foul and what wasn’t.

  12. Deez Nuggs says:

    Some thoughts…
    Team looked tired quickly. That’s where you get the soft and misplaced passes. I’m willing to say the travel and schedule is at fault for that. But there’s no rest before Saturday night. NE will be a tough one.
    Curtin played the bench with that formation more than the opponent. It seems he felt that’s what could be managed with who was 100% healthy. Maybe if Lowe had been back early enough we would have seen the 3-5-2 again.
    Torres needs some coaching to be a consistent asset. He will do something amazing like dribble-dance past four people follow it up with a poor decision: long range shot when there is a runner free, take on a crowd in his own half when there is a simple backward outlet. Potential to be shined, right now only rough.
    I’m not sure Real should have been given freedom to roam as much as he did to the opposite side of the field. Play the formation if you’re going to use it. It’s already narrow. To take away the outlet ball and left side support… did not work.
    Thank goodness Martinez is coming back. Dramatic improvements when he took the field.
    I really really wish Eliot had scored that. Oh man. Audacious stuff

    • Darth Harvey says:

      I agree that Torres is very frustrating to watch right now. I talk with my team of 2016 and 2017s about the “Danger zone” in your defensive half of the field and that you need to turn your belly away from it… not try to dribble through 5 guys.

      I know rotation, health, and opportunity dictated it, but I don’t think he is a starter and that is fine.

      Why do we not have him come in for Uhre when he is typically gassed at the 60th minute and have Torres run at tired legs a la Ilsinho or another former diminutive union player with the same surname? I think that’s his role, and Jim played him like that in the first game against Columbus and it paid dividends, but he has either started him or subbed him in too late to be effective.

  13. +1!

  14. I’d love for smarter people than me to discuss what the tactical problems are for this team beyond just struggling to string passes together. Is that all it is? I’ve been musing about t all morning. From my own vantage point, the union are at their most threatening when they have the option to go wide.

    I thought we were never more dangerous last night than when Mbaizo came in and really asked questions of the left-sided defenders for DC. He pairs really well with Bedoya and kept it up with Perea, though Perea drifted centrally more. I feel like that channel should have been where Torres was more often than picking balls up and trying to drive down the middle.

    We should be able to do the same with Wagner down the left, though I think he relies on Gazdagor one of the forwards to be his partner there. When crosses do come in from that side, it seems like they come early, 20+ yards from the touchline. If teams are going to play tight — and DC had a line of 5 across the box at times, we have to be able to work wide not just high risk through balls we don’t seem to have the ability to put in with any consistency.

    Also, I think Torres and Real are getting an unfair amount of criticism. I don’t think anyone short of Blake really covered themselves in much glory last night. And I feel both were played out of their natural positions. Not saying the played well, but there level was not so far below what the entire squad showed last night.

    • McMohansky says:

      Agree with all this. Real and Torres were noticeably poor, mainly due to bad positioning leading to haphazard defending. I think a lot of the midfield’s issues stem from Gazdag always being a step too slow to second balls and then his teammates are caught between stepping up and slacking off. Only Martinez covers up his teammates’ errors by winning back the ball quickly. The U used to force turnovers in the attacking third that led to quick scoring chances. They don’t anymore.

      • +1. If you can’t press and create the turnovers, you’re not running a successful RB system.

    • McMohansky says:

      Right vs Left sided issues: here is where a lot of people fail to appreciate Bedoya. He and MBaizo have a nice rapport and they advance with dribbling and one touch passing. It’s pleasant. Harriel is not at that level, although I think he is better than last night’s performance, which stunk.

      Clearly Flach (and Real) is below average in ball progression, and although McGlynn is a great passer, his close interplay with Kai is still a work in progress.

      Without speed on the flanks, its either long passes into space or quick short triangles to move the ball. Most of us would prefer the latter, would we have the personnel.

      • Good points, all. Agree in particular on Bedoya, who really is crafty in attacking from that right side and working well with Mbaizo.

    • The diamond is intrinsically a narrow formation, the two “wide” midfielders are basically CMs playing wider (“mezzalas” in Italian/FM terms, “half wingers”) and you gain width by bombing the FBs forward. Union are extremely right handed because the right FBs (Mbiazo and Harriel) are fast enough to overlap and interplay with Bedoya (who is criminally underrated for 60 minutes of game time) and that’s how the formation is supposed to work.
      On the left side you have Wagner who is slower to overlap and not that great 1:1 and either Flach, who is really a holding mid, or McGlynn who is young, talented, but wants to head inside so it doesn’t quite work as well.

  15. Nice use of cromulent

  16. OneManWolfpack says:

    Glass half full take: This team is tired. Short handed. Tons of games and tons of travel so far. We’re only in May.
    Glass half empty: We peaked last year, and had one of those years where everyone had their “career year” at once. Guys we thought could be solid depth, just aren’t it.
    I honestly don’t know which way to lean. I was always a “see me in May” guy. They just got a possible 10 points from 12 in the last 4 MLS games.
    You can argue there are 10 points available in the next 4 games: vs NE, at NYCFC, vs Charlotte, vs Montreal. If they get 8 will that be ok… maybe… but if you don’t win at least 2, that’s a big problem.
    They don’t pass the eye test because last year was historic. Teams have figured us out. If Curtin wants to coach bigger clubs, USMNT, etc., then he needs to adjust and find the formations, guys, etc. that work. The talent is still there.
    I predict we’re top 4 after the June 3 Montreal game. I suppose then… I’m still glass half full 🙂

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Remember that last year from the game in Toronto they lost in mid-April through the 0-0 draw in Columbus over the 4th of July weekend they had a record of 2-2-8 (ignoring the Open Cup loss) and none of us saw what was coming starting July 8.

  17. Apple Broadcast Brought to you by Buy Apple TV Now says:

    Reading this post will cost you $0.25 or a yearly subscription of $1,000.

    For those of you who missed the sterling broadcast quality of Apple TV during last night’s snooze-fest as it was shown on *gasp* cable television, and *gasp more* potentially shown in a bar somewhere… Snapple TV has provided a transcript of their broadcasters calling this game for practice.

    Here is the transcript from your commentators Bill Youyearly and Don Givafunk

    Well you just have to give it to Andrew Blake, when he makes a save, sometimes his shoes usually are not on the ground

    The referee making his debut for the 20th time in the league Pierre-Luc Lauziere … yes I nailed it… definitely worth all the practice of getting his name right rather than know that Jakob Glesnes is pronounced “Jacob.”

    You really love to see that from Kyle WAGner, when he kicks the ball it definitely goes to where he wants it to most times.

    You know… I just love LAFC… I mean they are great… aren’t they? It was awesome to watch them win that game last year for the cup… who did they play against again? Eh no matter…

    Lauziere calling a great match…really even officiating here… keeping things consistent for the players and making sure the soccer flows real good like

    Jim *drumbeat* Curtin *drumbeat* is*drumbeat* definitely *drumbeat* experimenting *drumbeat* with*drumbeat* a *drumbeat* new *drumbeat* line*drumbeat* up*drumbeat* tonight.*drumbeat*

    Joe Martinez is really known for his long range shot. That’s why he keeps taking them.

    Well that concludes our broadcast of the evening. I’m going to go ask Tim Apple if I can now do Baseball games instead.

    Off in the distance, in an underground mountain desert bunker / abandoned nuclear silo armed to the teeth with ninjas, mercenaries, and methodists, sitting on a throne of skulls, JP Dellacamara rests atop with a golden microphone shaped goblet of Chianti in his hands. He sips from his chalice as he hears the distress of the Unionites. A wry smile creeps across his face, as he utters a single word…. “Soon”

  18. Don’t know how this ended up here, reply fail.

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