It was the Philadelphia Union‘s (1-4-4, 7 Pts, Last Place Eastern Division) final regular season visit to Venerable but crumbling RFK Stadium to face DC United (3-4-2, 11 Pts, 8th Place Eastern Conference). While I cannot add to the lore of sporting events involving Philadelphia teams, I do have many great memories of seeing the Grateful Dead there, especially jamming with the Allman Brothers back in the day. But I digress.
It may sound like a broken record, but it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of a result in this match for the Union, and they should have some factor of revenge after falling to DC here 2-1 back on April 1st, against a team that had failed to even score a goal at that point of the season.
The Union played like it mattered, blanking DC 4-Nil, as three players got their first MLS goals in the process.
Philadelphia Union Starting XI: 4-2-3-1
18 GK Andre Blake; 28 D Raymon Gaddis; 3 D Jack Elliott; 5 D Oguchi Onyewu; 33 D Fabinho; 11 MF Alejandro Bedoya; 6 MF Haris Medunjanin; 13 MF Chris Pontius; 25 MF Ilsinho, 22 MF Fafa Picault; 17 F CJ Sapong
DC United Starting XI: 4-1-4-1
28 GK Bill Hamid; 15 D Steve Birnbaum; 6 D Kofi Opare; 32 D Bobby Boswell; 2 D Taylor Kemp; 25 MF Jared Jeffrey; 8 MF/F Lloyd Sam; 23 MF Ian Harkes; 10 MF/F Luciano Acosta; 13 MF/F Lamar Neagle; 16 F Patrick Mullin
Referee, Chris Penso, got involved in this one early as three yellow cards were issued in the first 19′, including the first two to the U in the first 9′. Both teams had some good chances, but Blake was never really tested, while Hamid made some nice saves.
It seemed like DC was starting to get the better of play, when from seemingly out of nowhere in the 39′ Medunjanin received the ball wide open 10 yards outside the box from Pontius, and rifled a shot past Hamid. It was his first MLS Goal.
Philadelphia had a few more good chances, but could not connect. They did do a good job controlling the ball to end the half with a 1-Nil lead.
The referee’s impact on the game was felt once again when Acosta was given a red card in the 55′ after a hard frustration foul and gesture to the ref. The Union to their credit, except for a few lapses, did not get overconfident or allow DC to get momentum from that action.
Instead they would increase their lead on three more quality goals.
Birthday Home Town boy, Onyewu also got his 1st MLS tally on a corner kick header, to make it 2-0 in the 64′. That seemed to help the team relax and do a better job of controlling the play.
14′ later the third player, Picault, would get his maiden MLS goal on a nice short touch to him by Medunjanin just outside the box. He then went top-shelf right by Hamid. It was Medunjanin’s second assist of the night.
The final tally to put the game out of reach by Fabian Herbers – his first of the season – in the 88′, sent the traveling Sons of Ben and other Union fans home, very happy.
Yellow: Fabinho 4′, Bedoya 9′
Yellow: Neagle 19′, Marcelo Sarvas 64′ Red: Acosta 55′,
MF Fabian Herbers on for Ilsinho 63′, Warren Creavalle for Ponitus 77′, 27 F Jay Simpson for Picault 80′
MF Marcelo Sarvas for Jeffrey HT, D Chris Korb for Opare, F Sebastian Letoux for Mullins 73′
End Notes and Final Thoughts:
It was very inspiring to see the team get four quality goals and to do it with four different players. Three getting their first in MLS play, made it extra special. It was Onyewu’s first goal since 2014 playing for Sheffield Wednesday in an FA Cup Match. His last league goal was in 2012 for Sporting Lisbon.
It was the first time the U scored four goals since August 14th of last season, when they also blanked the NE Revolution in New England. The have seven out of nine points in their last three matches, and a result in the last four.
Blake set a personal record getting three Clean Sheets in a row for the first time, going 273 minutes without an opponent scoring. It was the second time the Union have achieved this feat, the first being 3/31, and 4/14, 21/17. The first match was a scoreless draw and they only scored once in the last two games.
This has to be very reassuring to the Union faithful that was starting to get a bit restless after the first month and a half of the season. The team still has a long way to go to get back into playoff contention, but at least they are showing signs of heading in the right direction. They are after all only three points out of 6th place with a game in hand on NE and the NY Red Bulls.
The Union return home for the second game of three in a week, on Wednesday 5/17/17 for a 7:30 start against the Houston Dynamo (6-3-1, 19 Pts, 1st Place Western Conference). Any result in that one will be big as they play again three days later, hosting the Colorado Rapids, currently at the bottom of the Western Conference table.