The Philadelphia Union defeated a shorthanded Columbus Crew SC 3-0 on goals by Ilsinho, C.J. Sapong, and Marcus Epps on a beautiful evening at Talen Energy Stadium.
Union first XI: McCarthy; Wijnaldum, Onyewu, Elliott, Gaddis; Medunjanin, Bedoya; Epps (Davies 88′), Alberg (Najem 68′), Ilsinho (Simpson 84′); Sapong
Crew first XI: Steffen; Abubakar, Crognale, Mensah; Raitala, Trapp, Artur (Finlay 75′), Jimenez; Manneh (Martinez 71′), Meram (Abu 55′); Kamara
The Union were missing two regulars due to their participation in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final which would be played later in the evening. One way or another, a member of the Union would be hoisting a trophy this night, with goalkeeper Andre Blake playing for the Jamaican national team and Chris Pontius there with the USMNT. Before that would happen though, their club would have to deal with Columbus Crew SC in the second of their away and home series. On Saturday, the Black and Gold had beaten the Union 1-0 in a sleeper of a match.
But tonight, Sapong was back after missing the previous game due to a right ankle sprain, and he provided the spark the boys in blue needed. He had a hand in all three goals, and on one the Union didn’t get.
The first half started off slow as both teams were feeling each other out. The Union started showing some life in the 18’, when an Epps shot from long range hit the post.
Two minutes later the Union got on the board with an Ilsinho goal. The ball was bouncing around in the 18-yard box when Sapong bicycle kicked it to Ilsinho who one-timed it, with authority, past Crew goalkeeper Zach Steffen.
C.J. Sapong gets the assist with bicycle kick pass
Photo credit: Fimmano Photography
The Union had a chance to increase their lead in the 35th minute when a Sapong breakaway was stopped in the penalty area as he was knocked down by Jonathan Mensah, who earned a red card for his effort. Drama ensued as Sapong and Roland Alberg quarreled over who would take the penalty kick. Alberg prevailed, and proceeded to hit a low shot that Steffen was able to get his fingers on, causing the ball to go up and hit the crossbar. As disappointing as that was, the Union could look forward to playing with a man advantage as they went into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
The boys in blue dominated the second half and generated plenty of chances. Sapong almost added to the lead in the 58th minute when he was on the end of beautiful Haris Medunjanin chip pass into the box. Sapong’s shot hit the right post, but it seemed like it would only be matter of time before the U would get some insurance.
And indeed they did, in the 66th minute. Giliano Wijnaldum lofted the ball into the box where Sapong headed it into the right post. But the ball bounced back to Sapong, who didn’t miss on his second chance.
C.J. Sapong scores
Photo credit: Fimmano Photography
Things were looking good after that as the U held a two-goal lead with a man advantage. But it would get even better for the home team. In the 76th minute, Lalas Abubakar earned Crew SC’s second red card when he elbowed Ilsinho in the head, and the Union now enjoyed a two-man advantage.
Epps hammered the final nail in the Black and Gold’s coffin when he scored his first MLS goal, in the 81st minute. Islinho crossed from outside of the right side of the box, where Sapong headed the ball in front of goal, and Epps came racing in to poke the ball past Steffen at close range for what would be the final 3-0 score.
Marcus Epps celebrates after opening his MLS account.
Photo: Fimmano Photography
Great game for Sapong, and Epps also showed well. Other positives: Jack Elliott had a fine game at centerback, and John McCarthy once again showed that selling Blake might not be a bad thing. Negatives: Alberg insisting on taking the penalty kick that Sapong earned and missing it. Alberg tried too hard to make up for it, taking shots when a pass might have been a better decision and was appropriately subbed out in the 68th minute when he was replaced by Adam Najem.
With the win, the Union move into eighth place in the standings. Their next chance to move up will be on Saturday when they travel to New England to take on the Revolution.