It could have been worse… right?
A young, supposedly hungry Philadelphia Union team was beaten, bruised, and battered by a Columbus Crew side that eased four goals past a disorganized defense. It’s telling that the Union’s best two chances came from a player who spent the rest of the game winning a game of hide and seek with himself.
Philadelphia presented a 4-3-3 formation with Eric Schoenle and Greg Jordan in the middle, allowing Shaun Francis and Don Andling to run the wings. Michael Lahoud anchored the midfield behind Stephen Okai and Leo Fernandes. Chandler Hoffman and Jimmy McLaughlin as wide men behind Antoine Hoppenot. Hoffman immediately began slipping into the center while McLaughlin stayed high and wide, offering a nominal outlet for the midfield.
The Crew countered with Matt Lampson in goal, Drew Beckie, Eric Gehrig, Kevan George, and Chard Barson across the back, with Ethan Finlay and Konrad Warzycha out wide to support Danny O’Rourke, Tony Tchani and Justin Meram through the center. Rookie Ryan Finley spearheaded the attack.
The teams did not disguise their intentions. Columbus played through Tchani in the midifield, probing and looking to tease apart Philadelphia’s young central pairing. The Union sought to move the ball quickly up the pitch, with Hoppenot reprising his role as agitator. There were almost early returns for Philly when Fernandes spun a cross into the box. Hoppenot again got good position in the sixth minute, but a lack of support left the Union with nothing but a corner kick.
Off the corner, Okai found Hoffman at the top of the box, only for his first time shot to fly well over the bar.
Unfortunately, that was the last time the Union could claim to threaten the Columbus goal until San Roger Torres appeared late in the second half.
Columbus takes control
In the 13th minute, Greg Jordan had to scramble back and dispossess Ryan Finley as he snuck in on goal. Michael Lahoud almost gave the ball away at the top of the box as the Union cleared their lines.
While the Union made defensive adjustments to clog the middle and force Tchani off the ball, they appeared to lose any offensive shape. Leo Fernandes was the most influential player for Philly, but his options were limited and his appearances much too sparse.
In the 18th minute, Fernandes attempted a slide rule pass to the right, and the ensuing loose ball fell to Hoffman who, again, confused a rectangular cloud for the goal.
Hoffman and McLaughlin exerted little influence on the game, and soon the Crew’s backs were pushing forward into free space. As a result, the undisciplined Lahoud committed wide with alarming regularity and Columbus discovered they could once again attack down the center.
They wasted no time. In the 28th minute, Jordan and Schoenle left a huge gap between them and Ryan Finley waltzed through on goal, rounding Chase Harrison and slotting home with his left foot.
The Union immediately became more direct and less effective. With Hoffman less visible than Freddy Adu jerseys at the team store, Don Andling had the entire left side to himself. He ran it with regularity, with no support and no clear end product in mind.
On the other hand, Columbus was finding time and space in the final third. Warzycha snuck down to the endline on the left, creating just enough space to slip a low cross into the six yard box. Ethan Finlay beat Greg Jordan across the frame to tap in from close range.
The half couldn’t end quickly enough for the Union, and Antoine Hoppenot picked up a caution for a late tackle on Lampson.
For the Union, the second half effectively ended five minutes after it began. In the 51st minute, substitute Eddie Gaven drove toward the box before laying off for Ethan Finlay. The second year man lashed a gorgeous drive past the diving Chase Harrison.
A minute later Gaven was at it again, storming down the left and leaving Schoenle in his wake. His pass deflected wide to Finlay, who lobbed the ball onto the head of substitute Aaron Schoenfeld. The 6’4″ striker hardly had to leave the ground as he caressed the ball into the net.
Lahoud, Okai and Hoppenot exited for Alex Mendoza, Jordi Vidal, and new trialist Georgi Hristov.
The Crew replaced everyone but Gaven.
For the final half hour, the match was a training ground exercise for Columbus. Federico Higuain showed his 2012 season was no fluke, as he combined effectively with Arrieta to undo any semblance of a formation or pride the Union hoped to retain.
Roger Torres, entering late in the match, was the only bright spot for Philadelphia. His urgency and desire made him appear to move at a different pace than the rest of the team. He put Hoffman in but the resulting shot went wide. Moments later, Torres earned a free kick from 35 yards out, though his fine cross was as lonely as PPL Park will be come playoff time if this match was at all indicative of the Union’s level of play.
Luckily, a match dominated by players not expected to be in the starting eleven should not be diagnostic. The Union have plenty to learn from an almost universally poor display. The most worrying aspect of the match for the coaching staff will be how rarely the team appeared calm on the ball and the almost pathological fear they showed for playing a possession game in the final third.
CLB – Finley (Meram) 28′
CLB – Finlay (Warzycha) 39′
CLB – Finlay (Gaven) 50′
CLB – Schoenfeld (Finlay) 53′
PHI – Hoppenot (Caution) 44′
Columbus Crew: Matt Lampson (Andy Gruenebaum, 61); Drew Beckie*(Josh Williams, 61), Eric Gehrig (Chad Marshall, 61), Kevan George (Gláuber, 61), Chad Barson (Tyson Wahl, 61); Ethan Finlay (Dominic Oduro, 61), Danny O’Rourke (Kyle Hyland**, 46; Agustín Viana, 61), Tony Tchani (Matías Sánchez, 61), Justin Meram (Ben Speas, 33; Federico Higuaín, 61); Konrad Warzycha**(Eddie Gaven, 46), Ryan Finley (Aaron Schoenfeld, 33; Jairo Arrieta, 61)
Phiadelphia Union: Chase Harrison (Chris Konopka, 65): Shaun Francis** (Damani Richards**, 46), Eric Schoenle*, Don Anding*, Greg Jordan; Michael Lahoud (Georgi Hristov**, 65), Leo Fernandes*(Roger Torres, 73), Stephen Okai*(Alex Mendoza, 65), Antoine Hoppenot (Jordi Vidal**, 65); Chandler Hoffman, Jimmy McLaughlin
*Draft pick **Trialist