DC United dominated early, and Philadelphia Union could only claw back two goals in the second half and fell 3-2 in their last preseason match Saturday evening in Florida.
Jim Curtin’s final preseason lineup featured the expected back five of Andre Blake, Keegan Rosenberry, Oguchi Onyewu, Richie Marquez, and Fabinho. Alejandro Bedoya paired with Haris Medunjanin in the center with Chris Pontius and Ilsinho on the wings and Fabian Herbers linking through the center to Jay Simpson.
DC threatened first as Steve Birnbaum forced Blake to claim a header off a second minute corner kick.
In the fifth minute, Ilsinho was let off the hook after he barged into Lloyd Sam from behind in the Union box. The referee waved play on despite the fairly obvious foul. Three minutes later, Marquez entered the book as DC continued to find gaps through the center to attack the Union back line.
Soon after, Sean Franklin stung Andre Blakes hands with a volley off a corner kick, foreshadowing the defensive trouble to come for Philadelphia.
In the 14th minute, Onyewu was left in the dust near the midline, and DC United broke through the Union’s right channel. Rosenberry moved Acosta off the ball, but Nyarko found the loose ball, danced through Rosenberry and a timid Onyewu, and curled the ball beyond Blake to open the scoring. It was a goal DC United’s dominance deserved.
The Union continued to pay for leaving Acosta in space. Turning down the right, the attacking midfielder was unchallenged as he dinked the ball across goal and into the path of Jared Jeffrey, who coolly finished with a low volley in the 21st minute.
DC added a third in the 24th minute. Patrick Mullins shifted his hips and left Onyewu behind before firing a laser past Blake into the far top corner.
The match became chippy as Bedoya gave Jeffrey a late push before Rosenberry and Acosta picked up cautions in separate incidents. Jay Simpson finally got his first look at goal from 20 yards out in the 36th minute, but he blasted his shot well over.
In the 41st minute, Bedoya finally found the caution he was looking for when he ran through Mullins in the middle third of the pitch. The match was nearly completely out of hand in the 43rd minute after Acosta went down under a push from Marquez in the box. Play went on and Ilsinho broke past Marcelo to drive at goal. He found Simpson deep in the DC box, and when the Englishman’s shot deflected back out top, the Brazilian fired an open look over the goal.
CJ Sapong’s entrance to the match was greeted with yet another caution, as the big striker slapped Acosta during a leap ten seconds after the kickoff.
The Union striker was nearly on the board in the 49th minute when he turned to fire at the edge of the six yard box. Hamid, however, read the play well and galloped out to close the angle.
After struggling throughout the first half, Philadelphia’s center backs got them on the board in the 51st minute off a corner kick. Marquez slammed the ball into the far post before Onyewu rose from the chaos to punch the ball into the net.
In the 63rd minute, Derrick Jones came on for Fabian Herbers, pushing Bedoya further up the pitch and giving the Union a midfield more suited for the road match they will open the season with in a week.
The match became a slog as time went on, with final passes going a yard too long instead of finding feet. Chris Pontius, in particular, was off his game and will look to refocus before meeting Vancouver next weekend. Marcus Epps replaced the Union’s scoring winger in the 75th minute.
Mullins thought he had his second of the match in the 78th minute, but he was incorrectly called offsides with Onyewu stepping up late.
In the 86th minute, Marcus Epps used Fabinho’s excellent overlapping run to cut inside into space and laser a shot into the far corner past a sprawling Hamid. It was an excellent read, cut, and finish from the Super Draft second rounder.
Overall, it is difficult to argue that Philly was terrible as much as DC United was very strong, organized, and coordinated going both ways from start to finish. Along with their three first half goals, DC could have (and likely should have) been granted two penalty kicks.
One minute before time, Alejandro Bedoya was shown a second yellow card for a petulant post-foul blast into the stands. The ejection marked an inauspicious end to an uneven 2017 preseason for Philadelphia Union.
The Union open their 2017 MLS regular season on the road Saturday, March 5 at 9:30pm EST against Vancouver Whitecaps.
- Struggles in the center: After this performance, it will be difficult for Jim Curtin to play with Bedoya and Medunjanin deep on the road when Philly opens the season in Vancouver. DC not only got behind Medunjanin with ease, they also quickly identified that the real fun was playing through the middle then quickly finding wingers behind the Union’s advanced fullbacks. As good as DC’s wing play was tonight, Kekuta Manneh is better.
- Stretched shape: Philly still isn’t certain how to play off Medunjanin. Come short and play wall passes? Go long and get in behind? The big man can handle both, but as it is, there’s not enough in terms of patterns and understanding.
- Welcome to the JonesZone: The Union have four and a half holding midfielders on the roster counting Medunjanin. With Maurice Edu injured, Derrick Jones seems to be Curtin’s favorite to play a defensive role in the center. He’s been very good in two of the three Suncoast Invitational matches, and grew into the Montreal match (along with the rest of the team). It was notable that Philly’s midfielders often left Medunjanin alone before Jones joined the fray, and the young mid did a great job reading the game and making DC’s route through the center difficult.
Philadelphia: Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Oguchi Onyewu, Richie Marquez, Fabinho ; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Chris Pontius, Ilsinho., Fabian Herbers; Jay Simpson
Subs used: CJ Sapong, Derrick Jones, Marcus Epps
DC United: Bill Hamid; Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Sean Franklin, Taylor Kemp; Marcelo Sarvas; Lloyd Sam, Jared Jeffrey, Patrick Nyarko; Luciano Acosta; Patrick Mullins
DC – Nyarko 14′
DC – Jeffrey 21′
DC – Mullins 24′
PHI – Onyewu 51′
PHI – Epps 86′