Photo: Mikey Reeves
D.C. United scored their first two goals of the season in a dominant first half, and C.J. Sapong’s third goal of the year was the only response as United earned their first win of 2017 and left the Union searching for their own Saturday night in RFK Stadium.
Jay Simpson returned to the starting 11 for Philadelphia, and Ilsinho replaced Fabian Herbers to the left of Haris Medunjanin and Derrick Jones. Chris Pontius remained on the left in front of the same back five that started the first three matches of the season.
DC United handed a start to Jose Guillermo Ortiz in Patrick Mullins’ stead up top, with Luciano Acosta and Ian Harkes rotating in support with Marcelo shielding behind them. United’s 4-3-3 matched Philadelphia’s triangle midfield with an inverted triangle that allowed them to quickly pressure Haris Medunjanin.
The early moments of the match were marked by compact defending and few notable moves. When Philly patiently switched fields they appeared to control play, but DC probed through Acosta floating in front of the Union defense.
In the eighth minute, Pontius broke into the left channel and knocked the ball wide to Fabinho. The Brazilian’s cross was mishit and surprised Bill Hamid, who pushed it to safety nonetheless.
Four minutes later, Ilsinho drew the breath when he took aim at Hamid’s goal from beyond the halfway line. Though the space was there, the Brazilian’s shot drifted wide.
D.C. took the lead when the Union dug a hole for themselves deep in their own half. Andre Blake tried to swing the ball across to Fabinho but overhit the pass badly. Fabinho leaped to keep the ball in play but only succeeded in knocking it down for Patrick Nyarko. United’s winger cut inside and fed Ortiz, who turned and fired a shot that deflected off Richie Marquez and bounded over Blake.
United doubled their lead from the penalty spot in the 27th minute. Acosta stepped up to lash the ball past Blake — who guessed correctly to his right — and into the corner. The penalty resulted from a tight handball call on Richie Marquez just inside the box. Ortiz turned and lifted the ball in the air, where it deflected off Marquez’s arm. After consulting with his assistant, Ricardo Salazar pointed to the spot.
The Union lost their shape and impetus following the second goal, and the first half played out in an ugly back-and-forth.
A first half collision with Andre Blake forced Marquez from the lineup at the half. Rookie Jack Elliott entered in his stead, with Oguchi Onyewu sliding to the left.
The first 15 minutes of the second frame mirrored the last fifteen of the first. The Union rarely threatened but D.C. was too cautious to generate much response.
Jim Curtin turned to C.J. Sapong in the 59th minute, and the striker sparked the Union to life. In the 67th, Sapong took a shot on the turn after Fabinho cut inside at the top of the box. Four minutes later, he collected his third goal of the season following up a shot from Alejandro Bedoya. Ilsinho broke toward the box down the right channel and played into the feet of Derrick Jones. The ball popped free, but Bedoya was on hand to collect it and lace a shot toward the far corner. Hamid knocked it down, but Sapong was on hand to blast home.
Sapong had a header saved in the 77th and another shot blocked out for a corner in the 79th, but the Union could not break through. United held on for their first win of the season, and the Union return to Chester in the Eastern Conference basement.
The Union play host to Western Conference leading Portland Timbers on Saturday, April 8 at 7pm EST. They will be desperate for a win.
- Sapong changes the game: Jay Simpson was largely invisible till leaving the game. Sapong entered and immediately began checking back to find the ball, which set the Union attack in motion.
- Elliott benefits: Rookie Jack Elliott was in the 18, with Ken Tribbett starting on loan for Bethlehem Steel, likely on injury rehabilitation duty. Elliott got a chance and made the most of it, staying largely error-free.
- Blake distribution finally hurts: We talk a lot about Andre Blake’s occasionally questionable ball distribution, and it finally made the Union pay. United’s first goal game off a poorly sent and poorly handled pass from Blake to Fabinho, which the left back left for a fatal counterattack.
Andre Blake, Fabinho, Richie Marquez (Jack Elliott 46′), Oguchi Onyewu, Keegan Rosenberry, Derrick Jones, Haris Medunjanin, Ilsinho (Fabian Herbers 76′), Alejandro Bedoya, Chris Pontius , Jay Simpson (C.J. Sapong 59′)
Unused Subs: Jake McGuire, Ray Gaddis, Roland Alberg, Warren Creavalle
Bill Hamid; Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Taylor Kemp; Marcelo Sarvas; Luciano Acosta (Jared Jeffrey 89′), Ian Harkes; Lloyd Sam (Sean Franklin 80′), Patrick Nyarko, Jose Guillermo Ortiz (Lamar Neagle 70′)
Unused subs: Travis Worra, Julian Buescher, Sebastien Le Toux, Kofi Opare
DC: Jose Guillermo Ortiz — 18′ (Patrick Nyarko)
DC: Luciano Acosta — 27′ (penalty)
PHI: CJ Sapong — 71′
PHI: Ilsinho — 57′ (simulation)
PHI: Derrick Jones— 61′ (dissent)
DC: Marcelo Sarvas — 66′ (Unsporting behavior)
|DC United||Philadelphia Union|
|3||Shots on Target||9|
|3||Shots off Target||7|
|50%||Duels Won %||50%|