U in Review — Matchday 21: Columbus Versus Union

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Facing the Colombus Crew for the second time in a four day span, both teams got off to a tepid start. Both teams looked like, well, two teams who had played three games in an eight-day time span.

There was drama, there were a smattering of boos for one of our own, and there were no shortage of straight red cards (oh, the irony) in tonight’s feverish Eastern Conference match.

Let’s jump right into it.

First Half

Philadelphia tried to come out aggressively, and it looked like Jim Curtin had a clear gameplan in the early going, as Columbus were forced into making several mistakes. But they soon discovered the keys to unlocking the Union defense, which was opened up by some questionable marking from Ray Gaddis that left Oguchi Onyewu and Jack Elliott out to dry.

Countless times, Kekuta Manneh and Co. were left all alone, streaking down the right side of the Philadelphia Union defense. But thanks to several poor decisions and passes, the Crew never got the goal that they probably deserved.

In the 20th minute, the Union, and of all people, Ilsinho would make them rue their missed chances. And oh, was it a goal for the ages.

After Marcus Epps hit woodwork, CJ Sapong joined in with a scintillating bicycle kick assist for an Ilsinho rocket. It looked a little something like this:

But even though the Union got out to the early advantage, things wouldn’t be so painless going forward. I mean, this is Philly, right?

Careless back passes from Union defenders nearly led to two goals in quick succession for the Crew. Luck was on the Union’s side, when Colombus went full Hindenburg in the 35th minute.

Roland Alberg played CJ Sapong through with a well-timed through ball. Jonathan Mensah, playing the man and not the ball, gave up the eventual penalty for the Union and received a red card for his efforts (or lack thereof). Several Crew players were livid afterward, including Lalas Abubakar, who earned himself a yellow card for dissent.

Columbus would be ultimately spared by Alberg’s missed penalty kick, which was saved by Zack Steffen, who extended fully to tip it off the bar and out of play. We would head into the second half with the score 1-0 in favor of the Boys-in-Blue.

Second Half

It began just as slowly as the first, with the Union struggling to create many scoring chances.

But in the 66th minute, fireworks flew (just a few weeks too late). Giliano Wijnaldum sent in a ball that clanged off the post to a lurking CJ Sapong. Sapong fired the ball past Steffen for his 10th goal of the year, which is a new career high.

Crew’s frustration peeked when Lalas Abubakar pulled Ilsinho down by his neck to earn a straight red card and a deserved two-match suspension, reducing the Crew to nine men.

Two nil up and two men up, the Union put the icing on the cake in the 81st minute, when Marcus Epps notched his first career goal in MLS. Sapong knocked the ball down for Epps, who calmly finished it off with a half-volley that nestled in the top corner.

It was what seemed a long time coming for Epps, who was all over the pitch on the night and put in a Lad of the Match worthy performance. Nevertheless, Epps goal finished off a convincing performance for the Union, who jumped Montréal in the East with the win.

Tonight’s Lad of the Match

Chuck

There is only one Lad who deserves this tonight, and that is CJ Sapong. Being inviolved in all three Union goals shows his true worth to the team.

I’m also biased because I captained him in MLS Fantasy this week. Have yourself a day, son.

Jason

For me, it’s CJ Sapong.

Dude has gotten his fair share of criticism over the years for cooling down mid-season, but what Sapong has shown at this point in the season, is that he’s a capable goal scorer in Major League Soccer. I’d argue he’s been the Union’s most valuable player this season, given their inability to score goals.

It’s now 10 goals on the year for Sapong, who has shown pure adversity over the years, this season, as well as tonight.

Next up for the Philadelphia Union is a trip up Interstate-95 on Saturday to face New England at Gillette Stadium. Look out for the next U in Preview, which will take a closer look at the match. 

U in Review: Matchday 20 — Columbus Versus Union

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A rather green Philadelphia Union team looked to keep their playoff hopes alive, when they went up against another fringe side in Columbus Crew SC. 

23 was the average age of Jim Curtin’s Starting XI tonight. It was a make-do lineup, as Curtin was forced to entrust several of his younger players with a starting role this evening, due to several injuries and suspensions within the team.

 

Roland Alberg was suspended by the league’s Disciplinary Committee, after a “serious foul play that endangered the safety of an opponent” in the match against Montréal on Wednesday, while Fafa Picault pulled up lame in that match. A tweak to his hamstring ultimately kept him out of the XI and off the bench for the vital match in Columbus.

Derrick Jones was kept out for the second straight match, after sustaining a concussion in a friendly versus Premier League outfit, Swansea City AFC. Fabian Herbers continues to remain out of the fold. It’s 6-7 weeks for the German midfielder, who successfully underwent surgery for a nagging sports hernia injury.

As the Gold Cup hums on, so does the absence of key Union players. Away on international assignment were Chris Pontius and Andre Blake, who are away with the United States Mens’ National Team and Jamaica respectively.

With the absence of several key players, Curtin handed midfielders Marcus Epps and Adam Najem starts, the first (and hopefully many) of their young Major League Soccer careers.

Joshua Yaro returned to the XI tonight, replacing Oguchi Onyewu in the back. It was much needed rest for the 35-year-old center back. Also returning to the Starting XI was Jay Simpson, who last featured in the home opener against Toronto Football Club on March 11.

Aside from the younger players who made their respective cameos for the Union, it was another forgettable performance from the Blue-and-Gold on the road. It’s beginning to look pretty dire for Curtin’s group once more.

FIRST HALF

Again, it was the team without Bimbo emblazoned across their chests who dominated possession and spurred much of the attacking play throughout the first half.

Ola Kamara was perhaps the most threatening player on the night, and it was the Norwegian who nearly got the home side on the board in the 6th minute with a brilliant volley that was pawed away by John McCarthy.

Kamara would get a second look at goal later in the half, in the 28th minute. After finding himself in on the Union’s goal, Kamara fancied his luck and had another go at McCarthy. Again, McCarthy showed why he is a formidable backup keeper for Jim Curtin, going to ground to stop a sure goal.

Neither side looked very convincing after that. Columbus midfielder, Justin Meram tried his luck from the top of the Union’s box, but his curling effort ultimately sailed wide. It never really threatened McCarthy, to be fair.

SECOND HALF

I sound like a broken record at this point, so I’ll save myself the breath. It was much of the same throughout the last 45 minutes.

Meram supplied the match’s lone goal in the 68th minute, with the help of Yaro. Unlucky for Yaro, who stuck his foot out to block the Iraqi’s shot, but helped his counterpart out in the end.

Columbus nearly struck again in the 68th on a free kick, but McCarthy came up huge once again, getting low to paw away the initial free kick, before jumping up to tip the ball over the bar. He was a lone bright spot for the Union on the night.

Down a goal, Curtin didn’t have many attacking options off of the bench to try and bring the Union level. Charlie Davies came on for Ilsinho in the 69th minute, marking his first appearance for the club this season.

Here’s an updated look at the Eastern Conference table, following the Union’s 1-0 loss at Mapfre Stadium: Table. 

It’s Columbus again on Wednesday night. This time, the Union will welcome the Crew to Talen Energy Stadium. Kickoff for the home-and-home finale is slated for 7:30 PM ET.

Be sure to look out for our comprehensive match preview of the second installment in the home-and-home series against Columbus Crew SC. Enjoy the weekend, everyone. 

It’s not even out of consolation; Roland Alberg got straight robbed of a potential Goal of the Week, or even year.

For a while, it looked as if the match would stay in favor of Montréal, who were put ahead by an early second-half Blerim Dzemaili goal. That is until the 85th minute, when the Dutchman timed his run to perfection and put the icing on a cake with a well-timed volley that went top bins.

2-2.

It was majestic, it was glorious, it was Alberg at his very best, and it was a legitimate goal — for everyone except referee Alan Kelly, that is. Kelly trusted the judgement of his linesman (as he rightly should), who ruled Alberg offside.

Sadly, every once and a while they get it wrong, which was exactly the case this time around. Not only did it deny a wonder strike, but it denied the Union the opportunity to remain unbeaten in four and maintain Alberg’s current record of a goal scored in each of his last three matches.

UnionFanTV recognizes that no one is infallible in this world. That being said, Roland Alberg came pretty damn close to it with that crack tonight. It’s more than enough to warrant him our weekly post-match award for Lad of the Match, a recognition for the players who put on for the Blue-and-Gold.

Unlucky, Roland.

Be sure to check out our latest U in Review, following the Union’s tough result north of the border. 

 

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