With Cristian Maidana injured, it was Zach Pfeffer who got the call to come in and replace the Argentine playmaker. The rest of the lineup was unchanged , with Rais M'Bolhi in goal, Sheanon Williams, Steven Vitoria, Ethan White and Raymon Gaddis in defense. In midfield captain Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira were in the more defensive positions and Pfeffer, Sebastien Le Toux and Andrew Wenger getting up to support Fernando Aristegueita.
FC Dallas lined up with ex Union starter Chris Seitz in goal, a defense of Atiba Harris, Moises Hernandez, Matt Hedges (captain) and Zach Loyd. In midfield were Michel, Victor Ulloa, Tesho Akindele, Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo. Up top was the ever dangerous Blas Perez.
With the sudden postponement of the game due to snow leading to a half-empty PPL Park, FC Dallas took the first kick off and got things going quickly with a chance from Diaz going over the bar. In the third minute the Union had a great chance from a free kick on the right hand side. Pfeffer's free kick was cleared, where a Nogueira shot was blocked, deflected around and then Seitz smothered well with Vitoria rushing in.
In the early stages, it was almost all Philadelphia Union and in the 6th minute Le Toux was sent away down the right. It was a sign of things to come as he stumbled on the ball and failed to get another touch in before the ball was played off of him and out for a goal kick. There was another great chance in the 7th minute when a Pfeffer shot was well saved by Seitz. Unlike last week the rebound didn't drop well for Andrew Wenger, instead it went out for a corner that was ultimately wasted. In the 11th minute, there seemed to be another chance that Wenger smashed into the side netting, but he was called offside so it would not have counted anyway.
The first turning point of the game may have came from great work by Sheanon Williams. He didn't give up on a ball running out of bounds and forced a corner. Nothing came from the corner, and four minutes later he had to be replaced by Fabinho for what looked like a muscle strain. As part of the switch, Ray Gaddis moved over to his natural right side of the defense.
From that point on, the first half was a very physical, almost dirty game. In the 23rd minute Nogueira was the first to go into the book when he was rightfully yellow carded for a pull on Mauro Diaz. Diaz had been racing away, and it was an easy decision for referee Jose Rivero. Another easy decision for him was just after, when Michel was yellow carded for a foul from behind on Sebastien Le Toux. When Victor Ulloa held back Le Toux on a breakaway, he also picked up a yellow card, as did Fabinho for what was a very late foul on Atiba Harris.
In between all those yellow cards, the best shot from the Union came from Maurice Edu. He had the ball played to him in the 28th minute from the edge of the box, and his powerful shot had to be punched/palmed away by Seitz in goal. Following the shot, the ball was whipped in and Aristegueita headed it over the bar. Soon after, a clumsy piece of play saw Edu and Vitoria collide and go to ground. It may have been a heart in mouth moment for Jim Curtin, but thankfully both played on.
In the 38th minute, an Akindele cutback found Diaz at the penalty spot. Luckily for the Union, he blazed the shot wide. FC Dallas were starting to come into the game more at this point, and things really picked up for them in the ding minutes of the first half. Starting his first game since 2011, young Zach Pfeffer didn't even make it to halftime, as he received a red card in the 42nd minute. Unfortunately for the Union there are no complaints about the decision as Pfeffer led with his elbow and even seemed to swing it into Diaz's face. There was never any doubt that it was a red card, and for Pfeffer it may even mean he will be suspended until Maidana returns.
After the red card there was a chance for each team. First up was FC Dallas, as Castillo easily ran past Ray Gaddis. However, his shot was easily saved by M'Bolhi. The next chance came from the boot of Sebastien Le Toux. Unfortunately, he may have put the boots on the wrong foot as it was sliced horribly wide. The last chance of the half was from Aristegueita who put a Gaddis cutback over the bar.
While Jim Curtin kept things the same for the second half, FC Dallas substituted on Ryan Hollingshead for Michel. The first goal came soon after when Fabinho's lazy clearance was easily blocked by Tesho Akindele. The rookie of the year winner ran through on goal, and faced nobody else as Rais M'Bolhi left the entire left side of the goal open. At that point it was over for the Union as the entire team's body language showed defeat.
It was a pretty quiet game for the rest of the half as FC Dallas were happy to sit back with the 1-0 lead. Philadelphia had no creativity without a #10, and the wingers created nothing for Aristegueita up top. In the 57th minute there was a sign of things to come as Gaddis was left alone with Castillo. He managed to get a shot off that clipped the top of the crossbar. Just two minutes later and an almost identical situation led to goal number two. Castillo cut in and found Hollingshead on the edge of the box. He had plenty of time to sidestep a lunging Wenger, and then place his shot in the corner of the goal.
Any time the Union got forward, it usually ended up with a cross going over everyone. Their sloppiness was nearly capitalised on again as Ethan White dallied and got caught out. Fortunately Ray Gaddis was close enough to clear up for his teammate. Dallas were comfortable, with the next shot on Seitz' goal a weak one from Aristegueita that was easily saved. Having seen his two wingers contribute nothing to the play, Jim Curtin put on Erik Ayuk Mbu for Andrew Wenger. Almost straight away his quick footwork showed something that was missing from the Union, but he was easily forced off the ball. Then, in the 75th minute, Nogueira up Ayuk, but he couldn't muscle his shot on target. Just another minute after, the Union had another chance again as a good run from Aristegueita led to another weak shot at Seitz.
Fabian Castillo then had the best chances of the next few minutes as first he found himself free on the right after a Fabinho mistake. Fortunately his cross just missed everyone. Gaddis then got caught out of position trying to create a chance, and Castillo was put through on goal only to blaze his shot over the bar. In the 84th minute, another quick break found Diaz free who tried to lob M'Bolhi but his lob did not drop quickly enough.
The final subs were made in quick succession with Bekker coming on for the strangely quiet Blas Perez and David Teixeira on for the abused Mauro Diaz. In between those the Union decided to go for it with three at the back, taking off Ethan White and bringing on Michael Lahoud.
In the 85th minute, an Ayuk Mbu cross was just behind Aristegueita who did manage to get his header on target. Unfortunately it was an easy catch for Chris Seitz who recorded his first clean sheet at PPL park. Sebastien Le Toux's night got worse in the 86th minute when a very cynical trip earned him a yellow card. A busy night for the referee's notebook ended in injury time as Hollingsworth showed he was fed up with Ayuk's trickery and showboating, and crashed into him with a hard tackle. In the 93rd minute, Castillo was yet again sent through on goal. This time, even though M'Bolhi dropped down to save early, the shot went straight at him and the final score would stay 2-0.
It was a game that started well for Philadelphia but started to slip away with an unfortunate injury to Sheanon Williams. The Pfeffer red card left the Union chasing their tails, and a very good Dallas team got an easy win. The lack of productivity from the wing is going to leave Jim Curtin with a selection headache. How will this team be able to create chances against a poor Chicago team?