It started oh so right for the Philadelphia Union, up 2-0 not five minutes into the match but it went oh so wrong for the Union in the remaining 85 as the Union capitulated in RFK Stadium leading to a 3-2 defeat to D.C. United.
The Union got on the board 21 seconds in with a goal for the record books. Cristian Maidana sent in a perfect pass into the box setting up C.J. Sapong to be able to get Steven Birnbaum down exaggerating contact. With Birnbaum down on the pitch, Sapong was able to easily turn around and slot the ball past Andrew Dykstra putting the Union up 1-0 giving the Union the quickest goal in franchise history and seventh quickest in MLS history.
Things got even better for the Union early in the 4th minute. With the ball at the corner of the box, Sebastien Le Toux sent in a weak pass/shot on goal. Though it appeared unthreatening, Sapong either not being able to latch onto the pass or dummying the shot confused Dykstra just long enough for the ball to slowly trickle into the net with Dykstra diving down at it much too late to do anything about it.
However, things would soon begin to take a turn south for the Union. Fabian Espindola found himself with space and a shot at goal, but despite getting the ball past Brian Sylvestre it rolled just barely wide. In the 32nd minute, United were given another golden opportunity to get back in the match when Ray Gaddis fouled Davy Arnaud in the box. The official rightly pointed to the spot, and Espindola had a chance to put United on the board. Instead though, he launched the penalty kick over the bar and out of play giving Gaddis and Union fans a huge sigh of relief. Gaddis's bad afternoon would continue though, and the afternoon for Union fans only went downhill from here.
Five minutes after Espindola's missed penalty, United would score. Nick DeLeon found Chris Korb along the right flank. Korb pulled back allowing himself to get past Fabinho and then launched a cross into the box to for Alvaro Saborio who sent in a beautiful half volley past Sylvestre for the goal. While the shot from Saborio was nice, the Union defense, namely Ethan White, aided Saborio greatly by losing him in the box.
The Union were caught ball-watching on a rebound goal last weekend at Toronto, and unfortunately, it happened to them again today at RFK. Chris Rolfe set Espindola up for a shot from just outside the box, and Espindola launched it to Sylvestre who could only parry it back into the box. With such a juicy rebound, the Union defense stood still while DeLeon pounced on it and rocketed the ball into the back of the net to even the ledger 2-2. The Union's dream start had vanished, and they were right back at square one.
The Union had a chance to get back on top in the 78th minute with a great opportunity. Maurice Edu played through Sapong into the box. With Dykstra coming out to meet him, Sapong chipped it over the goalkeeper beautifully, but unfortunately for the Union the ball bounced off the crossbar and ricocheted away from Union players and into the feet of Bobby Boswell.
A missed opportunity at one end turned into a converted opportunity at the other. Barely a minute after Sapong struck wood, Espindola struck net. Once again from the right side, Korb sent in a cross, this one launching Espindola into the air and above Gaddis. Espindola was then able to power his head through the ball directing it on frame and into the net to give United what felt like a shock lead to Union fans.
With no other clear opportunity for the Union to draw level, United walked out of their own stadium with all three points, and the Union were left deflated. Perhaps ultimately the Union grew exhausted after playing 120 U.S. Open Cup minutes in the heat and humidity Tuesday afternoon at Red Bull Stadium, or perhaps the Union just aren't good enough to beat a team the quality of United thrice in a season, whatever the case may be, it was another disappointing Union result in a long list of them in 2015. Up next for the Union is a return home where they will meet New York Red Bulls, a team they have not yet lost to in 2015.