During a halftime interview with Comcast, Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin called it “one of the best halves we’ve had” as the Union raced out to a 2-0 lead on FC Dallas.
The Union had a good chance early when Giliano Wijnaldum played a fantastic ball forward to Fafa Picault. Picault made a bit of a run and crossed it in front of the Dallas goal but there was no one on the right wing to get it. Picault also had another cross deep in the Dallas zone in the 13th minute, however this one was also poorly weighted and went to no one.
While the Union are ostensibly a team that values sequences where the team strings together multiple passes to advance the ball and create mismatches with the defense, early on the Union seemed to default to passing backwards to the center backs, who would bomb the ball forward.
Playing short passes however lead to a Union goal in the 16th minute. Ilsinho was able to move the ball in using his technical ability. He played it over to Haris Medunjanin, who took a could steps toward goal, played it back to Ilsinho, who backheel flicked it on to Medunjanin, who never broke stride. Medunjanin slotted it across to CJ Sapong, who did not miss from short range.
The Union would strike again in the 22nd minute, when a Chris Pontius cross found Sapong in the box. Sapong headed it back and out though, and Ilsinho hit a rocket to put the Union up 2-0.
Dallas had a decent sequence in the 31st minute, moving the ball around in the box well but when the final ball came out to Roland Lamah, Lamah’s extra touch allowed John McCarthy to come out and get a stop on the close range shot.
The Union were able to break forward often, with players making smart runs and smarter passes. Perhaps more importantly, forwards helped pressure defensively when turnovers were made. CJ Sapong, Fafa Picault, and even Ilsinho (yep!) tracked back and worked to try and win the ball back when lost.
Just before the half ended, Carlos Cermeno had a particularly nasty tackle on Ilsinho that earned him a yellow card that easily could have been a red. Ilsinho was back up for the final play of the half though, which was encouraging.
Philadelphia Union: John McCarthy; Giliano Wijnaldum, Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Elliott, Ray Gaddis; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Fafa Picault, Ilsinho, Chris Pontius; CJ Sapong
FC Dallas: Chris Seitz; Ryan Hollingshead, Maynor Figueroa, Matt Hedges, Hernan Grana; Carlos Cermeno, Victor Ulloa; Roland Lamah, Mauro Diaz, Michael Barrios; Maximiliano Urruti
Scoring: Philadelphia Union - CJ Sapong (16’), Ilsinho (22’); FC Dallas - None
Disciplinary: Philadelphia Union - None; FC Dallas - Carlos Cermeno (Yellow - 45’_