A midweek match on a muggy night in the nation’s capital did little to slow the Philadelphia Union’s recent run of form as the Union took all three points from a key match with playoff implications against D.C. United.
United seemed to enjoy most of the early possession, with the Union finding chances few and far between. The best early chance fell to Wayne Rooney, who had a shot deflect off of Auston Trusty and hit the post in the 8th minute.
United continued to create chances, with Blake saving another shot on net in the 10th minute and a free kick was snagged out of the air by the Union keeper a few minutes later.
Rooney almost had a wonder goal in the 22nd minute, as Luciano Acosta stripped the ball from Haris Medunjanin and set up Rooney, whose attempt at chipping Andre Blake went just wide.
However, despite the pressure from United, Philadelphia struck first in the 29th minute.
CJ Sapong and Cory Burke broke free at the goal, and after Sapong found Burke with a great pass, he continued his run towards the goal and was rewarded. Bill Hamid could only parry Burke’s shot and Sapong beat his marker to the ball and scored his first goal in what seemed like months.
Doesn't look like so much from this angle. pic.twitter.com/mWGNy3oekM— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) August 30, 2018
Philadelphia seemed to be boosted by the goal and they started to play a bit better and limit United’s chances on net. The biggest talking point, however, in the first half was the non-call on a potential handball by Jack Elliot in the Union box.
Elliot appeared to knock down a cross with his arm in the box, and while the ball headed out for a corner, both VAR and the ref on the field decided that the motion was natural enough and didn’t rise to the level of a deliberate handball and the penalty wasn’t called, much to the angst of the D.C. crowd.
DC United came out looking for another goal in the second half, as they looked to get back into the playoff race by winning at home.
Rooney had a great chance in the 49th minute, but the Union defense closed him down quickly and stopped the former Everton forward from getting a shot off, and Blake was able to kick the ball to safety.
About three minutes after Borek Dockal received a yellow card for a cynical foul on Acosta, he was given plenty of space down the middle of the pitch driving toward the DC goal. He picked out Sapong, who immediately picked out Fafa Picault. Picault was able to shoot a quick shot that Hamid was unable to block and the Union went up 2-0.
The Union seemed to batten down the hatches and began to tighten up defensively as DC United started to get more desperate in the attack. The Union’s backline had some heroic defending as DC pressed, with players putting their bodies on the line to block shots and Blake was also able to deal with almost anything that made its way toward the Philly net.
Ilsinho came in for Cory Burke in the 72nd minute, and got right to work. Ilsinho, fresh off the bench, started to take United players on via the dribble.
The Union came close to adding another in the 75th minute, as the Union enjoyed a spell of possession that saw them pass around the outside of the box, with the final move coming as a shot from Alejandro Bedoya that skipped just past the post.
After the hydration break, the Union seemed to find a second gear while United seemed to lose a step. Some other stuff happened, but my feed kept dropping (cheers, DC broadcasters) and Derrick Jones came on for Medunjanin in the 83rd minute as Philadelphia continued to slow down the match and hold on for the win, and he was joined on the pitch by Warren Creavalle in the 89th minute, as the Union’s closer came on for Dockal.
Four minutes of stoppage time ended with only a Union free kick that Hamid was able to bat away the only real action of any consequence, and Philadelphia was able to not only win on the road at DC, but keep a clean sheet for the third straight match.
Beyond the playoff implications — the Union now sit a point behind fourth place Columbus Crew with eight games remaining — the win made some club history as the Union have now won four straight MLS games for only the second time in club history (five straight for the first time in all competitions) and have matched the franchise record for wins in a season with 12.
The blue and gold have another quick turnaround with a match at Orlando City on Saturday before getting a much deserved two weeks off between games during the international break.