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Accam’s brace leads the Union past Columbus

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The Union won their first game of the season behind Accam’s brilliance in the face of adversity.

Nate Huber

David Accam scored twice and added an assist to lead the Philadelphia Union to a 3-0 victory over the Columbus Crew Saturday night.

Both teams were shorthanded due to international call-ups and injuries. The Union were without Marco Fabián (suspended), Warren Creavalle, Derrick Jones, Andre Blake, Cory Burke, Matt Real (international duty), and Fabinho, Kacper Przybylko, and Sergio Santos (injured) leaving them with only 16 players for the game day roster. Jamiro Monteiro received his P1 visa but didn’t get his international transfer certificate in time for the match, so he was also unavailable.

Columbus was missing star goalkeeper and Downingtown, Pa. native Zack Steffen due to injury as well as Wil Trapp, Gyasi Zardes, Justin Meram and Waylon Francis for international duty.

The game started with the Sons of Ben cheering “we love you Fafa” in response to Picault receiving a horrid DM on Instagram after the game against Atlanta.

The Union got off on the front foot, pinning Columbus inside their own half early. Kai Wagner was caught ball watching in the 5th minute and Harrison Afful got free leading to a chance cleared away for a corner. It was all Union from then on and the Crew didn’t really have a more clear-cut chance for the rest of the game.

Due to the various missing players, the Union played in a 4-2-3-1 formation for most of the game, with Fafa as the lone striker and Accam and Illsinho on the wings. Occasionally Accam would drift forward and play as a second striker with Fafa in more of the 4-4-2 Diamond that we’ve seen all season, but Accam did most of his damage from the wing. The formation was distinctly different from last season however, with the team pressuring harder, and transitioning the ball forward much more quickly than last year.

For the first 20 minutes of the match, the Union really controlled the tempo of the game, but couldn’t quite find the key pass in the final third. This finally changed in the 31st minute when the Union put together a beautiful and devastating counter. Haris played a ball right to Fafa who quickly played a beautiful through ball to put Accam in on goal. Accam dinked it on the ground past Joe Bendik and it went in off the post. The play was reminiscent of Accam’s glory days in Chicago and represents the quick transitioning soccer that Sporting Director Ernst Tanner is striving for.

The Crew responded to the goal with an increased spell of pressure, but were unable to really get their footing in the Union half. Accam then struck again in the 41st minute after Haris played him into the box. The ball was deflected by one defender, but Accam controlled it nicely, maneuvering between another two Crew defenders, before beating Bendik to the near post with his strike. The Columbus defense really should have dealt with the situation better, and Accam took what was given to him.

The Union started the second half the same way they ended the first. Wagner played a ball into the box which Picault deflected into an onrushing Accam. Accam redirected the bouncing ball over to Ilsinho who hit the ball off the bounce and buried it into the back of the net in front of a loud and celebratory River End.

Illsinho was subbed off with a cramp after an effective game in the 73rd minute for Olivier Mbazio’s 2019 season debut.

Aaronson, who debuted last week to acclaim by many, misplayed a few passes early, and wasn’t quite as sharp on the ball as he was against Atlanta. He showed flashes of his skill and potential, and had an extremely high work rate, but the finished product wasn’t quite there tonight. He came off with a cramp as well in the 79th minute for fellow Academy product Anthony Fontana, for the Newark, Delaware native’s first appearance in 2019.

Fafa created space a lot of space for himself and had a great look in the 55th minute but his curler was saved by Bendik. He almost scored again in the 90th minute after he was played through and was one-on-one with the keeper, but Bendik stopped him once again. Picault had many chances throughout the game to make a decisive play, but often his passes were just a little out of sync. He has to be upset not getting a goal tonight, and questions will remain about his viability as a striker.

Haris Medunjanin won balls defensively and was a force going forward, in what was a breakout game for him. Many have questioned his ability to be a number 6 in the 4-4-2 but tonight he shined, and was one of the best players on the pitch.

Columbus can’t be happy with their performance as their defense was picked apart. They were not nearly compact enough and the Union consistently found gaping holes. It was obvious that they missed Wil Trapp. The Union outshot Columbus 9-5, with Columbus only registering a single shot on goal.

The Union desperately needed a result and boy did they deliver. Accam broke his goalless drought — doubling his total from last season in the first half — and was the hero in an offensive unit that had struggled to score for the first three weeks of the season. Just after the match in his postgame interview, he revealed with tears in his eyes that tragically his father had passed away last week suddenly after a battle with cancer.

Lineups

Union (4-2-3-1): Coronel, Gaddis, Elliot, Trusty, Wagner, Medunjanin, Ilsinho (Mbaizo 75’), Bedoya, Aaronson (Fontana 81), Accam, Picault,

Columbus (4-2-3-1): Bendik, Afful, Mensah, Sauro, Jimenez, Artur (Argudo 65’), Clark, Santos, Higuain, Robinho (Sosa 84’), Mullins (Williams 54’)