A week after his MLS player of the week performance, David Accam showed his quality again, scoring once, as well as assisting a Marco Fabián strike. Accam also noticeably changed the name on the back of his jersey to Titti, which is a nickname he and his late father shared, to honor his father who passed away two weeks ago.
The Union started off the match dominating possession. The game was sloppy due to the downpour that lasted all match, with players on both teams slipping at inopportune times. The sloppy play resulted in a scoreless first half, with the Union struggling to find the final ball.
Cincinnati had almost no opportunities going forward in the first half, barring a waved off offside goal by Roland Lamah in the 27th minute against the run of play. Cincy sat back for most of the game, letting the Union keep the ball. They finished the first half with only one shot, which wasn’t on target, as well as only 37 percent of the possession.
Tactically, the Union shifted back to their 4-4-2 diamond this week with the return of most of the roster from suspensions and international call ups. The biggest change was that 18-year-old Brendon Aaronson, whose been given the nickname “The Medford Messi,” moved to the left side of the diamond and Marco Fabián retook his place as the number 10.
In conjunction, Alejandro Bedoya didn’t press as high up the pitch this week, possibly to give Haris Medunjanin extra defensive cover with an attacking-minded Aaronson opposite him in the diamond. Aaronson was the best player on the field during the first half, being the only Union player who consistently looked toward goal. He forced a save after a really incredible piece of possession by the Union, which included about 25 passes in succession to build up to the shot. Interestingly, Aaronson took corners from the left this week instead of Fabián, but the Union failed to convert any of their nine first half corners. Elliott had the best chance on a free header off of a Medunjanin corner in the 39th minute, but his header was always going wide.
The second half started off with a bang for the Union. Fabián orchestrated a wonderful goal, breaking Cincinnati’s 310 minute shutout streak. Fabián sprung Accam down the right, who then cut the ball right back to Fabián, who took a touch around Cincinnati defender Mathieu Deplange before powering a shot past Cincinnati goalkeeper Spencer Richey. Fabián really grew into the game, not having much of an effect early, but found the ball in better spaces in the second half.
What a sequence. @marcofabian_10 ➡️ @iamdavidaccam and back to Marco#CINvPHI 0-1 | #DOOP | #ThisIsPhilly pic.twitter.com/rDlSxagkiF— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) March 31, 2019
Cincinnati finally pushed forward once Fabián scored. Lamah, who was Cincy’s most threatening player all game, turned and fired a powerful shot from close range in the 51st minute, but Andre Blake was up to the task, making another highlight reel save. Cincy then kept up the pressure forcing four straight corners, but were unable to convert.
The game started to get a little frantic, with the ball being played end to end until Accam brought the ball down in the box off a Cincinnati defender’s miss cleared header. Accam beat two defenders with good control of the ball, sending one of them to the turf with his quick feet, before he poked it past keeper into the side netting. It was a piece of individual brilliance and Accam looks like the player the Union spent so much to get last year.
The touch, the fake, the DOOP! What skills from @iamdavidaccam!#CINvPHI 0-2 | #DOOP | #ThisIsPhilly pic.twitter.com/x50bmhgpNz— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) March 31, 2019
Unfortunately, Accam had to be subbed off in the 66th minute for Corey Burke with a possible injury, pointing to his leg and groin area near where he had his hernia repair last year. If Accam is injured, it will be quite a blow to both the Union and him considering his form and his injury struggles last season.
Fabián then made way in the 71st minute for the debut of new loan signing Jamiro Monteiro, to add more defensive presence to ice the game. Monteiro slid into the left side up the diamond and Aaronson slid back up to the number 10. After the subs were made, the Union lost some of their midfield continuity, and they struggled to hold on to possession to end the game.
Kai Wagner continues to impress, contributing to both defense and the attack all game. His stand out moment had to be his amazing end-to-end run with the ball in the 82nd minute where he beat three or four Cincinnati defenders. Ultimately Burke couldn’t shake his defender and Wagner’s cross went across the face of goal untouched.
Monteiro was quiet in his short debut from the bench, but he showed his quality when he broke up a play, took a hit, stayed on his feet, and played a good ball to Burke all in one single movement, which resulted in a shot for Aaronson. Aaronson gave way for Warren Creavalle in the 90th minute for a late cameo to run out the clock.
The Union’s high press diamond was incredibly effective in turning over Cincinnati all night and they held FC Cincy scoreless for the first time all season. Cincinnati came in to the game sitting second in the Eastern Conference, and while they were missing the services of striker Fanendo Adi and veteran center back Kendall Waston due to injuries, the convincing road win is a real boost to a rapidly improving Union squad.
There will be much debate in the coming weeks as to the best midfield combination, with a crowded group of quality players, but the chances for Derrick Jones to see any meaningful time this season seem to be rapidly disappearing. There will be injury concerns for Accam and Blake as well, who came up gimpy after a hard landing on the turf in the 93rd minute, heading into the next match against FC Dallas at home next Saturday, but the Union all of the sudden are unbeaten in three, and have outscored their last two opponents 5-0, only allowing a single goal in the past three games.
Today’s win gives the Union one of their best March’s in recent memory and completes the early season sweep of both Ohio teams.
Union 4-4-2 : Gaddis, Elliot, Trusty, Wagner, Medunjanin, Bedoya, Aaronson (90’ Creavalle), Fabián (71’ Monteiro) , Picault, Accam (66’ Burke)
Cincinnati 4-2-3-1 : Richey, Garza, Lasso, Hagglund, Deplagne , Ulloa (71’ Stanko), Bertone, Cruz (76’ Amaya), Manneh (59’ Saief), Lamah, Mattocks