First place in the Eastern Conference will belong to the Philadelphia Union for another week after they snapped a two-match road winless with a convincing 4-1 win over D.C. United on Sunday night.
The Union got on the board early when Andrew Wooten forced a turnover and set up Alejandro Bedoya in the box, whose shot hit the left post and bounced in. Bedoya, who was tweeting earlier in the day about the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, celebrated his early strike by grabbing the field mic to send a message to Congress to “do something” about gun violence.
D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen was forced to go to his bench early when Chris Durkin went down with an injury, but things got much worse for D.C. when Kacper Przybylko was taken down in the box on a potential goal-scoring play in the 37th minute. Referee Armando Villarreal initially showed Júnior Moreno a yellow for the challenge in the box but after video review changed it to red.
After the delay for VAR, Kacper Przybylko stepped to the spot and skied his penalty to keep the score 1-0 to the visitors. The miss was the fourth for penalty kick takers for the Union this season.
A clinical first-time finish in the second minute of stoppage time by Marco Fabián off a good cut back from Kai Wagner made it 2-0 going into the locker room and put the Union in an ideal situation up a man and a pair of goals.
Kacper Przybylko added to the lead for the Union seven minutes after the break with his little fake with his left to put the ball on his right foot move for his 10th of the season to equal the team lead from 2018 (Cory Burke and Fafa Picault both had 10). Warren Creavalle picked up the assist on the play, which came off another turnover created by the press.
The three-goal lead was short lived though as D.C. United took advantage of something that’s been a bit of an Achilles heel for the Union this season — set pieces. A bad foul from Aurelien Collin, who replaced Auston Trusty in the lineup, led to a free kick from the right side of the 18 and while Andre Blake saved the initial header from Steve Birnbaum, he was unable to keep out the rebound from Frédéric Brillant.
Things started to get interesting and a little uncomfortable for the traveling support when USMNT winger Paul Arriola was played into the box by a brilliant long pass from Wayne Rooney, but Arriola’s chip went wide of the mark. Four minutes later, Arriola was in the box with another chance that drew Blake way out of his box but his shot skied over the bar.
Kacper had another chance in front of goal set up by a Bedoya back heel in the 68th minute but Bill Hamid was able to make the stop. But two minutes later, Fabián put the game away when he was played into the box with a pass from Haris Medunjanin and then faked out his defender and was able to beat Hamid near post with a deflected shot to make it 4-1.
Fafa Picault added another point to the goal differential (now +9) when Jamiro Monteiro got the ball to Ilsinho and he chipped a pass to a wide open Picault in the box for the half volley.
After losing two straight road games by 4-0 finals against Real Salt Lake and Montreal Impact, Sunday’s win in a national broadcast away from home — the first for a visitor to Audi Field since April — should serve as a notice to the league that the Union are still up to the task to fight for an Eastern Conference crown and the Champions League berth that comes with it.
With all three points secured, the Union will stay in first place for the 10th week in a row and 13th week overall both on points and points per game with a return home a week from today against Houston Dynamo and six of their remaining eight games after that against conference foes.