The Philadelphia Union scored less than two-minutes into the game on an Eloy Room own goal and held on the rest of the way in an entertaining 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew Saturday evening at Subaru Park. With the win, the Union further clench their grip on first place, leading the Supporters’ Shield Standings with 16 points and continue the best start in club history.
The Union fielded what was perhaps their strongest squad of the season, welcoming Mikael Uhre to the starting lineup for the first time. Uhre partnered up top with Julian Carranza, recently named to the MLS team of the Week. Alejandro Bedoya returned as well after a one-game absence. Columbus countered with a deep midfield that included Darlington Nagbe and Artur behind MLS Player of the Month Lucas Zelarayan, who has 4 goals and 2 assists on the season.
The Union didn’t take long to get on the board. Room fumbled a high Jose Martinez cross into the goal 90 seconds into the match, handing the Union the fastest goal of the season. After the goal, the Union controlled the action, pushing the tempo, pressing the Crew backline with their new forward combo. Close to the quarter-hour mark, Nathan Harriel missed a header inches wide off a corner, and Daniel Gazdag nearly made it 2-0 just over twenty-minutes in but was denied from close range when his shot hit Room in the chest and was pushed aside.
The game settled into a typical Columbus-Philly battle with large chunks of possession bottled up through the midfield on both sides, but toward the end of the half, Columbus gained the advantage in possession and shots. Just beyond the half-hour mark, a Columbus corner skirted through the box untouched, and four minutes later, Miguel Berry got in behind the Union center backs but shot wide. Five minutes before the half, Yaw Yeboah cut inside from the right, but his powerful left-footed strike was smothered by Andre Blake.
The Union withstood a bit of a scare a minute before halftime when Zelarayan’s free kick appeared headed for the top corner, but Blake made a fantastic diving fingertip save to push it over the bar. Unfortunately, Blake came down awkwardly on his shoulder while his head banged the post and stayed down for several minutes. But after an on-field medical check, he was able to continue, and the Union finished out the half up a goal heading into the break.
The Union came out in the second half with more spark and pressed the game for an insurance goal. Bedoya combined with Uhre down the right side five minutes in, with Uhre springing the captain with a crafty back heel, but Bedoya’s shot skimmed the grass and was easily corralled by Room. Uhre broke free in the box down the left side minutes later but fired into the stands. Minutes later, Bedoya broke free again down the right after a bit of craftsmanship by Gazdag, but his cross missed all three Union attackers and was cleared to safety. Uhre snuck in behind a minute later for what was sure to be his first Union goal, but his shot slipped between Room’s legs but not his backside.
Columbus got the action going twenty-minutes into the half, their best chance coming off a Union corner, breaking into a 5 vs 2 counter that ended with a shot over the bar. Harriel had another header over the bar minutes later, and the pace slowed after several changes on both sides, including the departure of Uhre, who had a solid first start and is only a game or two away from finding his scoring groove.
The first place Union travel to Canada to face Toronto FC next Saturday evening.
PHI: Room (OG) 2’
CLB: Moreina 66’
PHI: Sullivan 78’
Union: Blake, Harriel, Glesnes, Elliott, Wagner, Martinez, Bedoya, Flach, Gazdag (Aaronson 90’), Uhre (Sullivan 76’), Carranza (Burke 62’)
Unused subs: Freese, Findlay, Real, Mbaizo, Bueno, McGlynn
Crew: Room, Moreira, Menseh, Degenek, Santos, Artur (Igbekeme 62’), Nagbe, Yeboah (Morris 85’), Etienne Jr., Zelarayan (Matan 85’), Berry (Zardes 72’)
Unused subs: Bush, Matan, Hairston, Morris, Anibaba, Williams, Sands