Anyone expecting fireworks was sure to be disappointed as the Philadelphia Union and Columbus Crew played to a 0-0 tie at Lower.com Field Sunday night. The only action came from a combined 7 yellow cards and a first-half penalty save by Andre Blake on Pedro Santos.
The draw marked the second-consecutive game for the Union where they were both outplayed and unable to create much going forward.
Following the disappointing loss to last-place Chicago on Wednesday night, which included losing José Martinez to a red card suspension, the Union shifted to three center backs with Stuart Findlay playing alongside Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott while Olivier Mbazio made the start at right back. Jim Curtin rested Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza at forward in favor of Cory Burke and Paoli’s Chris Donovan, who earned his first MLS start. Donovan was a first round draft pick by the Crew this year and was claimed off waivers by the Union after an impressive spring with the Union II.
Twenty seconds in, Crew captain Jonathan Mensah earned a yellow card for a high foot to Kai Wagner’s head, but after that the game settled into a typical Union-Crew matchup where both teams locked down defensively and felt each other out. The Crew created the better chances in the opening half with Lucas Zelarayan’s free kick testing Andre Blake in the 15th minute and Darlington Nagbe’s first-time strike from the top of the box forcing another Blake save two minutes later.
The Crew had a great opportunity to put the visitors on their heels in the 18th minute when referee Nima Saghafi called a soft penalty on Daniel Gazdag for pulling down Sean Sawadski inside the box off a Crew corner. Gazdag’s contact was minimal and embellished by the Crew midfielder, but Saghafi was close by and immediately pointed to the spot. Blake guessed correct and pushed Pedro Santos’ weak effort wide to preserve the clean sheet.
Aside from a Daniel Gazdag long-distance strike in the 26th minute, the Union did little to test the home side. Gazdag’s free kick two minutes from the break squirted across the six, and Kai Wagner’s floated header was easily grabbed by Room. With only one shot on goal and a 0 expected goal ratio in the first half, the Union started the game where they left off against Chicago.
Action in the second half was just as bleak as the first as both teams struggled to break down the other. The Union’s best chance came off a 49th minute corner when Alejandro Bedoya’s front-six header glanced across the goalmouth and missed Gazdag’s head by inches. Burke had a header from Findlay’s cross two minutes later that missed well high and wide. Zelarayán nearly put the Crew in front in the 66 th minute when he struck home a cross from Santos. The former MLS Cup MVP would have scored his first goal in months since returning from a knee injury, but Erik Hurtado was in an offside position in front of Blake and the goal was waved off after video review.
The Crew had several half-chances to take three points in the final twenty minutes while the Union failed to crack the final third. Even the introduction of Carranza and Uhre did little to change the landscape. Carranza had a deflected shot that forced a kick save from Room five minutes from time, while Uhre rarely saw the ball. Both teams settled for a scoreless draw that will leave neither satisfied.
The Union finished with 34% possession, 2 shots on goal, and an xG of .3, which was not exactly the rebound performance most would have expected after the loss to last-place Chicago.
Despite the draw, the Union remain at the top of the Eastern Conference standings for the time being after draws by both New York teams. The Union return home Friday July 8 th to take on D.C. United.
COL: Mensah 1’
COL: Zelarayán 36’
PHI: Elliott 39’
COL: Hurtado 39’
COL: Santos 43’
COL: Moreira 59’
PHI: Bedoya 61’
Union: Blake, Mbaizo (Harriel 88’), Glesnes, Elliott, Findlay, Wagner, Bedoya, Flach, Gazdag, Burke (Carranza 69’), Donovan (Uhre 69”)
Unused subs: Bendik, Freese, Harriel, Real, Turner, Bueno
Columbus: Room, Williams, Mensah, Degenek (Etienne Jr. 80’), Santos, Moreira, Zawadzki
(Molino 80’), Morris (Igbekeme 60’), Nagbe, Russel-Rowe (Hurtado 46’), Zelarayån
Unused subs: Bush, Anibaba, Sands, Diaz, Berry