Philadelphia Union capitalize on Columbus implosion for 3-0 victory

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12: C.J. Sapong
COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12: C.J. Sapong /

The Philadelphia Union got the monkey off their back in a big way beating the Columbus Crew 3-0.

The match started off rather sloppy for both sides, as neither team was able to effectively build up and create problems for their opposition. Both Oguchi Onyewu and Jack Elliott were bailed out of poor back passes early on by backup Philadelphia Union goalkeeper John McCarthy who was very quick off his line in numerous situations.

Columbus, having played three games in a span of eight days, did well to exploit the high marking of Ray Gaddis down the left side but had little success in testing McCarthy for the exception of one shot at point blank range being blocked then rebounded off the right post by Kekuta Manneh.

The Philadelphia Union’s high press yielded fairly good results in the form of numerous breakups in the middle that created chances for Marcus Epps and Haris Medunjanin. But Philly would be rewarded in the 20th minute when a deflected shot was played back into the middle by C.J. Sapong who’s bicycle attempt fell onto the foot of Ilsinho who smashed the shot past the outstretched hand of Zack Steffen.

"What a rocket from Ilsinho for his third goal of the season#DOOP— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) July 27, 2017"

Confident in their play, Roland Alberg delivered a well-weighted ball over the top to Sapong who was taken down in the box by Columbus’ Jonathan Mensah and shown a red card in the 35th minute.

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However, it was Alberg who stepped up to take the attempt and ultimately, he was denied by Steffen due to a combination of poor placement and attentiveness on the keeper’s part.

The 2nd half saw the Union really settle into the game and the little pressure they did absorb was dealt with properly by the back line. Philadelphia had chance after chance come just short of doubling their lead with Marcus Epps having the majority of those attempts in the first 20 minutes. Then in the  his cross ricocheted off the bar and fell comfortably in front of a lurking C.J. Sapong who slotted it past Steffen for his career high 10th goal of the season.

"It was an adventure, but CJ made sure it went in on the second try#JoinOrDie— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) July 27, 2017"

The Columbus implosion continued in the 76th minute as Lalas Abubakar blatantly elbowed Ilsinho after the whistle had blown and was given a straight red card for his troubles. That brought the Crew down to nine men which opened Philadelphia up to attack at will. A bouncing ball in the box not five minutes later was tapped by Sapong to Epps who finally did enough to find the back of the net for his first career MLS goal.

"MARCUS EPPS 👏 MARCUS EPPS 👏Been creating chances all night and gets his reward in the 81st. #JoinOrDie— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) July 27, 2017"

In short, the Union had themselves a field day tonight in front of the 15,000+ at Talen Energy Stadium as stated by head coach Jim Curtin: “I thought the guys put a lot into the game. There was urgency from the opening whistle… They were dangerous all night.” With attacking pieces like Sapong and Epps clicking and the return of Chris Pontius following tonight’s Gold Cup Final, the Union look to be in good shape from an offensive perspective. And despite the heroics of goalkeeper John McCarthy, Andre Blake’s return can only mean more defensive stability going forward unless the injury he sustained in Jamaica’s match against the USA proves to be worse than most expect.

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Philadelphia now go on the road to face the New England Revolution this Saturday in an attempt to push themselves further up the table and secure a playoff spot.