Despite a goal from Wayne Rooney, D.C. United couldn’t hold off the Philadelphia Union, who beat the Black-and-Red 2-1 in a preseason match tonight in Clearwater, FL. Rooney put United in the lead in the 23rd minute, but goals from Marco Fabián and Cory Burke — both coming after United had made significant changes to their lineup — handed Philly the win.
After hinting that he’d be fielding some players who hadn’t seen the majority of the club’s preseason minutes, Ben Olsen instead opted to field a lineup that isn’t far removed from the projected starting team for the regular season. Outside of Akeem Ward (stepping in as Leonardo Jara recovers from a knock), Jalen Robinson (who started over Frederic Brillant at center back) and possibly Ulises Segura on the wing, Olsen went with a team that could easily be his group to face Atlanta United on March 3rd.
The Union had the first spell of sustained pressure, with Cory Burke unable to make contact with a Kai Wagner cross at the back post in the 11th minute before Hamid was forced into a sharp save of Marco Fabián’s shot in traffic as United struggled to get the ball clear.
United had a quick response, as Paul Arriola won a free kick on the right wing in the 15th minute. Luciano Acosta’s ball to the back post left Andre Blake flat-footed, but United’s runners could only pressure Auston Trusty to fortuitously deflect the ball back to Blake.
The Union continued to look the sharper side early, with Arriola forced into a crucial intervention on Burke in the 19th minute. CJ Sapong produced a shot that skipped just wide of Hamid’s left-hand post seconds later.
The Black-and-Red surged upfield in the 22nd minute, showing some of the fluency they had last year, with a Wayne Rooney dummy sending Joseph Mora in for an angled shot that Blake had to deflect down before saving at the second attempt.
That served as a warning, with Rooney putting United up 1-0 a minute later. Ulises Segura, having cycled back to cover after Mora’s overlap, fed the ball forward to Acosta, who immediately played a splendid through ball for Rooney to run in behind the Philadelphia center backs. Rooney held off his countryman Jack Elliott, taking a touch to his left before dinking the ball over the sliding Blake.
The goal seemed to lift United’s play, with D.C. having more of the ball in the next few minutes. Arriola’s 25 yard shot from the right went wide of Blake’s goal in the 30th minute, while Rooney and Arriola couldn’t connect on a quick attempt to open the field up after United won the ball back straight from the Union goal kick. In the 33rd minute, Rooney’s weighted pass to the left seemed to put Segura in on goal, but Blake raced off his line to just barely prevent a shot.
Philadelphia had their first look in some time in the 35th minute, after Alejandro Bedoya laid the ball back from the endline. After multiple close-range blocks, Burke’s shot in the scramble clipped Birnbaum, taking all the power off of it before Hamid could save.
Hamid produced a stunning save in the 44th minute, robbing Ilsinho after the Brazilian crushed a shot from inside the box after some good interplay from the Union. Moments into stoppage time, Hamid was at full stretch again, this time laying out to his left to stop a 26 yard laser from Fabián.
United made seven substitutions at halftime, with Frederic Brillant and Donovan Pines coming in at center back. Chris Seitz stepped in for Hamid, while Chris Durkin took over for Junior Moreno alongside Canouse. Zoltan Stieber and trialist Kyle Murphy took over on the wings, while Chris McCann made his first appearance in a United shirt, replacing Mora at left back.
Seitz had to make a sharp save in the 48th minute, denying Wagner after Fabián’s cross from the right side of the box got through a clogged penalty area. At the other end, Rooney nearly took advantage of a mistake from Trusty in the 53rd minute, but Trusty recovered in time to block Rooney’s attempted lob from near the endline.
The Union used some good fortune to draw themselves level on the hour mark. Medunjanin’s shot from the top of the box was blocked, but Seitz had already made his dive to get to it. The ball fell to Fabián, who one-timed a shot in under pressure, and though Seitz got up in time to attempt a second dive the opposite way, he couldn’t get to the lower corner before the ball got past him.
Olsen brought academy player Bryang Kayo and as-yet-unannounced signing Quincy Amarikwa in the 64th minute, and the latter should have put United back into the lead shortly thereafter. Rooney’s hesitation opened up a gap to slip Amarikwa into some space on the right side of the Union box, but the MLS journeyman’s 66th minute shot bounced wide after beating Blake.
United would rue that miss in the 74th minute, as the Union took a 2-1 lead. A bad backpass under pressure from Pines allowed Fafa Picault to sneak in and steal the ball before Seitz could get there, and Picault had an easy time squaring the ball over to Burke, who steered it inside the far post.
United’s subs continued, with Rooney making way for Griffin Yow just moments before the goal. Later, academy player Allexon Saravia stepped in for Ward at right back, while the Union largely stuck with their starters. Yow forced a Union turnover in the 84th minute before combining with Amarikwa, but in the end the Black-and-Red had to settle for a Stieber shot that went high.
United was trying to piece together some possession to find an opening, but nearly conceded a third in the 88th minute. A deep ball from Wagner sent Picault in behind, but the offside flag prevented a breakaway (though Picault skewed his shot past Seitz wide anyway).
One last corner in stoppage time went awry, consigning United to their first preseason defeat of 2019. D.C. will close out their Florida schedule this Saturday, where they’ll face the Montreal Impact at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, FL at 7:00pm.
Highlights will be added if they are made available.