A series of defensive misadventures before halftime condemned D.C. United to a dispiriting 4-1 road defeat against the Philadelphia Union. Kacper Przybylko posted two goals and an assist for the Union, who raced out to a three-goal lead in the game’s opening 21 minutes. Julian Gressel pulled one goal back for United, but there was little evidence that a comeback was in the cards.
Injuries and absences forced Ben Olsen into a makeshift lineup, particularly in the back. Per The Washington Post’s Steve Goff, Bill Hamid did not travel for personal reasons, while team captain Steven Birnbaum joined a list of six other injured players with an unspecified knock. Chris Seitz — making his first start in just over 13 months for United — replaced Hamid in goal, while new acquisition Axel Sjöberg made his United debut.
With both teams showing a willingness to press, the game got off to a fast start. Unfortunately for United, that tempo ended up creating an early Union goal from a corner kick. Jamiro Monteiro’s near-post service was flicked on by Alejandro Bedoya, skipping through traffic to the back post. Philadelphia target man Kacper Przybylko, wide open at the back post, calmly shot home from barely three yards out, handing the Union a 1-0 lead in the 7th minute.
Yamil Asad forced Andre Blake into a good save almost immediately, but another poor moment in the box from United gave Philadelphia another goal in the 16th minute. This time, Sjöberg’s attempt to help a half-clearance on was not enough, and Przybylko had plenty of room to take a touch before sending a rocket from 20 yards past Seitz.
United weren’t even off the ropes after conceding the second when matters got worse. A D.C. attack went awry, and a smart diagonal ball from Jose Martinez set Sergio Santos free in acres of space on the United right. Santos raced ahead, getting into the box before rifling a near-post shot past Seitz, making it 3-0 in the 20th minute.
Late in the half, United finally started to find their feet again, with Julian Gressel’s inch-perfect cutback from near the endline picking Junior Moreno out in a great spot. Sadly for United, the finish didn’t match the pass, as the Venezuelan skied his shot. However, United nearly created a fourth Union goal just 90 seconds later. Moreno’s back pass went to Przybylko, who squared it to a wide open Bedoya. From no more than 10 yards, Bedoya had a glorious chance, but let the Black-and-Red off the hook by missing wide.
Halftime brought subs for both teams, with United replacing Asad with homegrown attacker Griffin Yow, and a torrential downpour. It did not, however, see United reverse their fortunes, with the Union content to stay disciplined in their shape and, with a healthy lead, bleed the game out. In fact, the game’s next genuine chance came with yet another poor D.C. giveaway just outside the box, with Santos cracking a shot off the post after being wide open following Przybylko’s pass.
United offered up sporadic shots, but with the Black-and-Red’s defending consistently poor, any Union attack looked dangerous. That proved true again in the 61st minute, with Philadelphia catching United stretched out in pursuit of a goal. Przybylko once again was involved, this time teeing up Brenden Aaronson for a close-range finish that went through Seitz’s legs.
Finally, United reacted with real vigor, and pulled a consolation goal back two minutes later. Moreno forced a turnover at midfield, and with Yow making a run to draw several defenders, Gressel had time and space to thunder a shot past Andre Blake.
In a sliver of good news, 16-year-old midfielder Moses Nyeman made his MLS debut. United finished the game with four homegrown players (including three teenagers) on the field. Yow in particular showed well, capping a very sharp late attack with a first-time, leaping cross that should have seen Sorga make it 4-2. Perhaps with the frame of the goal in mind, however, Sorga altered his angle of attack, and couldn’t turn the pass inside the post.
That miss was the game’s final serious chance at either end, and United trudged off the pitch without a win for the sixth straight match. They’ll have to shake a rough night off quickly, as they face their oldest rival the New York Red Bulls in short order. That game is Wednesday, September 2, at Red Bull Arena.
MLS Regular Season - Game 8
Philadelphia Union 4 (Przybylko 7, 16; Santos 20; Aaronson 61)
D.C. United 1 (Gressel 63)
Union (4312): Andre Blake; Olivier Mbaizo, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner (Matt Real 27); Alejandro Bedoya (C), Jose Martinez (Warren Creavalle 46), Jamiro Monteiro; Brenden Aaronson (Jack de Vries 87); Kacper Przybylko (Andrew Wooten 64), Sergio Santos (Ilsinho 64)
DCU (3412): Chris Seitz; Axel Sjöberg, Donovan Pines, Joseph Mora; Julian Gressel (Moses Nyeman 79), Felipe Martins (C), Junior Moreno (Mohamed Abu 64), Kevin Paredes; Yamil Asad (Griffin Yow 46); Ulises Segura, Ola Kamara (Erik Sorga 57)
Union - Martinez 10, Mbaizo 56, Ilsinho 69, Creavalle 80, Monteiro 87
DCU - Felipe 19