D.C. United saw a good run of form end tonight in an acrimonious, lightning-delayed 2-1 road loss to the Philadelphia Union. Despite Yamil Asad’s penalty kick early in the second half, United were undone by goals early (via Sergio Santos) and late (from Kacper Przybylko), and also saw three players leave the game — which was delayed for 94 minutes — with what appeared to be injuries.
Hernán Losada was able to call upon Steven Birnbaum, who returned from multiple ankle surgeries for his first competitive appearance in 288 days. He and Tony Alfaro took spots vacated by Brendan Hines-Ike (hip) and Donovan Pines (USMNT), while Yamil Asad replaced United’s other USMNT call-up (Paul Arriola) in the attack. Kevin Paredes was, per the Washington Post’s Steven Goff, held out with a knock in hopes that he would be available for Wednesday’s trip to Chicago.
United started brightly, with Adrien Perez just barely unable to guide Nigel Robertha’s cross/shot into an empty net within 25 seconds of kickoff. Russell Canouse’s pressure sparked a 5th minute attack that went just as close, with Robertha’s shot glancing off of Jakob Glesnes but floating barely wide with Joe Bendik flat-footed.
United were bossing the game, but were caught out on a counter-attack and fell behind in the 11th minute. Olivier Mbaizo and Alejandro Bedoya worked out of some heavy pressure, and there was plenty of room for the Philadelphia captain to push forward on the break. Kacper Przybylko may or may not have gotten a touch to Bedoya’s pass inside, but either way Sergio Santos ran onto the ball all alone before guiding a shot past the approaching Bill Hamid.
The visitors were on the front foot, but Hamid had to make a great stop in the 29th minute to deny Santos after an Mbaizo cross, while D.C.’s attacks mostly ran up against a wall of dark blue shirts as Jim Curtin’s side dropped into a low block.
A strange sequence saw both Canouse and Perez need substitutions after being on the end of bad tackles from Philadelphia players. United finally looked to have their opportunity in the 37th minute, which saw Birnbaum — who had stayed up following a corner — nod a recycled service down for Asad. The Argentine’s shot from nine yards was unfortunately saved in spectacular fashion by Bendik, who tipped the ball off the post and away from danger.
United got an early series of set pieces to start the second half, and from a short corner got themselves a penalty kick. Gressel’s short corner found Yordy Reyna (who had replaced Perez), and Santos clipped the Peruvian’s shin a yard inside the box. Referee Alex Chilowicz pointed to the spot, and Asad did the rest, sending Bendik the wrong way before tucking the penalty away in the 51st minute for his second goal in as many games.
Four minutes later, Chilowicz pointed to the spot at the other end after a challenge between Junior Moreno and Leon Flach, but eventually reversed course after checking the VAR monitor.
Asad nearly gave himself a brace on the hour mark, intercepting a Glesnes pass before eventually firing a low shot that skipped a foot wide of the post, while United had their first true scare of the second half as a Union cross glanced off of Alfaro before bouncing wide.
That spell saw the Union think they had retaken the lead in the 70th minute, as Santos glanced Przybylko’s shot past Hamid. However, Chilowicz eventually called the goal back after consulting VAR and spotting that Santos was a step offside.
United continued pushing for a winner, but that aggression was their undoing in the 84th minute, as Philadelphia retook the lead. Alfaro stepped into midfield after some good work, but soon thereafter lost the ball. United was completely unbalanced, and the Union went direct, with Santos eventually setting Przybylko up for a finish from 10 yards.
Adding to an already chaotic game, Chilowicz stopped play in the 87th minute after lightning was spotted in the area. A delay of 114 minutes ensued, and United (who had made a triple sub just before that stoppage) came out with defender Frédéric Brillant up front as an auxiliary defender as Losada threw numbers forward in pursuit of an equalizer.
However, the “kitchen sink” approach never lead to a better chance than Gressel’s 90th minute long ball that Bendik hesitated over before barely grabbing it away from substitute Griffin Yow.
A quick turnaround awaits United (5W-1D-7L, 9th place), who will look to bounce back this coming Wednesday night, as they stay on the road to take on the Chicago Fire. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00pm.
MLS Regular Season - Game 13
D.C. United 1 (Asad 51pen)
Philadelphia Union 2 (Santos 11, Przybylko 83)
DCU (343): Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Steven Birnbaum (C) (Frédéric Brillant 85), Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse (Moses Nyeman 30), Junior Moreno, Joseph Mora; Adrien Perez (Yordy Reyna 32), Nigel Robertha (Griffin Yow 85), Yamil Asad (Felipe Martins 85)
Union (4312): Joe Bendik; Olivier Mbaizo, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner; Alejandro Bedoya (C), José Martinez, Leon Flach; Daniel Gazag; Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos (Quinn Sullivan 84)
DCU - Asad 27, Alfaro 45, Reyna 46+
Union - Martinez 22