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Dismal first half from D.C. United results in 3-0 loss to Philadelphia Union

The Union converted on two penalties in the first half, punishing the Black-and-Red for a poor opening 45 minutes, before sealing the victory early in the second half

D.C. United were put to the sword on Saturday night falling 3-0 to the Philadelphia Union in one the poorest performances from the team this year. United were second best throughout, but were punished for sloppy play in the opening 45 minutes by two penalties from the Union. Kofi Opare conceded the first penalty, converted by Roland Alberg, before getting sent off midway through the second half with a second yellow.

Marcelo Sarvas gave up the second penalty kick, after Taylor Kemp just avoided the same fate minutes before. Ilsinho, the Union's tricky winger, made no mistake with the spot kick after manufacturing it himself, and then added to his tally early in the second half following a rebound.

United manager Ben Olsen made several big decisions with his starting lineup, dropping Bobby Boswell, Luciano Acosta, and Alvaro Saborio to the bench. Steve Birnbaum made his first appearance since returning from Copa America, with Jared Jeffrey starting for Acosta, and Alhaji Kamara getting his first MLS start up front.

Proceedings started ominously for United, and only got worse from there. CJ Sapong won a free kick for the Union just at the edge of the box in a tussle with Opare, which was a sign of things to come. Alberg whipped in the corner, but United were able to clear from a dangerous area.

Nick DeLeon created a chance for the Black-and-Red in the 7th minute, as he gathered a loose ball in midfield, and quickly burst into the attacking half DeLeon played out wide for Espindola, allowing the Argentine to get into space on the left. But a cross in from the left couldn't find either of his two teammates in the box.

Another foul from Opare led to another Alberg free kick, with this one traveling all the way into the grateful hands of Bill Hamid. Sapong then got around Opare at the end line in the 15th minute, sending a cross towards the back post, where Alberg could only smash a volley wide of the goal.

Four minute later though, United were out of luck as Alberg scored his sixth goal on the season. A break from midfield by former United player Chris Pontius forced the issue, and Opare went in for a tackle just inside the box. Pontius attempted to get around, but it was an easy call for Sorin Stoica as Opare was unable to get his leg out of the way in time. Alberg then stepped up, sending Hamid diving the wrong way for the 1-0 lead.

Lamar Neagle made a break of his own in the 23rd minute, winning a challenge from Ilsinho near midfield. That allowed Neagle to continue in on goal, but with a late-arriving Kamara the only option, Neagle opted to shoot from 25 yards out only to put the ball wide of goal.

Ilsinho thought he won a penalty in the 28th minute, after going down in the box from a challenge by Taylor Kemp. There was no call coming, though, and two minutes later, Ilsinho fired wide from outside of the box after clearing space by juking around Marcelo.

Pontius was then denied a highlight reel goal by Hamid in the 35th minute, as United's shot-stopper somehow got a hand to a back heel from Pontius. Ilsinho kept possession alive for the Union on a loose ball on the right flank, moving deeper into the attacking half. Ilsinho then skipped a cross into the middle, where Pontius went for a spectacular finish only to denied by Hamid's strong hand.

The resulting corner from that save led to the second penalty, as United could not properly clear their lines. A turnover just outside the box allowed the Union a second chance, and with Ilsinho making his way into the box, Marcelo conceded a spot kick by blocking his countryman's path to the ball. Ilsinho took the honors on the second go around, and though Hamid guessed the right way, the penalty had too much power.

United's first effort on target came in the 41st minute, as Birnbaum just missed out on giving United a lifeline heading into halftime. A free kick just outside of the box was served in by Marcelo, and Birnbaum beat his marker to the header. Unfortunately for United, the header was straight at Andre Blake, who had no issues grabbing the effort.

Olsen decided against any changes to start the second half, and by the 47th minute, the game was over as a competitive contest. Opare gave up a free kick to in an attacking position, allowing Alberg to curl a ball towards the back post. Sapong won the header, and sent it backwards, where Ilsinho was all alone to rifle home for the 3-0 lead.

That goal seemed to spark some life into the Black-and-Red, even if the lead was insurmountable at that point. Kamara and Marcelo combined in the Union's half, allowing the midfielder to surge into the box with the ball. Marcelo's effort could have been a shot or a cross, but his shot was wide, and no one was at the back post to apply a finish.

A ball played out wide for Sean Franklin in the 54th minute led to another chance, as Franklin played a ball into the box for Neagle. The midfielder laid the ball back for DeLeon running toward the restraining arc, but DeLeon's low effort was saved by a diving Blake, and Neagle was offside for the follow up attempt.

Espindola and DeLeon paired up in the middle of the field a minute later, with Espindola starting the move with an unorthodox pass off of his knee. A quick pass from DeLeon freed Kamara down the middle, allowing the striker to make his way towards goal. But under pressure from center back Ken Tribbett, Kamara's shot from inside the box was into the side netting.

The Union nearly had a fourth goal in the 59th minute as Hamid denied Sapong on the doorstep. A corner from Alberg was won by Pontius, who powered a header towards goal. Sapong was just in front of Hamid, and got a second header to the ball, but Hamid was right there to deny the striker.

Any hope of a comeback was put to bed in the 65th minute, as Opare picked up his second yellow of the game. As Pontius skipped around Franklin on the left hand flank, Opare dove in with an ill-advised attempt, flipping Pontius up in the air, earning his marching orders from Stoica.

Alberg tried his luck from the resulting free kick on the side of the box, but the ball whistled just by the far post, with an outstretched Hamid unable to get close to the effort. Four minutes later, Sapong and Pontius tried to punish United on an odd man break, but Sapong finished the move by firing into the side netting.

Tribbett had a header blocked by the substitute Saborio in the 75th minute, before fancy footwork from Acosta in the 84th minute - who had entered the game in the 64th minute for DeLeon - lead to a flying save at the near post from Blake. United couldn't muster a chance from the resulting corner, and that ended up being their last real look at getting on the scoreboard.

The Union, on the other hand, kept trying to add to their lead. Substitute Fabian Herbers just missed turning a Fabinho cross in at the near post, and Pontius was denied from the top of the box by an outstretched Hamid, keeping the scoreline at three.

United will try to sort themselves out before heading to Ohio next week to take on Columbus Crew SC.