D.C. United couldn’t build their midweek win, losing 1-0 to the Philadelphia Union on a first half goal from Fafa Picault. Lamar Neagle had a chance to equalize in the second half from the penalty spot, but his shot was saved by Union keeper Andre Blake.
Luciano Acosta also received a red card from referee Sorin Stoica in the second half after a collision with Haris Medunjanin, but after a long pause in play, Stoica rescinded the card.
With kickoff against the Union less than 72 hours after the end of Wednesday’s game against Atlanta United, head coach Ben Olsen elected to keep most of the starting 11 together. From the 2-1 win over the Five Stripes, Bill Hamid, Kofi Opare, Steve Birnbaum, Taylor Kemp, Sebastien Le Toux, Luciano Acosta, Ian Harkes, and Jose Ortiz kept their starting spots. In came Chris Odoi-Atsem, Jared Jeffrey, and Lamar Neagle for Chris Korb, Marcelo Sarvas, and Patrick Nyarko, with the game day 18 players being the same.
The game started off at a snail’s pace, which wasn’t all that surprising from United’s side, considering this was their third game eight days. The Union, having a standard week between games, had no excuse.
Harkes had the first chance for either team, but it didn’t come until the 20th minute. Le Toux took a corner for United - his first bent out of bounds - that gave Harkes a chance to attack the ball in the air. However, with Harkes making contact from the edge of the box, his attempt floated well over the goal.
Le Toux tried to center a cross back to the middle for Neagle in the 23rd minute, but the two only just missed on a connection that could have put United ahead. Five minutes later, Harkes forced the first save of the game, as his one-timed effort was pushed wide by keeper Andre Blake.
Despite all of that, it only took one attack from the Union to take the lead, as Picault handed the home team the advantage in the 31st minute. Raymon Gaddis played a ball down the right hand flank, which Alejandro Bedoya latched on to, making his way towards goal. Bedoya’s cross was intended for CJ Sapong at the back post, but with Odoi-Atsem marking the Union striker, the ball fell into space. Unfortunately for the Black-and-Red, Picault charged in unmarked to side-foot a low volley past Hamid.
The rest of the half didn’t see much action from either team, though the same trio for the Union created another chance for the Union in the 42nd minute. Again, Gaddis played Bedoya peeling out to the right. Again, Bedoya got a cross into the box. This time though, it was on the ground towards the near post, where Picault could only screw a shot wide of the post.
The second half brought about more excitement than the first half, though the proceedings still weren’t fruitful for United. Early on, a corner kick from Medunjanin was sent dangerously into the box, but the touch from center back Jack Elliott didn’t amount to much, and Hamid cleaned up the loose ball.
In the 60th minute, after the Union had cleared away a corner kick from United, Kemp sent a ball from midfield back into the box. Birnbaum won a header in the box, and on a bounce, the ball set up nicely for Opare. Opare fired a shot towards goal, but it deflected wide.
Six minutes later, substitute Jay Simpson had an opportunity to double the Union’s lead, as once again Bedoya got a dangerous cross into the box. Simpson though, tried to control the cross before shooting, but the ball got away as Simpson tried to turn, allowing Hamid to claim the ball.
Fellow substitute Ilsinho tried his luck in the 68th minute, as he collecting a ball out on the right hand side. Cutting back towards the middle in front of Kemp, Ilsinho tried to beat Hamid with a curling effort, but the ball sailed well over the goal.
Then came United’s penalty. A mix-up defensively from the Union allowed Kemp to push the ball towards middle, and shot with his weaker right foot. The shot took a deflection, and then hit the arm - or was it the shoulder? - of Oguchi Onyewu. Stoica immediately pointed at the spot, giving United a lifeline. Neagle, who had scored a perfect penalty against the Vancouver Whitecaps in United’s last win on the road and had never missed since joining the club, shot to Andre Blake’s right. Sadly for D.C., the Jamaica #1 got down to make the save, and Acosta couldn’t corral the rebound.
Sapong did well to corral a long corner kick in the 73rd minute, shielding Birnbaum from the ball. Sapong turned and then quickly fired towards goal, but Hamid got enough of his hand on the ball to push it over the bar, conceding a corner in the process.
United looked like they would then have to finish the game off with ten men, as an incident near the sideline saw Stoica show Acosta a red card. With Medunjanin and Acosta grappling for a loose ball, Stoica apparently felt Acosta’s stride was an attempt to kick out at the Bosnia & Herzegovina midfielder.
Following the game, it came out that Medunjanin himself told Stoica that there was no kick, and that piece of sportsmanship saw Stoica reverse his decision.
From the pool report on Acosta: "Haris Medunjanin stated that he was not kicked after the play, which is what the original decision was."— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) June 25, 2017
In the span of two minutes, both Simpson and Roland Alberg tested Hamid with shots that would have finished off the contest as United threw numbers forward. But both times, Hamid made the crucial saves for United, keeping them with a chance to get something from the game late on.
In the 80th minute, substitute Deshorn Brown got around a tackle near the top of the Union box, but skipped a shot wide. Then, in stoppage time and with United leaving Opare - wearing a head bandage, a #39 jersey, and new shorts due to blood from an earlier clash - forward in a desperate bid for a goal, Neagle won a header from a cross by Acosta, but an incredible save from Blake denied the Black-and-Red a late equalizer.
United, with 18 points from 17 games, are back in action on Wednesday, when they travel to Boston to take on the New England Revolution in the Round of 16 in the US Open Cup. The Black-and-Red’s next MLS game is on Saturday, when they once again cross the border to play the Montreal Impact.