Saturday’s match really was do-or-die for the boys in blue. This was also my first time viewing from the press box in Talen Energy Stadium. I had a few obvious nerves due to the unknown, coupled with the excitement of watching a match from an area I viewed only from the stands over the past eight seasons. After obtaining the proper credentials I entered the media suite and found my assigned seat. I plugged in my laptop and phone, grabbed a bite, and settled down in my seat. This was the point I could start prognosticating and really take in the vibe of the afternoon. Here’s my Perspective from the Press Box!
I’m still trying to judge whether there is tension or apathy in the air. Probably still a little too early before game time. Couldn’t ask for better weather conditions for end of April. I think it’s conducive to a lot of goals, even with the Union and D.C. United’s scoring woes. I’m predicting 3-3.
Ilsinho replaces Fafa in the starting lineup. No surprise that Sapong and Accam are still in since Curtin stressed that in his mid-week press conference. Jack Elliot is back from injury in the starting lineup. Derrick Jones is still M.I.A. from the game day 18. If the defense fails early, I’m guessing Curtin will go to Warren Creavalle to add an extra defender. The story of today will be how the Union respond to the pressure of slipping further back in the standings. Any sign of trouble and subs will need to
be put in sooner than later.
Twenty minutes prior to first kick and only a few thousand fans in the stands. As bad as they’ve been playing, I have to say I’m surprised the turnout is this low.
Most impressive thing so far was the Avengers tifo in the river end with Thanos sporting the Infinity Gauntlet.
The Union looked more aggressive from the get-go with Ilsinho dictating the flow of the offense in the final third. C.J. Sapong had some decent penetration but had to go one-on-four without getting any help. No surprise that lead to a turnover. Shortly after, Borak Dockel sent a screamer just north of the net. Sure, the Union were still misfiring, but Dockel seemed to already be making deeper runs into the box without the ball. That was something fans hadn’t seen in quite a while.
Unfortunately, a rusty Jack Elliot turned the ball over about a third of the way up the pitch from Andre Blake, leading to an easy DC goal from midfielder Zoltan Steiger for his first goal of the season. You could feel the energy sucked out of the stadium with Union supporters expecting another loss. By this time, Dockel had a few passes that were to no one in particular and frustration was setting in on the field and in the stands. Later on in the half, David Accam had an opportunity to wind up and fire from the left side, but sent the ball ten rows up. Things were starting to get ugly until Ilsinho scored in the 37th minute, getting a lucky deflection off a DC defender. It was a very good individual effort to dribble close to the goal and we went into halftime at 1-1.
The first 15 minutes of the 2nd half looked familiar to anyone who had been watching the Union this season. Not on the same page and disjointed. Their spacing on offense was simply lacking. One thing that stood out was that numerous times, Sapong and Accam seemed to occupy the same space in the box waiting for service. It was almost a game of “You get it, no you get it, I got it, well…” No one had it. They were almost cancelling each other out. The worst moment of the match occurred in the 58th minute. Haris Medunjanin had 6-7 yards of free space in front of goal and instead of shooting, delivered a floating pass to the opposite side of goal where there was only a DC defender and no Union teammates in even distant proximity. It made no sense. Not only didn’t he shoot while wide open, but the pass was to no one. It left those in the press box scratching their heads and the anxious crowd audibly groaning.
Redemption would come for Medunjanin in the 59th minute. He earned an assist, floating a great ball to Bedoya who in turn headed a pass closer to the center of the net for a headed goal by Sapong. Ten minutes later, Darren Mattocks would hit a volley off a beautiful feed by Zoltan Steiber for the game-tying goal. Mattocks had checked into the match only two minutes prior. Dockel would finally get his first MLS goal in the 72nd minute. DC rookie midfielder Chris Durkin was feeling the pressure from the Union attack, failed to clear a ball in front of goal, and left it on a plate for Dockel to blast past Steve Clark.
Union: 3 DC United: 2
When asked post-game what it was like playing with Ilsinho, DockeI said “I was looking forward to playing with him, because the talent he has, that’s something incredible. He makes things easier for his teammates.”
Jim Curtin on how much of a relief the win was for the players…
“In a game that we dominated for the most part, it would have been disappointing to come out of this with a tie… They all have each other’s back.”
Let’s hope they keep it up when they head north to take on the defending champs in Toronto this Friday!
Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union, Steel FC, and other soccer content!
Follow our writers on Twitter:
Peace out Union fans!