Philadelphia Union created an abundance of offensive chances early and often on their way to a resounding 4-1 home victory over Western conference foe Real Salt Lake at Talen Energy Stadium Saturday night. The offense clicked on all cylinders for Philadelphia on a foggy Military Appreciation Night.
Philadelphia came out firing throughout the match’s first 10 minutes, something head coach Jim Curtin and his staff have been emphasizing since preseason. The possession numbers through the first five minutes showed nearly 67% in favor of Philadelphia. They did well to set the tone at home by welcoming Western Conference foe, Real Salt Lake back to Chester.
A corner kick, dangerous free kick, and a number of attempts to move forward early gave Philadelphia an early edge. Both teams deployed a high pressure strategy in hopes of forcing turnovers and jumping forward on counter attacks. Salt Lake produced a few chances early on but to no avail.
For a brief spell of time before Philadelphia’s first goal in the 20th minute, it seemed Salt Lake had settled into the match a bit as they sat on the ball with more comfort. However, Philadelphia remained patient.
Several times throughout the first half, Philadelphia gladly played the ball back to center back Auston Trusty and goalkeeper Andre Blake. The long ball strategy helped keep Salt Lake pinned back. Moments before their first goal, Trusty found Marcus Epps on a deep diagonal ball which in turn allowed Borek Dockal to get into the box and create havoc and force keeper Nick Rimando to make two diving saves.
A few moments later, off the ensuing goal kick, Fafa Picault utilized his speed to get in behind Salt Lake’s backline. Picault blew by Adam Henley after both Alejandro Bedoya, CJ Sapong and Dockal battled in the air. Picault’s speed and quick feet caused problems throughout the entirety of the first half.
Salt Lake created some brief moments of threatening attacking play, but the center back pairing for Curtin never seemed too bothered. Both Trusty and Mark McKenzie remained confident with their passing and marking.
That defense ended up creating Philadelphia’s second goal of the contest. A counter attacking opportunity sparked thanks to a forced turnover by Ray Gaddis, Harrs Medunjanin, and Trusty collapsing on Jefferson Savarino. Bedoya broke forward immediately and Medunjanin found Epps all alone on the right. Epps neatly floated ball forward to Bedoya who crafted a perfect through ball onto Dockal’s feet. He cheekily chipped Rimando to the delight of Talen Energy Stadium patrons.
The second goal placed Salt Lake even further down the hole they dug themselves. After the ref blew for the halftime whistle, it became clear both Salt Lake’s manager, Mike Petke and his players were outplayed and outclassed early and often.
The following 45 provided much of the same for Philadelphia fans, despite a minor hiccup. Petke decided to change-up his lineup by adding youngster, Sebastian Saucedo into the mix in place of Savarino. Saucedo made an immediate impact just 15 minutes later.
Saucedo received a beautiful diagonal ball in their attacking third which granted a 1v1 opportunity against Rosenberry. In hindsight, Rosenberry may have wanted to grant Saucedo some more space. Saucedo beat Rosenberry to the touchline and muscled his way passed him. He then dished it to Damir Kreilach who was all alone. Kreilach rifled a shot passed Andre Blake.
The crowd quieted a bit. Perhaps they know all too well how easily Philadelphia concedes goals in the final 30 minutes of matches. But they erupted once more in the 74th minute when Ilsinho, on for Sapong, scored a much-needed insurance goal. Epps once more proved his worth and skill in the lineup when he received a ball out wide from Bedoya on a perfectly executed counter attack chance.
Epps cut inside to allow Dockal to overlap along the right side of the box. He slipped a ball to Dockal who quickly cut it across to the waiting Ilsinho. His volleyed shot was batted down by the hand of Rimando but it spun forward and past the goal line.
Philadelphia wasn’t done scoring though. Ilsinho danced around a defender and hit a hard ground pass to Rosenberry pressing high along the right flank. Rosenberry took one simple touch and unleashed a right footed blast which found the back of the net and shook the frame. The 76th minute goal put the match out of reach for Salt Lake.
It’s not every home match you hear the Sons of Ben chanting “Hey, Union! We want five goals!” as the final minutes tick off the clock. Yet, Saturday night, on Military Appreciation Night, Philadelphia Union put on a show.
- Marcus Epps – In his second MLS start, Epps turned the heads of all fans and Union technical staff alike. A goal and two assists from the young Mississippi native is a refreshing contribution from a reserve player attempting to solidify himself in Curtin’s matchday plans. Epps’ skills shouldn’t be all that surprising though. He continually displayed his attacking mindset and poise on the ball with Bethlehem Steel FC in the USL for about two seasons now.
- Fafa Picault – Speed kills. Every time. Or most times at least. Real Salt Lake fullback Adam Henley may lose a few hours of sleep tonight based on the amount of times Picault flew down the left flank from minute one through 90. Curtin mentioned Picault’s ability to effect plays with his aerial skills, but never mentioned Picault’s ability to take players 1v1, something Picault struggled with in 2017. He may have put his critics concerns to bed once and for all with his offensive prowess tonight.
- Andre Blake – The Jamaican goalkeeper may not have kept a clean sheet tonight to follow-up his 20th of his career last match. However, Blake utilized his feet to near perfection tonight. Multiple times throughout the first half especially, both Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty confidently rolled the ball back to Blake’s feet. It wasn’t out of desperation either. It was very purposeful considering all three forwards aligned themselves high up the pitch in anticipation of a long ball from Blake. Sapong, Epps, and Picault all proved to be too much to handle in the air and won many 50/50 balls allowing others to run forward onto the ball.
- Borek Dockal – Two assists for the Czech and a goal to boot left the new #10 smiling in excitement. A few weeks back, Philadelphia fans may remember Curtin mentioning a lack of creativity in the final third despite being clinically sound. Well, the creativity ‘problem’ seems to be effectively solved. Dockal proved his worth by popping up all over the field in key attacking positions allowing for quick one-two touch passing. He even displayed some cheeky skills with a few backheels tonight.
21’ PHI Marcus Epps (Fafa Picault)
34’ PHI Borek Dockal (Alejandro Bedoya, Marcus Epps)
65’ RSL Damir Kreilach (Sebastian Saucedo)
74’ PHI Ilsinho (Borek Dockal, Marcus Epps (2))
81’ PHI Keegan Rosenberry (Ilsinho, Borek Dockal (2))
87’ RSL YELLOW Pablo Ruiz (Unsporting Behavior)
Philadelphia Union Starting XI:
Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry, Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Marcus Epps (David Accam 79’), Borek Dockal (Anthony Fontana 86’), Fafa Picault, CJ Sapong (Ilsinho 63’)
Substitutes: John McCarthy, Fabinho, Jack Elliot, Warren Creavalle, Anthony Fontana
Real Salt Lake Starting XI:
Nick Rimando, Adam Henley, Marcelo Silva (Nick Besler 76’), Justen Glad, Pablo Ruiz, Kyle Beckerman, Damir Kreilach, Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino (Sebastián Saucedo 45’), Brooks Lennon, Corey Baird
Substitutes: Connor Sparrow, Danilo Acosta, Aaron Herrera, Sunny, Luis Silva
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