Philadelphia Union crushed Vancouver Whitecaps 4-0 at Talen Energy Stadium thanks to a brace from Borek Dockal and late penalty kick goals from Ilsinho and Fafa Picault Saturday night.
One thing was certain from the opening whistle of Saturday night’s match: Philadelphia came out firing on all cylinders. Multiple opportunities to threaten Vancouver’s backline were created thanks to Ilsinho’s creativity along the right-wing.
Several times throughout the first 10 to 15 minutes of the match, Ilsinho either appeared centrally up top next to striker CJ Sapong or in more conservative areas in the midfield near right back Keegan Rosenberry. Wherever Ilsinho was on the pitch early on, Vancouver had trouble marking him.
The strategy to press up the right-wing was fruitful. Two corner kicks and three shots on target were the result of Philadelphia’s high-energy start.
And if Ilsinho wasn’t the main catalyst for creating space along the right-wing, Dockal stepped in to do the rest. Saturday evening was easily Dockal’s best performance as a Union player. He was quite literally all over the field in the attacking half for Philadelphia throughout his 86 minutes of work.
In fact, Dockal’s positioning helped increase the success Philadelphia found along the right-wing in the first half. Around the 23rd minute of action, Ilsinho dribbled directly at two Vancouver defenders which helped him gain entry into the goal box. The Brazilian side-stepped Felipe and then found Dockal out wide. Dockal ripped a pass onto the right foot of Sapong, but his shot was deflected.
A poor clearance from that offensive chance allowed Ray Gaddis time to collect himself in space along the left-wing. He sent a long diagonal ball toward the back post in hopes of connecting with Dockal. Brek Shea attempted a weak headed clearance which Ilsinho pounced on. The loose ball created by Ilsinho’s effort landed at Dockal’s feet. Dockal took two touches to his left before releasing a blast that found the back of the net for Philadelphia’s first goal.
Fans around the stadium, and even a few rowdy press members, release cheers of relief. For a moment it seemed like Philadelphia was heading down a familiar path. A path that leads to golden opportunities for goals, only to be unsuccessful in the end. But that was definitely not the case against Vancouver.
The first goal, one that head coach Jim Curtin continuously laments as extremely important, went Philadelphia’s way. The remaining 65 minutes of action was all Philadelphia.
Following their first goal, Philadelphia slowed their play. They did well to retain possession while slowing their pace. One thing they did well to avoid, turnovers. The passing accuracy as a team at half time? 90.9% accuracy with 341 total passes completed.
In other words, Philadelphia forced Vancouver to chase the ball for the first 45. The boys in blue outright dominated the first 45.
The second half was not much different. Philadelphia eventually netted three-second half goals to walk away with a dominating 4-0 win.
But one must ask, did Vancouver ever threaten? Like, at all?
Short answer: no, not really. Longer answer: not really, just that one time in early in the second half when Gaddis lost the ball at midfield and McKenzie sprinted back to ruin a golden opportunity for Vancouver to equalize on a counter attack.
That recovery sprint by McKenzie earned him even more nods from fans and critics alike. The teenager was placed under heavy pressure following a turnover and he didn’t panic. McKenzie remained poised and under control after sprinting into great defensive positioning.
Vancouver had a couple quick transition opportunities but Rosenberry, McKenzie, Trusty, and Gaddis worked well together to stifle the chances.
Around the 54th minute, Vancouver found themselves with an opportunity to threaten. Gaddis pinched centrally to cover Kamara’s run into the box. Kamara sneakily stopped his run, creating a few yards of space between him and Gaddis. Kamara received the low hit cross and let go a hard hit shot. Gaddis was there however, to stick his right leg in front of the effort – preserving the 1-0 lead.
Those two chances, or half-chances, were all Vancouver would generate.
The 66th minute provided fans with another reason to cheer and clap. Cory Burke entered for Sapong. Burke has quickly become a fan favorite because of his nose for goal, something that perhaps Sapong has been lacking so far this year.
Five minutes later, Philadelphia scored their second goal. Some beautiful build-up play was responsible for the tally, Dockal’s second of the match. Bedoya
Bedoya hit a strong pass onto the feet of Dockal who cheekily allowed the ball to slide across his body. The extra space and sneaky touch forced Shea to lunge forward with a badly timed tackle. Dockal side-stepped that tackle attempt, took another touch to his left and ripped a curling shot into the back of the net.
Two goals on two left-footed shots for the new #10.
Just three minutes later, it was Burke’s turn to create havoc. Burke got in behind and forced Jose Aja into challenging for the ball. Aja grabbed Burke from behind sending the Jamaican tumbling to the ground. Chapman saw the foul clearly and whistled for a penalty immediately.
Then, in somewhat surprising fashion, he flashed a red card to Aja sending him to the showers. Ilsinho stepped up to take the PK chance and blasted a right footed shot into the top netting for the third goal.
The scoring was not over though. Four minutes into stoppage time, Picault used his speed to chase down a long ball that was heading toward Vancouver’s touchline. Picault and his never-emptying tank of energy chased down the ball and settled in neatly inside Vancouver’s box. Yordy Reyna then decided it best to completely run over Picault in what seemed to be a clear sign of frustration. Reyna was shown a second yellow and subsequent red card for his efforts.
A PK was awarded. At first, Burke stood over the ball. However, Picault eventually took to the spot thanks to the graciousness of Burke. This surprising switch pleased both fans and Union teammates alike. Picault nailed home his team’s fourth goal and all was well in Chester.
Philadelphia held Vancouver to just two shots. None of those two shots found their way on frame. It was perhaps the easiest night of the year for keeper Andre Blake. But who’s complaining?
PHILADELPHIA UNION STARTING XI:
Andre Blake, Auston Trusty, Ray Gaddis, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry, Borek Dockal (86’ Derrick Jones), Alejandro Bedoya, Warren Creavalle, Ilsinho (76’ Marcus Epps), Fafa Picault, C.J. Sapong (66’ Cory Burke)
Substitutes: Fabinho, John McCarthy, Jack Elliot, David Accam
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC STARTING XI:
Brian Rowe, Jose Aja, Doneil Henry, Jakob Nerwinski, Brek Shea, Felipe, Alphonso Davies (46’ Nicolas Mezquida), Aly Ghazal (71’ Anthony Blondell), Cristian Techera (46’ Jordon Mutch), Yordy Reyna, Kei Kamara
Substitutes: Aaron Maund, Sean Franklin, Efrain Juarez, Sean Melvin
GOALS / ASSISTS
24’ PHI – Borek Dockal (Ilsinho)
71’ PHI – Borek Dockal (Alejandro Bedoya)
74’ PHI – Ilsinho (PK)
90+5’ PHI – Fafa Picault (PK)
YELLOW / RED CARDS
31’ PHI – Fafa Picault (YELLOW) (Unsporting Behavior)
72’ VAN – Jose Aja (RED) (Denial of a scoring opportunity)
82’ VAN – Yordy Reyna (YELLOW) (Dissent)
83’ VAN – Anthony Blondell (YELLOW) (Unsporting Behavior) Anthony Blondell Anthony Blondell
90+4’ VAN – Yordy Reyna (2nd YELLOW – RED) (Unsporting Behavior)
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Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports