After defeating MLS newcomers FC Cincinnati 2-0 at Nippert Stadium March 30th, Philadelphia completed the season sweep Wednesday night in Chester blanking Cincinnati yet again on their way to a pivotal 2-0 win behind goals from Kacper Przybylko and Fafa Picault.
A midweek match-up sandwiched between weekend contests is never a simple task for an MLS team. Being asked to play three matches in just eight days is normally a dangerous moment in a lengthy season. However, Union Head Coach Jim Curtin and his staff had their side ready to compete last night and their hard work paid off. They now sit atop the Eastern Conference table after a much-deserved 2-0 win.
The first half provided Philadelphia with several chances to score but they ultimately failed to crack the game open. Cincinnati keeper Spencer Richey stood tall along the goal line several times throughout Wednesday’s match, especially in the first half. What was expected to be a high-scoring affair from the opening whistle actually turned into a match with no goals through the first 60+ minutes of action.
Philadelphia was without four starters but you could hardly tell based on how the team performed overall. Starting keeper Andre Blake, midfielder Marco Fabian, defender Kai Wagner, and striker Cory Burke were all side-lined. Blake and Fabian are still nursing injuries. Wagner was forced to sit out after his one match suspension turned into a two match ban. And Burke missed his second consecutive game due to personal reasons.
However, there were no hiccups Wednesday night. The Union displayed yet another solid performance with several back-ups earning loads of minutes. Perhaps the most eye-catching performance came from Polish striker Przybylko who netted his first career MLS goal in the 63rd minute of play. Przybylko may not have flash-like speed but he does possess above average height and tremendous breakaway quickness. His first and second steps are enough to counteract his lack of pace while his overall size proved to be a difficult match-up for Cincinnati’s back line.
Przybylko opened up the scoring after Olivier Mbaizo, who also turned in an outstanding performance, chipped a perfectly weighted cross up over a few Cincinnati defenders onto Pryzbylko’s forehead and into the back of the net. Both Przybylko and Mbaizo showed signs of relief finally having contributed in the MLS ranks – Przybylko with his first MLS goal and Mbaizo with his first MLS assist.
Just seven minutes later, Philadelphia scored the second and final goal of the match. This time striker Fafa Picault slotted home a beautiful chip shot for his first goal of the season. It turned out to be a long wait for Picault to open his 2019 scoring account, but the Union’s top goal scorer in years’ past made the most of his opportunity Wednesday night.
Ilsinho, the most dynamic second half substitute option in franchise history, once again made an impact on the game once he entered. Isolated on the right wing, Ilsinho side-stepped two defenders before slipping a short pass onto the feet of Fafa. Fafa then neatly chipped his shot over the oncoming keeper and found the back of the net for the second goal.
It was a very big moment for Fafa, who has been held scoreless prior to his goal Wednesday night this season. The speedy forward is no stranger to scoring and it’s for sure a highly positive sign that Fafa found his scoring boots against Cincinnati.
Now Philadelphia will welcome New England Revolution to Talen Energy Stadium Saturday May 4th. Winners of seven of their last eight contests, Philadelphia will look to take advantage of their home field match-ups once again. Their 5-3-2 record through the first 10 matches of the season matches the 2011 Union record who also sat in first place that season. They’ll to look to renew the franchise record books with the best start in franchise history if they earn a W Saturday.
Philadelphia Union Starting XI
Matt Freese (Carlos Coronel 41’); Olivier Mbaizo, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Ray Gaddis; Haris Medunjanin; Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro; Brenden Aaronson (Ilsinho 67’); Kacper Przybylko, Fafa Picault (David Accam 74’)
Substitutes: Fabinho, Aurelien Collin, Warren Creavalle, Sergio Santos
FC Cincinnati Starting XI
Spencer Richey; Alvas Pwell,Nick Hagglund, Kendall Waston, Mathieu Deplagne; Allan Cruz, Eric Alexander, Leonardo Bertone, Caleb Stanko (Fatai Alashe 76’), Roland Lamah (Kekuta Manneh 76’); Darren Mattocks (Emmanuel Ledesma 81’)
Substitutes: Przemyslaw Tyton; Victor Ulloa, Forrest Lasso, Justin Hoyte
GOALS / ASSISTS
63’ PHI Kacper Przybylko (Olivier Mbaizo)
70’ PHI Fafa Picault (Ilsinho)
YELLOW / RED CARDS
81’ PHI Auston Trusty (Unsporting behavior)
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Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports