Tactical changes help Union dominate DC to remain in first place

Kai Wagner returned, Andrew Wooten made his first start with the club, and a pair of defensive-mind changes allowed Aurilien Colin and Warren Creavalle a chance in the starting XI as Philadelphia Union traveled south and earned a massively important win and three points in DC.

Much had been made in the days leading up to Philadelphia’s road tilt in DC Sunday night. Fans and media alike were wondering not only if Union Head Coach Jim Curtin would make changes but who exactly should take a turn on the pine.

As it turns out, Curtin decided to make three major changes in his starting XI. And after a 4-0 loss a week ago, there was no better time than last night to shake things up.

Andrew Wooten was seen in the starting XI for the first time since joining the club while Aurilien Colin and Warren Creavalle each earned their third starts of the year. And Kai Wagner returned to the lineup after serving a one-match suspension last week.

Immediately, the changes proved worthy.

Philadelphia opened their high-scoring outing just three minutes into the match. Andre Blake decided to go with a quick restart and punted the ball way downfield in hopes of linking up with Wooten. Blake’s ball sailed a bit too far but Wooten displayed some great work ethic and chased down DC defender Donavan Pines. Wooten bothered Pines enough to win possession then quickly cut toward goal and slipped a pass to Marco Fabian who played a soft pass over to Bedoya who rocketed it home.

Bedoya, after celebrating with his teammates on one end of the field, trotted down to the other and picked up a mic and shouted “END GUN VIOLENCE…” loud and clear for the national TV audience.

It was clear from that moment, just five minutes after kickoff, that this match would be an explosive one.

The first 25 minutes of play were dominated by Philadelphia. Whenever DC lost possession it was in their own half thanks to the high pressing and ground coverage from Philly. Creavalle did well to clog up the left side. Together with Wagner, Creavalle provided the extra defensive work needed to help gain and keep possession in the middle of the pitch.

Moments before the halftime whistle, Philadelphia struck the back of the net for the second time thanks to Fabian. Wagner attempted overlapping runs three separate times in the final moments of the half and on the third try, it all worked out.

Wagner received a pass from Medunjanin as he entered the box along the left flank. He squared a ball back where Fabian was all alone for the goal.

But perhaps, more importantly, was the red card shown to DC’s Junior Moreno five minutes before Fabian tallied the second goal. Moreno dragged down Kacper Przybylko inside the penalty area and was ejected for denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

Luckily for Moreno, Przybylko missed the PK chance.

But Philly did convert moments later, which helped propel them into the locker room before pouring it on in the second half.

Seven minutes into the second half delivered Przybylko’s redeeming moment when he scored on a quick counter-attacking sequence. Medunjanin forced a turnover and Creavalle jumped on the loose ball before turning upfield and finding Przybylko with a nice bit of skill.

DC would snag a goal for themselves, ruining Blake’s bid for his fourth clean sheet of the year.

Two minutes after Przybylko found the back of the net, Frederic Brillant scored off the goal line. Blake made an initial save off a header from Steve Birnbaum but the ball lingered too long along the goal line and Brillant buried it home.

Fabian then scored a second goal in the 70th while Fafa Picault, who entered for Fabian in the 80th minute, scored the fifth and final goal for Philadelphia in the 90th minute.

The win comes at perhaps the most important moment of the season for Philadelphia. Prior to tonight, a loss would’ve placed Philadelphia in third place in the Eastern Conference standings. Instead, they regain sole possession of first place in demanding fashion.

Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Graduate of Pennsylvania State University ’16. Interests include sports and history. Follow on twitter for Philly sports news – @MMcClain_PSN
Philadelphia Union writer.

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