Five games without a loss. Four straight shutouts. Three straight wins. It’s been a monster turnaround for a team that was once the last place team in the entirety of MLS. Things are starting to gel together more. The attack looks more fierce. The Alejandro Bedoya-Haris Medunjanin combo is a sight to see. Fans are starting to watch again. 2017 is finally starting to turn its heel. However, Saturday night’s game was in every facet of the word a “trap” game. It was the team’s third game in seven days. And they play the now worst team in the MLS, the Colorado Rapids, who have just seven points from ten games.
Philadelphia: Blake/ Gaddis; Onyewu; Elliot; Wijnaldum/ Bedoya; Medunjanin/ Herbers; Illsinho; Picault/ Sapong
Colorado: Howard/ Miller; Ford; Sjoberg; Da Fonte/ Saeid; Azira; Gatt; Hamilton/ Doyle; Calvert
A couple of line up notes, this is Giliano Wijnaldum’s first appearance and start for the Philadelphia Union. Key players missing in the starting 11 for the Colorado Rapids included Albanian international Shkelzen Gashi, Dominique Badji, and Marlon Hairston.
Philadelphia Union Navigate Colorado Rapids 2-1
The game started off rather slow as both teams didn’t show much attacking power. That is until the 15th minute where Caleb Calvert of Colorado put a curler around Andre Blake to put the Rapids up 1-0. The assist was credited to Kevin Doyle. It was Calvert’s first ever MLS goal after 12 games and was Doyle’s first assist of the year.
That goal also ended Andre Blake’s 388 minute shutout streak, the longest such streak in the MLS.
In the 21st minute, Fabian Herbers was substituted out of the game with what looked like a groin injury. Chris Pontius came into the game in his place.
After that point in the game there weren’t too many chances for either team. The last chance of the half came from Philadelphia. A Fafa Picault cross met the head of C.J. Sapong who couldn’t get enough power behind the ball and was easily saved by Tim Howard. The biggest storyline for the first half was the fouls. Despite the abundance of fouls given, a majority of which given to Philadelphia, only one card was given and that was to Colorado’s Mohammed Saeid in the 45th minute.
It took 20 minutes into the second half for things to get interesting again. A penalty kick was given to the Union, almost like an “I’m sorry” gift for the first half on the refs part. C.J Sapong stepped up to take it and fired it home and knotted the game up at 1-1. For Sapong, it was his eighth goal of the season and good enough to put him second in the MLS for goals.
Now here’s where things get weird. In the 69th minute, Calvert was given a yellow card after not leaving the field of play after an injury in a timely manner. Not a minute later, he was shown a second yellow and was sent off for reentering the field of play without consent. In the process, Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni was shown a yellow for arguing and assistant coach and former Union player Conor Casey was sent off. Simply put, it was a wild couple of minutes.
In the 75th minute, the Union was given a free kick around 22 yards out. Alejandro Bedoya ran over the ball and Haris Medunjanin curled the ball over the wall past Tim Howard for a beautiful goal, making the score 2-1 in favor of the home team. For Medunjanin, it was his second goal in three games.
In the 90th minute, Jay Simpson was all alone on a breakaway with only Tim Howard to beat. He shot the ball high but Howard was quick enough to get a hand to it and push it away. From there, the game would end with yet another Union victory 2-1.
Here’s what Jim Curtin had to say about the Union’s play tonight:
“It was a tale of two halves” Philly’s manager said. “I thought that the first half was handled very unprofessionally by us. That’s the players, that’s the staff, everybody. It had nothing to do with fatigue or tiredness.”
The Union travel to Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT to face Real Salt Lake on Saturday.