First place belongs to Philadelphia Union after Jim Curtin’s side shut out FC Cincinnati 2-0 at Talen Energy Stadium Wednesday night. Fafa Picault replaced David Accam in the lineup as the only change after last weekend’s draw with Vancouver Whitecaps. Matt Freese and Kacper Przybylko retained their starting spots.
In the sixth minute, Picault announced his return to the first eleven with a cut onto his left foot and a blast over the goal frame. Unsurprisingly, FCC responded off a set play with Nick Hagglund flicking a corner at Matt Freese’s goal. The homegrown goalie got low to save but appeared to tweak a muscle in the process. He remained in the match but didn’t look comfortable.
With the visitors refusing to get forward, the Union were left to bring any excitement to the match, and Kacper Przybylko took matters into his own hands… or onto his own head. After Brenden Aaronson’s pressing helped create a turnover, Ale Bedoya fought up the right-hand side and crossed low for Przybylko at the front post. His initial shot was blocked but when Picault lobbed the ball back into the area, the big striker nodded it goalward only to see Spencer Richey come up with a diving stop.
The FCC response came from Darren Mattocks off a loose ball. He pounced in the box and tried to beat Auston Trusty up the right but the homegrown defender flew into the tackle and rose up with an energized scream, and a block to his credit.
Picault was back in action in the 35th minute when he collected a failed Kendall Waston clearance and tried to tap the ball around Richey. It ran out to Aaronson to follow up but the midfielder blazed over and was hit late after the play, though the referee saw no issue with the delayed tackle.
In the 40th minute, Matt Freese finally took a knee and gave in to the injury he sustained earlier (Curtin announced after the match that Freese was taken to the hospital for scans). Carlos Miguel Coronel entered, making his second Union appearance and becoming the third goalie to play for Philly in the past three matches.
Trusty nearly gave his new goalie something to do early when a poor back pass let Mattocks in alone. The defender used his speed to close the gap on the Jamaican striker and cleared the danger as the fans roared.
Brenden Aaronson almost lit up Talen Energy Stadium on his own at the start of the second half when he received a beautiful throughball from Haris Medunjanin and executed a spin move at the top of the box before firing off a deflected shot. In the 49th minute, the Union had a number of chances in front of goal but couldn’t get a shot through as Cincy threw bodies in front of their net. On the ensuing corner kick, Przybylko spun to fire at a poor angle but got his shot on goal and saw it cleared off the line by a defender.
The Union were getting closer, and after Jack Elliott played a sensational first time pass to start a break, Bedoya found Monteiro in the center of the box. His shot was saved but Picault was there to follow. Unfortunately he was there too early and was flagged offside.
Monteiro tried again in the 60th by cutting onto his right at the top of the box and firing far post. Richey dove to save and Picault was again on hand to follow up but, once again, he was offside.
Four minutes later, Monteiro finally made it happen when he started a move with a stunning reversal of direction at the top of the final third. The ball made its way to Aaronson in the box and he dropped it back to Olivier Mbaizo. The fullback curled the ball back post to Kacper Przybylko and the striker calmly nodded the ball home.
Ilsinho entered the match for Aaronson and immediately went to work on Cincy. He drove in from the left, tucked the ball between two defenders to Picault and watched as the striker lifted his first goal over a prone Spencer Richey.
Substitute Fatai Alashe unleashed a long drive in the 87th minute as FCC tamely gave in to the Union.
First place Philly is back in action on Saturday when they welcome New England Revolution to Talen Energy Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET.