Philadelphia Union extended its unbeaten run in league play with a scoreless draw against rivals D.C. United at Wednesday night at Subaru Park.
After withstanding an early attack from their I-95 visitors, the Boys in Blue got fans into the match early with what seemed to be the opening goal three minutes after the opening whistle. Playing direct as the Union do, left back Kai Wagner flicked a through ball to spring Julian Carranza into open space. The Union forward raced into the box and opted for an assisting pass on the grass which connected with a back post run by Joaquin Torres. The Argentinian tapped it home but celebrations were short lived as the assistant referee raised his flag based on the initial run by Carranza.
Philly kept pushing for the early strike with a nifty bit of passing to set up a chance from Leon Flach. Coming down the right side of the Union attack, team captain Alejandro Bedoya flicked a hard cutback pass to Torres at the edge of the box. The midfielder danced around a pair of D.C. United before laying off the ball for a blast from Flach that crashed off a man in front.
Facing the Union in 4-3-2-1, D.C. turned up their press after the chance but on the night where he was honored pregame as the club’s all-time leader in starts, Andre Blake was ready to react. In the seventh minute Blake notched his first stop, diving to his left to deny Mateusz Klich’s right-footed curler from the edge of the box. After a giveaway by the Union just 30 yards from Philly’s goal line, the ball popped at the feet of D.C.’s captain Russell Canouse who ripped a shot quickly to force a reaction stop.
Wayne Rooney’s side maintained the pressure throughout the first half, staying in line to cut down the Union’s passing lanes. That pressure nearly resulted in the opening goal as forward Christian Benteke got into space. With Jakob Glesnes pushed forward to deny a blade a grass for Klich, the former Premier League midfielder snuck a pass that sent Benteke 1v1 against Blake. Looking up at the three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the 32-year-old tried to inside out a shot that went wide.
Blake was on his toes again just past the half hour mark with yet another reaction stop that showed some Subaru Park magic with a pinball play that stayed out. Again with Benteke on the ball, the forward sprung out onto the left flank and cut a pass to the back post. Wagner reacted to deny the ball from reaching its target, going to ground. The left back’s block went right to the boots of Theodore Ku-Dipietro who fired a shot at the door stop but right to the Jamaican keeper.
The Union came out of the half looking to take advantage of the opposing goalkeeper’s eagerness to play off his line. After defender Derrick Williams was booked with for a yellow card, center back Jack Elliott had a go from the other side of the center stripe with a right-footed blast from 65 yards missing just wide in the 48th minute.
The half chance gave an extra jolt of energy into the crowd and the Union fed off it with a pair of strong scoring opportunities coming within minutes of the play. Attacking on the right side with Bedoya and homegrown Nathan Harriel, the Union captain sent a hard cross just out of reach for Carranza and Torres. Seconds later Bedoya again was on the ball out on the right and lifted a cross into the box that connected with homegrown Matt Real with a smashing header that went just wide.
D.C. went onto the offensive after the scare, again getting their DP forward on the ball. Playing on the counter, Benteke went playmaker mode with a threaded ball into the box for Ku-Dipietro. Racing into the box for the one-timer, Wagner forced an extra touch that got the midfielder off balance before blocking the far post shot attempt.
Head Coach Jim Curtin turned to his impact players on the sideline just before the hour mark as regular starters Jose Martinez and Mikael Uhre entered the contest. The changes saw the Union shift back into their 4-4-2 diamond with Martinez tasked to clog the final pass into the box and Uhre’s pace to spring counter attacks.
The changes in players and formation were noticeable from the jump with the Union playing direct to get the Danish forward on the ball early and often. A hard runs forced the D.C. defense to focus on the substitute which gave freedom for Carranza. Taking a pass from Gazdag and without a defender near him, Carranza unleashed a curler from 30 yards out that was kept out by a leaping stop by Miller.
D.C. nearly grabbed the lead against the momentum of the second half again with a play from Benteke. Racing into the attack, Gaoussou Samake whipped in a cross where the forward headed a ball off the crossbar to leave the visiting side frustrated.
As the clocked crept closer to the final whistle, the Union continued to push for an equalizer with a pair of crosses to the back post that led to a half chances for Leon Flach but the headers went wide.
The Union pushed one more time in second half stoppage, launching a major push forward to send the fans home with another win. Playing on the right side of the attack, substitutes Olivier Mbaizo and Andres Perea combined with a centering pass into the box. Perea went for a smashing low shot that didn’t sneak through the D.C. defense but so did the rebound but again the second time around couldn’t deliver a winner.
Philadelphia Union is back in action this weekend as they host another rivalry showdown on Saturday night. The Boys in Blue battle the New England Revolution at Subaru Park with the action set for 7:30 p.m. ET on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.