CHESTER, Pa. – A brilliant free kick from D.C. United’s Branko Boskovic spoiled the start of the John Hackworth era for the Philadelphia Union.
Despite the Union generating the majority of scoring chances in interim manager Hackworth’s first game in charge, the visitors netted the only goal when Chris Pontius finished off Boskovic’s 78th-minute free kick, sending D.C. United to a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday at PPL Park.
Surging D.C. United (9-4-3) have now won four straight league games to tighten their grip on first place in the Eastern Conference, while the Union (2-8-2) – who made headlines this week when the club parted ways with ex-manager Peter Nowak – haven’t won in their last six outings.
Even with top striker Lionard Pajoy suspended, the Union looked like the more dangerous team in the first half, putting nine attempts on goal and three shots on target in front of a sellout crowd.
In his first start of the season, teenage striker Jack McInerney created the Union’s first scoring chance when he set up Freddy Adu, whose shot was saved by D.C. goalie Bill Hamid. Shortly after that, McInerney nearly scored on a well-placed Michael Farfan free kick, and Adu played a great through ball to Josué Martinez, whose shot was stopped by Hamid.
Right before halftime, Adu played another terrific through ball to McInerney, whose ambitious shot attempt went wide.
D.C. United didn’t have any shots on target in the first half but had a good look on net when Dwayne De Rosario headed an Andy Najar corner kick just wide.
Action slowed early in the second half but the Union picked up where they left off offensively in the 62nd minute when they subbed in rookie Antoine Hoppenot for Martinez at striker. Almost immediately, Hoppenot made his presence felt, taking a through ball from Adu and banging a tough-angle shot off the post.
Hackworth later inserted strikers Chandler Hoffman and Jorge Perlaza into the match but the Union were not able to find the back of the net as United notched their sixth shutout of the season. The game marked the Union debut of Perlaza, who came over from Portland in a trade that sent away top overall pick Danny Mwanga a week-and-a-half ago.
This was the second time in the last two weeks the I-95 rivals have met with the Union beating D.C. United in overtime in a fourth-round U.S. Open Cup game last Tuesday.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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