Curtin team spring training

Union Battle Elements, Defeat Crew SC 1-1 (5-3) To Win Group

Philadelphia Union beat Columbus Crew SC 1-1 (5-3) on Wednesday night to win the group and advance to the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic championship game on Saturday. The two teams played through heavy fog and rain for much of the night, and quite fittingly the final group table wasn’t clear after 90 minutes, either.

But unlike the fog, it was clear after penalties. All five Union penalty takers scored and Rais Mbolhi stopped Justin Meram in the third round to give the Union the win.

“We set the goal for the third phase of preseason to win this competition and we’re on track to do that,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “It’s something that we’re happy about and we’ll see how Saturday goes.”

Getting to that point was tricky. A nagging mist fell for most of the night, but it was sustainable 20 miles per hour winds and a dense fog that made it tough for both teams.

“It’s tough [to play in conditions like that],” Curtin said. “The rain is no problem, but the wind ruins our game and you saw an example of that today. There wasn’t a lot of passing because of 25-30 miles per hour wind and also the fog. But give the guys credit, they battled through it and got the win.”

Fernando Aristeguieta opened the scoring for the Union in the 27th minute after Sheanon Williams perfectly crossed a ball to an unmarked Aristeguieta. Williams started the counterattack, then played a combination with C.J. Sapong before finally crossing into Aristeguieta.

“Sheanon Williams made a good play – a good defensive play that led to a good counterattack,” Curtin said. “It’s something we’ve talked about and practiced a lot in training. Fernando did a good job to get on the end of the cross and head it in.”

For Aristeguieta, it’s his third goal in less than 90 minutes of play since joining the Union. But he’s not nearly satisfied yet. He credits the good chemistry in the team locker room for an easy start.

“It’s good to get confidence in me and with my teammates,” Aristeguieta said. “But we’re still working for March 7.

“All of [my teammates] have made it very easy for me,” Aristeguieta said. “When you arrive to a new team to break the ice, it can be very difficult. But the guys have been very good to me and I feel very good to be with them.”

The Union made mass subs again to start the second half. Mbolhi and Ethan White were the only two to stay on the field after 45. Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Raymond Lee, Michael Lahoud, Erik Ayuk, Fred, Danny Cruz, Dzenan Catic and Conor Casey came on to start the second half. Jimmy McLaughlin and Brian Carroll also came on in the second half.

Crew SC equalized in the 68th minute after Michael Lahoud slipped attempting to get to a pass. Meram calmly took control of it and chipped one past Mbolhi for the tie.

That’s how it ended after 90 minutes. With both teams outscoring their first two opponents 9-0, the game required penalties to determine the group winner. In order, Fabinho, Fred, Carroll, Casey and Lahoud scored for the Union.

Andrew Wenger (neck) and Vincent Nogueira (groin) did not play. Wenger was a game-time decision that was ultimately left out. Both have been full participants in training.  

Philadelphia Union 1 (5), Columbus Crew 1 (3)
IMG Academy
Bradenton, Fla.

PHI – Aristguieta (Williams) 27’
CLB – Meram 68’

PHI – Fabinho (goal)
CLB – Wahl (goal)
PHI – Fred (goal)
CLB – Schoenfeld (goal)
PHI – Carroll (goal)
CLB – Meram (save)
PHI – Casey (goal)
CLB – Speas (goal)
PHI – Lahoud (goal)

Mbolhi; Gaddis, Vitoria, White, Williams; Edu (C); Pfeffer, Fred, Le Toux; Sapong, Aristeguieta.

Clark; Jimenez, Parkhurst (C), Pogatetz, Francis; Trapp, Tchani; Finlay, Higuain, Steindorsson; Kamara.

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