Cory Burke earned his first start, scored his first goal, and left the match early with his first red card as Philadelphia Union defeated Montreal Impact 2-0 at Stade Saputo in Montreal, Quebec Saturday afternoon. Daniel Lovitz pulled down Fafa Picault on a breakaway as both teams finished with ten men, and Haris Medunjanin slid home a late goal to help the Union earn their first road win of the season.
At the end of a busy week, the Union rotated their entire front line and half of the back four. Picault and Marcus Epps supported Burke up front, and Ray Gaddis and Mark McKenzie spelled Fabinho and Jack Elliott in back. The Union midfield was unchanged from Wednesday night's match in Columbus.
Much of the action was expected to be up Philadelphia's right since the Union naturally drift that way and Montreal tends to play through Piatti on their left.
Early in the match, Burke sought to assert himself against a leaky Montreal defense. The big striker combined well with Picault but could not put the finishing touch on the move. The Impact responded with a surprising spell of pressure that nearly led to the opening goal of the match. Ignacio Piatti caught Alejandro Bedoya on the ball just outside of the Union eighteen-yard box, and Bedoya barely recovered to poke the ball away before Piatti could tuck away his sixth goal of the season.
Burke and Picault continued to pressure the home side, with the latter unleashing a shot from the top of the box in the 11th minute but Evan Bush dealt with it easily. Three minutes later, Ray Gaddis -- who has taken two shots per season each of the last three seasons -- took his second shot of 2018 after looking off a defender and snapping off a curler that Bush flew to his left to gather.
In the 28th minute, Burke turned and ran at the Impact defense, releasing Bedoya who was alone with Bush in the box. Space was tight, and the Union captain lacked the time to lift his shot over the onrushing goalie.
Montreal continued to pick at the right side of Philly's defense, targeting young center back Mark McKenzie. Time and again, however, McKenzie stood tall against Nacho Piatti. In the 29th minute, the teenager found himself alone with one of the great isolation attackers in MLS, but he calmly held his ground and prevented Piatti from threatening Andre Blake's goal.
In the 43rd minute, the Union finally broke through for their first road goal of 2018. Gaddis and Burke combined for the goal, with the former turning a left-footed cross in front of goal for the latter to attack with his head.. Burke powered his shot past a helpless Evan Bush and wheeled off to celebrate a well-earned goal in his first MLS start.
Philly's lead nearly doubled just after halftime as Borek Dockal burst into the box, corralled Picault's smart centering pass and drilled a left-footed strike toward goal. Impact center back Rod Fanni slid in at the last moment to block the effort away.
The Impact began to inch back into the match by attacking up the Union wings. In the 50th minute, Raheem Edwards scooted past Ray Gaddis on the right and cut the ball back for Alejandro Silva. The young midfielder slid a pass to Anthony Jackson-Hamel, but the striker would not play heartbreaker against the Union for a second straight year. Blake lunged across his goal to push Jackson-Hamel's shot around the left post and out for a corner kick.
Burke was again Montreal's antagonist a minute later as he beat Bush to a long ball at the top corner of the Impact box. Bush slid in to clear, but in doing so he carried the ball outside of the box. Haris Medunjanin stepped up to take the free kick but spun it wide of Bush's near post.
In the 58th minute, the Union were dealt a blow when Cory Burke received a straight red card for a sliding tackle on Samuel Piette. Medunjanin's pass was intercepted by the Canadian midfielder, and Burke's right foot came in high as he sought to slow an Impact counterattack. Kevin Stott was quick to flash the red card and send the Union down to ten men.
Over the next ten minutes, Nacho Piatti seized the momentum, and in the 60th minute he spun by McKenzie at the top of the box only to lose control of the ball and watch in frustration as Blake arrived to claim it.
The Impact's best chance arrived in the 62nd minute when right back Michael Petrasso delivered a stunning cross to the back post for Saphir Taider. The loanee from Bologna drilled his header into the ground and watched helplessly as it bounced over Blake's goal and out of bounds.
Jim Curtin quickly brought on Warren Creavalle for Dockal and pushed Bedoya out to the right as the Union looked to see out a result on the road while down a man. However, circumstances changed in a hurry when a gorgeous long pass over the top to Picault put Daniel Lovitz under pressure. The right back swung clumsily at the bouncing ball as he raced back toward his own goal, and when he missed his kick he immediately dragged down Picault before he could race in on goal. Stott originally held up a yellow card, but after video review he sent Lovitz off to leave both teams with ten men.
With the sides even again, Creavalle was able to push forward, and in the 73rd minute he found himself isolated with Fanni at the top of the Montreal box. Creavalle cut to his right and found space, but his shot swerved off into the stands.
David Accam entered the match in place of Marcus Epps in the 75th minute and played atop a 4-4-1 with Picault providing an outlet up the left wing. Three minutes later, Bedoya raced up the right side and cut the ball back for Accam, but the Ghanaian was a step ahead of the pass and could not gather it in.
The Impact made a final push in the 85th minute. First, Jackson-Hamel beat Auston Trusty at the back post and headed the ball down, only to see McKenzie quickly clear it away. Moments later, Taider found Piatti in the box, but playmaker's left-footed half-volley was palmed away by an alert Blake.
Accam nearly had his first of the year a minute later, but after turning his man, he could not load up to shoot before a sliding block cleared Montreal's lines.
In the 88th minute, the Union finally put the match to rest through good work by Accam and Picault, and a calm finish by Medunjanin. Picault's pressure in the corner forced a pass to Jukka Raitala's feet in the box, and the defender was quickly closed on by Accam. The ball popped loose to Medunjanin, and he slotted it into the corner with his right foot to wrap up the Union's first road points of the season.
Philadelphia will look to build on this win next Saturday at 6:30pm ET when they return to Talen Energy Stadium to face Real Salt Lake.