FINAL WHISTLE: A night of many firsts for the U

A night of firsts

Philadelphia Union threatened from the start of the whistle, but that kind of dominance can create anxiety if you don’t put one away. That was not a problem on Tuesday evening, as Philly got their first goal of the year off a set piece when Jack Elliott tapped in Haris Medunjanin’s low corner in the 4th minute.

Richmond had come out in a 5-4-1 shape rather than their typical 4-4-2, and the early lead clearly sapped their confidence and concentration. Even though the Union took over 20 minutes to secure their second goal, they were never in trouble.

David Accam’s first goal in a Union jersey arrived in the form of a penalty. Cory Burke earned the spot kick, but it was Accam’s through-ball that sent Burke in on goal, and the winger took the chance to get on the scoresheet well.

Another first arrived through Anthony Fontana, who scored in his first Open Cup match for the Union, just as he did in his first MLS match for the blue and gold. And Michee Ngalina earned his first minutes in a Union jersey mere hours after signing a short-term contract to join from Bethlehem Steel.

A sense of calm

Jim Curtin is fond of saying the Union want to play the same no matter where the Union play and who is playing for them. With Haris Medunjanin in the lineup, Philly was able to use the Bosnian as an axis through which to switch fields and build from the back. Surrounded by homegrown talent, Medunjanin kept the ball moving and directed the action so the Union’s shape never allowed Richmond space to counter. Additionally, the big midfielder, wearing the captain’s armband, sought to be the most active counterpresser, making sure Richmond was unable to find their outlet when they won the ball.

Youth shows well

Across the back, the Union started with two homegrown players, a late-round draft pick, and a player they had hoped would be a homegrown in Keegan Rosenberry. Two homegrown players started in the middle, and effervescent draft pick Marcus Epps took up a position on the right wing. This lineup was an exhibition for Philly’s ability to scout and develop young talent on American shores, and the initial returns were strong. The big takeaway for Jim Curtin will be that the team played with the same patience and purpose as if it was filled with the names that have populated the teamsheet for most of the season. 

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