CJ Sapong and Fafa Picault finished their chances and Philadelphia Union shut out DC United for their fourth MLS win in a row. It was Philly’s first match at Audi Field, and they fought through muggy heat to put further distance between themselves and the teams chasing them in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
DC United began with ten of the same 11 players that started two days earlier at Red Bull Arena. The only change was Zoltan Stieber’s entry in place of the injured Yamil Asad. Stieber moved to the right, pushing Paul Arriola to the left wing.
United tucked both wingers inside during the buildup phase of play, using the fullbacks very high up the pitch to create gaps in the Union’s back four.
In the 8th minute, those narrow wingers combined to pry open the Union and provide Wayne Rooney his first chance of the game. Arriola played a diagonal ground pass to Stieber, and the ball was moved across to Rooney just inside the box on the left. He turned Trusty, but the Union defender stayed close, and the deflected shot clanged back off Andre Blake’s near post.
The Union struck back in the 20th minute through Fafa Picault. Ale Bedoya shielded a forward ball, allowing it to run through. Burke played Dockal in space, and the attacker’s crossfield ball found Picault. He cut onto his right and fired a low shot that Hamid smothered.
Two minutes later, Rooney nearly broke the game open. Acosta skipped past Medunjanin in the center and played in the wide striker. He tried to chip Andre Blake and the ball snuck past the far post with a runner chasing.
In the 29th minute, CJ Sapong put the Union in front. Auston Trusty cleared his box to Dockal and he played Fafa Picault streaking up the wing. The ball made its way into Sapong and he knocked it on for Burke. The big striker’s shot was blocked by Hamid but Sapong followed it up for the goal.
DC struggled to respond, but just before the half they thought they had climbed back into the match when Arriola’s cross appeared to glance off of Jack Elliott’s arm. Nima Saghafi was unmoved, however, and despite the yells of the supporters’ section he held firm.
Early in the second half, Acosta pulled out to the left and flighted a beautiful ball in to Rooney between the center backs. Elliott was close to his fellow Englishman and after the ball was caught up in both of their feet, Trusty got a touch and Blake cleared it wide.
DC had another half-chance in the 56th when they played left to right and found Russell Canouse atop the box. His final ball wide was left short and Ray Gaddi stepped across to intercept.
United was left to rue their missed chances when Philly combined up the right channel for a sensational second goal. Bedoya and Dockal exchanged passes in the middle and took both of DC’s holding mids out of the play. Dockal then played wide to Sapong and he centered for Picault, who swept the ball past a stranded Hamid.
There was a repeat of the first half in the 69th minute when Elliott was again suspected of a handball in the box. This time it was Rooney collecting a loose ball inside the half-circle, sidestepping a defender, and powering a shot at goal that deflected off Elliott. Once again Saghafi found no reason to blow his whistle.
DC’s legs were failing them and the Union had control of the match. Bedoya followed up a loose ball in the 76th and drove it at net as it swerved around the near post.
The Union were looking for a third in the 87th when Ilsinho arrived off the bench and rounded Joseph Mora like he was a pothole along the road to a goal. The ball was worked across to Dockal, who made a late run and fired on goal from close range only to see it somehow kept out.
Derrick Jones and Warren Creavalle replaced Dockal and Medunjanin late as Philly saw off a wilting opponent.
The Union are back in action Saturday, September 1 at 7:30PM EST when they travel to take on Orlando City SC.