On Saturday, a rather green Philadelphia Union team looked to keep its playoff hopes alive, when the Union went up against another fringe side in Columbus Crew SC.
23 was the average age of Jim Curtin’s Starting XI tonight. It was a make-do lineup, as Curtin was forced to entrust several of his younger players with a starting role this evening, due to several injuries and suspensions within the team.
Roland Alberg was suspended by the league’s Disciplinary Committee, after a “serious foul play that endangered the safety of an opponent” in the match against Montréal on Wednesday, while Fafa Picault pulled up lame in that match. A tweak to his hamstring ultimately kept him out of the XI and off the bench for the vital match in Columbus.
Derrick Jones was kept out for the second straight match, after sustaining a concussion in a friendly versus Premier League outfit, Swansea City AFC. Fabian Herbers continues to remain out of the fold. It’s 6-7 weeks for the German midfielder, who successfully underwent surgery for a nagging sports hernia injury.
As the Gold Cup hums on, so does the absence of key Union players. Away on international assignment were Chris Pontius and Andre Blake, who are away with the United States Mens’ National Team and Jamaica respectively.
With the absence of several key players, Curtin handed midfielders Marcus Epps and Adam Najem starts, the first (and hopefully many) of their young Major League Soccer careers.
Joshua Yaro returned to the XI tonight, replacing Oguchi Onyewu in the back. It was much needed rest for the 35-year-old center back. Also returning to the Starting XI was Jay Simpson, who last featured in the home opener against Toronto Football Club on March 11.
Aside from the younger players who made their respective cameos for the Union, it was another forgettable performance from the Blue-and-Gold on the road. It’s beginning to look pretty dire for Curtin’s group once more.
Again, it was the team without Bimbo emblazoned across their chests who dominated possession and spurred much of the attacking play throughout the first half.
Ola Kamara was perhaps the most threatening player on the night, and it was the Norwegian who nearly got the home side on the board in the 6th minute with a brilliant volley that was pawed away by John McCarthy.
Kamara would get a second look at goal later in the half, in the 28th minute. After finding himself in on the Union’s goal, Kamara fancied his luck and had another go at McCarthy. Again, McCarthy showed why he is a formidable backup keeper for Jim Curtin, going to ground to stop a sure goal.
Neither side looked very convincing after that. Columbus midfielder, Justin Meram tried his luck from the top of the Union’s box, but his curling effort ultimately sailed wide. It never really threatened McCarthy, to be fair.
I sound like a broken record at this point, so I’ll save myself the breath. It was much of the same throughout the last 45 minutes.
Meram supplied the match’s lone goal in the 68th minute, with the help of Yaro. Unlucky for Yaro, who stuck his foot out to block the Iraqi’s shot, but helped his counterpart out in the end.
Columbus nearly struck again in the 68th on a free kick, but McCarthy came up huge once again, getting low to paw away the initial free kick, before jumping up to tip the ball over the bar. He was a lone bright spot for the Union on the night.
Down a goal, Curtin didn’t have many attacking options off of the bench to try and bring the Union level. Charlie Davies came on for Ilsinho in the 69th minute, marking his first appearance for the club this season.
Here’s an updated look at the Eastern Conference table, following the Union’s 1-0 loss at Mapfre Stadium: Table.
It’s Columbus again on Wednesday night. This time, the Union will welcome the Crew to Talen Energy Stadium. Kickoff for the home-and-home finale is slated for 7:30 PM ET.
Be sure to look out for our comprehensive match preview of the second installment in the home-and-home series against Columbus Crew SC. Enjoy the weekend, everyone.