CJ Sapong Leads Philadelphia Union Past Seattle Sounders
Photo via mlssoccer.com
After a disappointing 5-1 loss to the LA Galaxy on the road over the weekend, the Philadelphia Union returned to PPL Park for the first of three home games. Philadelphia dominated the first 20 minutes of the game for a second straight week. This time they were able to control most of the game’s pace and possession en route to a 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders.
“It was a bounce back after an awful performance in LA (against the Galaxy),” Curtin said after the game. “The guys put a lot into the game. Were we perfect? Absolutely not, but the guys stuck with it.”
Philadelphia came out energetic looking to catch the as Sounders’ defensive line, who weren’t pressing high, off guard and capitalize off their a mistake. They were rewarded for their aggressive play with two corners in the first four minutes, but the Seattle defense was able to clear them both out.
CJ Sapong continued to push high throughout the game. He couldn’t find any open teammates as they were late making runs up the wings. His hard work would pay off as the Union earned four corner kicks in quick succession. The fourth corner kick lead to a long throw in where Sheanon Williams sent the ball into the box. The ball went passed Stefan Frei and Edu found the wide open net. However, the goal was disallowed to the dismay of the 18,027 Union fans at PPL Park after the center official deemed Andrew Wenger affected Frei from making the save. On further review, Wenger did affect Frei from seeing the ball due to an effective screen and didn’t foul Frei at all.
With the score still scoreless, Philadelphia continued their attack at the Sounders back line and were awarded a penalty kick in the 31st minute. Andrew Wenger gets drilled in the face by Dylan Remick’s cleat as he attempted to clear out the ball. As a result, Remick was given a yellow card and Maurice Edu stepped up to the spot. After Wenger was attended to and left the field of play, Edu took the penalty, stuttered, and sent the ball to his left. Frei initially went to his left (Edu’s right), but quickly switched directions and made the save. Edu’s attempt wasn’t the best taken at PPL Park and Frei’s save kept the score tied at zero.
Less than a minute into the second half, Fabinho went down hurt after being clipped in the knee area by a Sounders player. No foul was called or card given as the left back returned into action moments later. The Union’s offensive chances continued as Christian Maidana’s rocket shot just missed the netting and prematurely caused fans to cheer as they thought the ball was in the net. Zach Pfeffer had his own chance as his off-balanced shot was easily saved by Frei.
The Union would finally break through in the 69th minute as Sheanon Williams lofted cross into the box found Sapong’s head and then the back of the net. It was Sapong’s fourth goal in four games; The goal tied Sapong for the most consecutive games with a goal with Jack McInerney, who set the record in 2012.
“Sheanon (Williams) puts a ball in and CJ (Sapong) and makes a good play at a time when we needed one,” Curtin described looking back at the game-winning goal and how the play developed.
“Yeah, actually I had a headset on and he (Williams) buzzed me and told me to make that run”, Sapong joked with reporters after the game. “That’s just us playing together and finally getting the timing right. I think that’s what we have been looking for all season.”
As the time ticked away the Union held on, but not to the total satisfaction of head coach Jim Curtin.
“I thought we closed the game out poorly,” Jim Curtin reflected post-game. “Decisions to go to the corner versus going for the glory of a second goal don’t think we percentage wise made the smart move. I’ll take responsibility for that, but the guys on the field need to know their role. I can only scream so much on the field.”
Despite trying to find another goal and not smartly dribbling to the corner, the Union were able to hold on a secure a big three points ahead of Saturday’s match against the Montreal Impact.