Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Union whitewash Columbus 3-0

Union F CJ Sapong
By John McMullen

Chester, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - C.J. Sapong didn't get the start but he was the first to finish, as he helped lift the suddenly streaking Philadelphia Union to a 3-0 win over Columbus Crew SC at PPL Park on Wednesday.

Sapong entered the match in the 37th minute as an injury replacement for Philadelphia's top goal scorer coming in, Fernando Aristeguieta, and it didn't take long for the Virginia native to make an impact.

Cristian Maidana left a nifty pass for Sebastien Le Toux in the box, who in turn sent a cross toward the net which found a diving Sapong for the goal in the 41st minute.

"(It was) similar to my last goal in New York, just making a run in the box and the last time Fabinho played a great ball, this time it was Sebastien Le Toux, and I was just there to finish it off," Sapong said.

It was the third marker of the year for Sapong, who was acquired from Sporting Kansas City in the offseason for the 10th overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft and is perhaps the Union's most talented goal scorer.

Sapong actually matched Aristeguieta for the team lead in goals despite launching 22 fewer shots and playing roughly 500 minutes less so far this season due in large part to a DUI incident last month which triggered an assessment under the MLS' Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.

Philadelphia, which won for the third time in four tries, stopped a four-game skid against Columbus (4-5-4, 16 points) and improved to 4-8-3 (15 points) on the season, while matching a season-high with the three goals.

"I’m happy for the guys to get a comfortable win at home," Union head coach Jim Curtin said. "I wanted to keep a shutout and I was still nervous in the 80th minute up three goals against this team because of what’s happened in the past so I never felt comfortable till the final whistle. I think that the last 10 minutes of the game was the hardest I’ve ever coached in terms of yelling and keeping the guys going." 

After Sapong set the tone the Union really put things away in the 52nd minute thanks to a key mistake by Crew 'keeper Steve Clark, who ran up his box to start a Columbus rush but hesitated and tried to bring the ball back into his body. It squirted free and on the doorstep of Vincent Nogueira, who simply
chipped it over Clark's head for a 2-0 Union advantage.

Defender Sheanon Williams kept the pressure on from there in the 58th minute with a great run down the right side, avoiding a Crew player before slipping a pass to a collapsing Le Toux for his second goal of the season.

"I mean really, I’ll put it all on my fitness," Williams said when asked about his assist. "I’ve been working hard to get fit, I felt like that was really holding me back and to help this team win, I needed to look at myself and get myself better. I’ve been doing extra with a bunch of guys after practice, and you know, have the energy to run up the line and keep going and play a good ball, composed to Le Toux. All it is is doing a little bit of extra fitness after practice and that’s it, its that easy. "

Lengthy Union goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre recorded his third clean sheet in his last four efforts, making two saves. Overall Philadelphia put five targets on goal and lead in possession with a 57-to-43 percent margin.

"Philly did a very good job of controlling the match," Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter said. "They were first to every ball and they dictated the tempo and it was a good performance by them." 

Union Dues:

-The Union improved to 4-9-1 all-time against Columbus with all the victories coming here at PPL Park.

-Philadelphia was blitzed by the Crew earlier this season in Columbus by a 4-1 margin. The two sides will finish their three-match season series on Sept. 12 here in Chester.

-Le Toux, who has the two goals and three helpers in 2015, is the Union's all-time leader in both categories with 42 and 42.

-Sylvestre, who is on loan from the Carolina RailHawks of the North American Soccer League,  has now played five matches, the same as disgruntled GK Rais Mbolhi and the injured John McCarthy, and has performed much better than both despite having the lesser pedigree.

-Attendance was 15,374
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