CHESTER, Pa. – Playing their third game in eight days, D.C. United fielded their youngest starting lineup in franchise history for Saturday’s nationally televised showdown against the Philadelphia Union.
The youngsters were no match for MLS veteran Conor Casey.
In front of a sellout crowd at PPL Park, Casey delivered a pair of goals to lead the Union to a 2-0 victory over last-place D.C., helping to solidify Philly’s place in a very crowded Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Casey sealed the win in the 75th minute when he calmly slotted home a cross from Fabinho, who was making his first MLS start in place of injured starting left back Raymon Gaddis.
Ten minutes later, Casey exited the game as fans chanted his name. It was the burly 32-year-old striker’s second brace of the season. He now has nine goals on the season, one behind teammate Jack McInerney and tied for fifth in the league.
Casey opened the scoring in the 35th minute on a pretty play from three of the club’s statistical leaders. Right back Sheanon Williams started it off with a high-arching cross that Sebastien Le Toux flicked on to the foot of Casey, who managed to control the ball between defenders and poke it past D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid in one motion.
The assist was Le Toux’s 11th of the season and was the eighth for Williams, who’s now tied for second in league in the category.
The Union (10-7-7) had other chances to score but only went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead, thanks to a couple of huge saves from Hamid, the first on McInerney in the fifth minute and the second on Casey in the 41st minute.
Le Toux was also credited with an assist on Casey's second, running his league-leading total to 12 on the year.
Making his first start since June 29, Hamid finished with seven saves, including one on Union captain Brian Carroll from point-blank range in stoppage time.
Fresh off Wednesday's US Open Cup semifinal win over Chicago and missing many key players – including Chris Pontius, Luis Silva and Nick DeLeon – D.C. (3-16-4) technically didn’t put a single shot on target and only had one attempt on goal in the first half. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, United’s starting lineup had an average age of 23.21 years, the youngest in club history.
But the fortunes began to turn for the visitors when 35-year-old star Dwayne De Rosario entered the game at halftime.
D.C. striker Conor Doyle put two good attempts on goal in the 50th and 54th minute, respectively, before a wild sequence in the 58th minute nearly led to the equalizer. After De Rosario knifed through the Union defense, Collin Martin picked up a loose ball and shot on an open net, only to have Williams clear it off the goal line with his head. Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath then punched away the rebound attempt to preserve the shutout for Philly.
The clean sheet was MacMath’s third in the last four games. He finished with four saves.
United are back in action next Saturday with a road tilt at Montreal, while the Union visit another big Eastern Conference rival as they take on New York at Red Bull Arena.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Conor Casey||His movement and combination play was crafty and his finishing, while not necessarily textbook, was devastatingly effective|
|2||Sheanon Williams||Philly's right back was influential at both ends, serving the cross that led to the opener before making a goalline clearance on Collin Martin|
|3||Dwayne De Rosario||D.C.'s veteran playmaker sparked his team's struggling attack when he entered the game in the second half|