WASHINGTON -- With the season winding down, D.C. United met the Philadelphia Union with playoff implications for both teams.
The Union entered the match two points below the “red line,” badly needing a result to keep pace with Toronto FC, who leapfrogged the Union with a win just moments before kickoff. D.C. took the pitch eager to extend their conference lead and climb even closer to clinching a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
United would emerge victorious, riding a Luis Silva strike to a 1-0 victory in front of 19,478 fans at RFK Stadium.
D.C. drew first blood just ten minutes from the opening whistle.
Right back Chris Korb – starting his first league match since Aug. 9 after recovering from a hamstring ailment – controlled the ball several yards from the near corner flag and then pushed it to Sean Franklin, who was making a rare appearance in the midfield. Franklin’s attempt at a cross deflected off a defender but found its way back to Korb, who quickly whipped the ball in to the top of the six. Silva was waiting and deftly headed the ball past Union keeper Rais Mbolhi and into the back of the net.
Moments after the goal, the Union were dealt an early blow when Sebastian Le Toux – the club’s leading scorer – was forced to leave the game with a right ankle sprain. He was replaced by Danny Cruz in the 22nd minute.
Union defender Carlos Valdes would keep D.C. from doubling their lead near the half-hour mark. United keeper Bill Hamid’s 80-yard drop kick hit Fabian Espindola in stride near the top of the Philly box. Espindola rounded Mbolhi and chipped the ball goalward, only to see his effort knocked off the goal line by Valdes. Seconds later, Valdes played the part again, deflecting a Silva effort away from net.
Chances were harder to come by in the second half – nonetheless, Philly had several opportunities to equalize. Cruz found himself alone in the box in the 46th minute but drove his effort directly at Hamid from 12 yards out. Sheanon Williams’ attempt in the 56th minute was equally golden, but the resulting header was equally ineffective, nodded directly at Hamid.
The loss leaves Philadelphia in seventh place in the East – on 38 points – with just four games remaining, while United stretched their lead over second-place New England and Sporting Kansas City to six points. D.C. will welcome SKC to RFK Stadium on Friday night, while the Union take on the Chicago Fire at PPL Park a day earlier on Thursday.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Luis Silva||His goal was the difference maker but his partnership with Espindola was dangerous all game.|
|2||Fabian Espindola||His technical ability was on display throughout, showing some nice backheels to trick Union defenders.|
|3||Steve Birnbaum||The rookie was strong all game, not letting the veteran Conor Casey get the best of him.|