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Philly Sports Scene: Union get into the win column

The Philadelphia Union got their first win of the season on Saturday after defeating the Columbus Crew by a score of 3-0. In a drastic change of events, the Union’s offense finally got it together behind a first-half brace by David Accam and a second-half goal by Ilsinho. The win was a welcomed sight for the home crowd at Talen Energy Stadium, and the Union look to be turning their season around after a sluggish start to the 2019 campaign.

In the first two games of the season against Toronto FC and Sporting Kansas City, Philadelphia’s offense failed to score a goal from open play and only had one goal off a penalty kick against Toronto. Then, against Atlanta United, the reigning MLS Cup Champions, Philadelphia got their first goal from open play when 18-year old Brenden Aaronson rocketed a ball just outside the  18-yard box that took a slight deflection off a defender and snuck past Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan. On that day, the goal from the youngster making his professional debut was enough to catapult Philly to a well-deserved draw and seemed to give the Union confidence heading into the game against Columbus.

Despite the loss of the World Cup veteran Marco Fabian who has missed the last two games due to red card suspension, the Union were able to play up through the midfield against Columbus to get their offense going. On the first goal, Haris Medunjanin played a ball up from the Union’s half of the field to Fafa Picault who then spotted the speedy Accam making a run behind the Columbus back line. Fafa Picault played an excellent through ball to David Accam who corralled the pass, took a controlling touch and then slotted a perfectly placed left-footed shot far post that bounced off the woodwork and into the net.

The goal was a beauty that showed the strength of Accam’s pace and his ability to be precise when shooting the ball. His second goal showcased his impeccable dribbling skills, and once again started in the midfield when Medunjanin intercepted a ball right around midfield and played a pass into Accam at the top of the 18. Accam received the pass and proceeded to dribble around three Columbus defenders inside the penalty box before hammering a right-footed shot near post past Columbus’s keeper, Patrick Mullens.

The night was a special one for Accam who revealed in the post-game interview that his father had passed away earlier in the week, “Today was an emotional night for me because I lost my dad last week, so today was all about my dad — trying to play for my dad. I know he’s up there looking down on me so it was really emotional for me and I’m so happy for the team.”

Accam’s stellar performance was arguably the result of being placed up top in replace of the usual striker Corey Burke who was away on international duty. The Union looked unusually deadly in the final third against Columbus, and it seemed like Accam was allowed to freely utilize his attacking mindset around the goals opposed to being a support man along the wing where he struggled last season. His play was bolstered by the midfield vision of both Medunjanin and Aaronson who many are calling the “Medford Messi.” This midfield pairing looks formidable, and even though we most likely have not seen Fabian’s full potential, the case can certainly be made for giving Aaronson more playing time.

Aaronson was not the only young talent putting in a solid night’s work for the home crowd at Talen Energy Stadium. The center back played well as Jack Elliott maintained a 91% pass completion percentage and Austin Trusty had six total clearances. Right back Kai Wagner had four tackles, one clearance and an interception. Even Carlos Miguel Coronel made a save and kept a clean sheet in his debut in net while filling in for Andre Blake who was also on international duty.

The Union will look to build off of this momentum when they travel to Cincinnati on Saturday to take on the newest addition to Major League Soccer in Cincinnati FC who already boast one of the toughest home crowds in the league. Moving forward, let’s hope that Accam continues to find the motivation to unleash the attacking potential that many had hoped he would deliver when he first signed with the club last season.

Andrew Heller is a second-year graduate student majoring in English.

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