Co-written by Alex Zets, guest contributor

D.C. United finally returned to regular season play at Audi Field with a 3-1 loss to Philadelphia Union in front of a crowd of 19,215.

Jim Curtin’s men started off strong, capitalizing on a turnover to drive deep into the Black-and-Red’s defensive half. Within the first 5′ they had managed to find the back of the net, with Julián Carranza lofting a ball for Mikael Uhre to drive home.

The first 15′ did not improve for D.C. United. Another quick Union turnover found every hole in the Black-and-Red’s backline. A quick backheel flick by Carranza to Jack McGlynn sealed the deal, and McGlynn took a touch to slot one in past Tyler Miller in the 13′.

The Black-and-Red remained tepid throughout the first half, just not quite able to muster the moxie to surpass Philadelphia’s airtight defense. Andre Blake had limited work to do, saving a few softballs.

In the 36′, Miller collided with Carranza in the box, knocking him clean to the ground and garnering a penalty kick for the Union. Not surprisingly, Dániel Gazdag stepped up to the spot to convert and set the scoreline at 0-3. Gazdag had scored eight penalties already this season. Tonight marked number nine.

The Black-and-Red headed to the locker room with a lot to consider. As expected, Wayne Rooney began making changes at the break, bringing in Alex Bono for Miller and Ruan for Chris Durkin.

In the 49′ Christian Benteke made one of his signature headers that appeared to be a goal. Blake swatted the ball away, but the shot certainly appeared to cross the goal line. The outrage that ripped through Audi Field was deafening, but no VAR review occurred.

Philadelphia relaxed into their lead, taking their foot off the gas – slightly. It was enough for Ted Ku-DiPietro to ride a fast break and knock one back from a distance, destroying Andre Blake’s clean sheet in the 88′. Play your kids, friends.

While it was a rough night at Audi Field, Russell Canouse had a message for supporters that he shared with The District Press.

Canouse said, “I’m super disappointed that we couldn’t give a result to them tonight. I just want to say we need you and also thank you for coming out tonight. Obviously, the result wasn’t what we wanted to the fans and then leave them going home with nothing but I just want to say, we definitely need them going into this last stretch. It’s super important for us.”

D.C. United remains at home to take on Chicago Fire next Saturday, September 2, at 7:30 pm ET.

Three Takeaways

  • Pirani was a standout D.C. United player (besides Ted Ku-DiPietro, of course). The standout player has to be new signing, Gabriel Pirani. Having just joined the Black-and-Red on loan from Santos this month, Pirani’s first match for D.C. was in their recent loss to the New York Red Bulls, where he put in a good shift. Against Philadelphia, the 21-year-old showed D.C. fans that they have something to be excited about with his addition. The creative midfielder took on defenders, picked out some amazing passes, and was overall the main attacking spark for the Black-and-Red. While he’s only just settling in, we can certainly see the Brazilian quickly becoming a fan favorite. Rooney said, “I thought he was very good again tonight…The problem you have is you get to see new players and there’s not long left in the season. So trying to plug them all in at once, into the starting lineup, is difficult.”
  • PLAY YOUR KIDS. It took a late (74′) substitution of Ted Ku-DiPietro to break the dam for the Black-and-Red. We’re disappointed Jackson Hopkins didn’t join in the fun off the bench. We’ll say it again, “PLAY YOUR KIDS.”
  • Service needs improvement. D.C.’s fullbacks found themselves time and time again in prime crossing position, but the end product was lacking. Countless crosses were over-hit, under-hit, or whipped straight into the gloves of Andre Blake. Toward the end of the match especially, D.C. United won many freekicks around the box but met with the same disappointment in their delivery.

Watch the highlights from D.C. United vs. Philadelphia Union

Box Score

MLS Regular Season – Game 28

D.C. United: 1 Ku-DiPietro 88′

Philadelphia Union: 3 Uhre 5′, McGlynn 13′, Gazdag 38′ (PK)


D.C. United: Tyler Miller (Alex Bono 46′), Pedro Santos (Éric Davis 74′), Derrick Williams, Steven Birnbaum, Brendan Hines-Ike (José Fajardo 79′), Chris Durkin (Ruan 46′), Russell Canouse, Mateusz Klich, Gabriel Pirani, Yamil Asad (Ted Ku-DiPietro 74′), Christian Benteke

Philadelphia Union: Andre Blake, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Nathan Harriel, Kai Wagner, Jose Martinez (Leon Flach 26′), Daniel Gazdag, Jack McGlynn, Jesus Bueno (Alejandro Bedoya 64′), Mikael Uhre (Quinn Sullivan 90’+2′), Julian Carranza (Chris Donovan 64′)

Misconduct Summary

D.C. United: Miller 36′

Philadelphia Union: Harriel 68′, Glesnes 76′

Featured image courtesy of D.C. United // Hannah Wagner

BySarah Kallassy

Managing Editor

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Ryan Hunt

This was KDPs fourth goal of the season, moving him into third place for DC behind Benteke and Taxi.

You know who else has four league goals this season? Junior Moreno.

Our offense is anemic.

Talonesque #

Just going to drop two takes that will likely not be received well, but it’s where I’m at:

– I would rather build the offense around TKD than Benteke next season, and that means we should probably look for another DP.

– While I see Klich’s individual quality, I don’t see his purpose in any formation because he doesn’t completely fit the bill for any one position. Which means we should look for another DP.

Stunned Duck

I, for one, receive those takes just fine; they are basically where I am at, too. Unless Wayne is unexpectedly sticking around, we have no GM, no manager, no plan, and no reason to expect the team will be competitive before both Benteke and Klich age beyond the point of being key players. They should both be moved elsewhere so as not to waste their limited remaining shelf life.

Talonesque #

Unless this ownership group hands us over to another with a plan, Akinmboni might be too old for us to use, as well 😅

Talonesque #

Oh, yeah, and we’re definitely waiting for Rooney to mumble something he’s spent months editing in his head, as he returns to his family. I don’t really blame him if he leaves, but I would question the reason he came in the first place.

Matt Glad

Yea, every loss is making me question more and more Rooney’s overall coaching philosophy and aptitude and his motivations for coming to MLS. Sure, he’s Wayne Rooney and, on paper, DC have improved over last season. But this is more or less the same team going by the eye test. No fight, no heart, no purpose, either. I’m tired of watching it. I don’t know how any European team watches this and goes “oh yea we need that skipper leading our team”. Say what you want about Ben, but it was really only his last year or so when DC started getting run off the field. It has been almost a mainstay under Rooney, at home nonetheless!!!

Talonesque #

He may be successful elsewhere, but I will say, he doesn’t mesh well with MLS salary realities in his thinking and signings. It’s quite possible he barked at Kasper to “make this fucking work” when he brought in a few players, and Dave did. I got a lot of flack for being concerned when we signed Jeahze that we were collecting too many TAM players and that would hurt our depth. Rooney wanted to build a championship club in MLS.

Matt Glad

True. I also think it’s lazy for a coach to just say “we need better players”. Of course it helps, but a good coach should be able to prove that his system/philosophy doesn’t need a certain value of player to succeed, at least in my opinion. DC have been spending a decent amount in the last 4 years or so. It’s HOW they’ve spent that’s been concerning, like you said.


Quite simply, they were prepared and we weren’t. If it was simply better quality, then you’d expect that to show over time–with Philly scoring goals later in the game. But getting off to such a quick start just shows they were ready and in to the game and we were still in the locker room. Kudos to Pirani. And kudos to Teddy KDP. And kudos to Benteke.


All of the comments here are spot on. Rooney didn’t have this team prepared and didn’t make any impactful subs (if he had any at all) until way too late. He has built a team of EFL Championship type journeymen at the end of their careers (Benteke & Klich). We still have Dumpster Diving Dave in charge of soccer operations so we know things won’t get better. Pirani does indeed look “good”, but is he really “good” or is he just good in comparison to the bumbling hacks surrounding him? Interesting that DCU’s two immediately former coaches are both above the playoff line what they don’t have crippling them is DDD. I’ve had some form of multi-game plan or season tickets since 2000, no more. I’m done. The only way these muppets will respond is if no one shows up — otherwise Levien and Kaplan don’t care. Look at the mess that is Swansea, they have less ambition than a nematode.


Pirani was good, but it’s also worth mentioning that in his most crucial moment, he was alone against the goalkeeper, and decided to try to center a pass to triple-covered Benteke. He has to shoot there. Every time — unless Benteke is alone for a tap-in.

Brendan Cartwright

We haven’t seen a lot of it yet, but Pirani’s shooting doesn’t seem to be anything special. He has quickness, gets into good positions, and has some pretty good passing, but none of his shots seemed to trouble Andre Blake too much. Granted, it takes something special to get past Andre Blake (take a bow, Ted), but I think this aspect of Pirani’s game needs some work.

Bryan McEachern

My girlfriend said it best: DCU does not give a damned about 96ers. They want new Garber targets to buy tickets.

Danita Johnson’s email to STHers was embarrassing: Miami is included in next year’s package. WTF!?!?! Do you honestly think that go to DCU games for for 27 years so I get to watch Messi? It was even a discussion to NOT include Miami in the STH package? Good God, someone told me they were considering moving the game to FedEx.

I am going on a Rhine-Danube cruise instead.


This loss is clearly on Rooney. This was poor player selection and the wrong players in the wrong spots. Santos is too slow. Hines-Ike at right back and Durkin on the outside is a mismatch. Pirani on the outside is perhaps okay, but given he is a no. 10 shouldn’t he be playing in the center? Asad is okay but a bit slow and not an offensive threat anymore. Generally, the team was too old and too slow. Perhaps it worked early in the season, but now with miles on the legs, it is really showing up as a problem. The team for some reason plays poorly at home and this has been a trend all season.

Once Ku, Ruan, and the two Panamanian players came in there was more spark on the team. Of course, Philly by that time was starting to sit back.

So Rooney has quite a bit to figure out for the next game.

Matt Glad

Well said. I think Rooney already has his bags packed. He looks to be phoning it in, honestly. The team has shown zero growth since the start of the season.

Bryan McEachern

He is entirely disengaged.

Talonesque #

I think my first thought upon seeing yesterday’s lineup for the first time was “that’s an incredibly slow group of players.” It’s particularly strange, cuz Rooney surprised us all by making effective use of Ruan is a wingback and we got some of our best play with that dynamic. If he thought he would beat Philly with all our most possession oriented players and no outlet to counter, well… that first goal, Wayne.

Brendan Cartwright

I was pleased that Alex Bono kept the clean sheet in his half of the game. He has yet to allow a goal in MLS play, and even if Tyler Miller didn’t have a rib injury, I think he’d have earned a chance to start against Chicago.

Brendan Cartwright

I keep thinking about the playoff game against Columbus in 2018. Audi Field was ELECTRIC, and I’d never experienced an atmosphere like that there before or since. It is absolutely criminal that this front office and ownership group haven’t put together a squad that’s allowed us to host a playoff game since then.

Bryan McEachern

Those days are long gone, and they will not be returning.
I hate thinking this, let alone writing this…

Brendan Cartwright

I noted this on Twitter, but I’ll share it here too.

Christian Benteke has played 31 games for DC, has 9 goals and 3 assists.
Alvaro Saborio played 31 games for DC, had 10 goals and 3 assists. And played over 1,000 fewer minutes than Benteke had.

Another way of looking at things, Benteke just passed Edison Flores in minutes played for DC. He’s been involved in 12 goal contributions. Flores was involved in 11 goal contributions (3 goals, 8 assists).

Talonesque #

That’s… woof. I think he’d do better if we had a more consistent way to feed him, but at the same time, our goal as a club is for the team to do better

Kerry Hess

Without looking at the numbers, it really feels like he lost his magic in July.

Brendan Cartwright

He’s still winning headers and duels at an elite pace. I think he’s probably not getting enough shots per game, since he’s never been clinical in front of goal. And I think he’s not getting those opportunities in spaces close enough to goal. And sometimes he runs into Andre Blake and the Philly defense.

Bottom line, his finishing may have dried up, but running the offense through him could still be effective… if there was anybody else on the team that could also score.

[…] of D.C. United’s 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union by us and WaPo. Philly Soccer Now with the other […]


Benteke’s header sure looks like a goal. I drew in the perspective lines from the vanishing point to give a reference point. Neither referee had a clue and it seems it was not recommended for review. Why does MLS not have goal-line technology?

Benteke Header against Philly.jpg
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