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A second-half goal from Luciano Acosta was not nearly enough for D.C. United on Saturday night, as they fell 3-1 to the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. Three goals in the opening 45 minutes from the hosts, including a 5th-minute strike from Kacper Przybyłko to open the scoring. It was the second win for the Union over United in August, to go along with a 5-1 win at Audi Field.
United had to do without the services of Wayne Rooney, who was suspended following a red card during the midweek loss to the New York Red Bulls. That allowed Acosta to get back into the starting lineup, after having not started in the past three games.
Ola Kamara kept his starting spot, after his first goal for the club in the loss to the Red Bulls. But any hopes that the Norwegian striker would help United end an unfortunate losing streak to the Union was erased in the 5th minute when Przybyłko opened the scoring.
The Union moved the ball up the left flank, with left-back Kai Wagner supplying an overlapping run, and receiving the ball in space. Wagner's centering cross was met by Przybyłko, who cut in front of Frederic Brillant and redirected the ball home at the near post for the early lead.
It was another game in which United conceded early, a recent trend as they have slid down the Eastern Conference table. And it didn't get much better for the visitors when Brendan Aaronson made it two in the 16th minute. Przybyłko got around a challenge near midfield, and then Aaronson took advantage of some space within United's backline, collected the pass from Przybyłko, and shaped a finish around Bill Hamid to give Philadelphia a commanding lead.
On a broken play in the 30th minute, Ilsinho nearly beat Hamid, who had an awkward shot slip through his hands and into a danger area. Brillant put the ball out for a corner, but there was no such luck in the 36th minute when Ilsinho made it three goals for the Union. Skipping around Junior Moreno in the box, Ilsinho shot quickly before Brillant could get a challenge in, sliding the ball home at the far post.
United would end the half without registering a shot, but that was due in part for Kamara being offside in the 39th minute when he forced a good save out of Andre Blake. However, on Ulises Segura's cross, the striker was just offside, negating the opportunity that could have arisen after Blake's save.
Kamara had United's first shot then in the 51st minute, as United showed some signs of life in the second half. Kamara did well to corral a pass from Segura in the box, but just couldn't get enough juice on his shot, allowing Blake to make the save.
There was a measure of luck for United's goal in the 56th minute, as Acosta took advantage of a bounce in the box. Trying to play the ball to Paul Arriola, the pass from Acosta was knocked back into his path, beyond the last defender. Quick to react, Acosta slotted home his sixth goal of the season, to give United a small glimmer of hope for the final 35 minutes of the game.
In the 69th minute, Acosta pushed the tempo after a quick free kick from midfield and played the ball out wide to Quincy Amarikwa, who had just come on for Kamara. Amarikwa took the chance first-time and forced a save out of Blake, but United could not capitalize on the resulting corner kick.
Acosta then took a free kick quickly just outside the box late on, but his effort was easily caught by Blake, who was still trying to adjust his wall when the whistle to restart play was blown. And there were a couple of chances at the other end, with substitute Marco Fabian going the closest, just curling a shot wide of the post in the 87th minute.
But the damage had already been done, as United ended a stretch of three games in eight days with zero points, holding onto fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Another big matchup looms next Saturday when United travel to take on the Montreal Impact, one of the teams trying to chase down United's playoff spot.