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D.C. United loses to Philadelphia Union, 4-1



United (1-4-3) has not won since March 7, five days before the MLS season was suspended. Since then, D.C. failed to advance out of group play at a tournament in Florida and, after the league’s return to home markets, it has been outscored 6-2 in consecutive defeats.

Kacper Przybylko scored twice in an early nine-minute window and Sergio Santos added a first-half goal as Philadelphia (4-1-3) stretched its regular season unbeaten streak to seven and beat D.C. at this riverside stadium for the seventh consecutive time.

Brenden Aaronson also scored for the Union, which has won seven straight in the series, the past four by a 14-3 margin. United’s Julian Gressel posted his first goal of the season.

Given the personnel issues and the power of the opponent, United was not going to win this one. But the performance and effort in the first half were shockingly bad. With few options, Ben Olsen assembled a back line that had never played together and two wing backs with attacking tendencies. Time and time again, they were exposed.

Without any fans allowed, the most prominent sounds came from Philadelphia’s sideline celebrations and the rumble of trucks crossing the Commodore Barry Bridge behind the east stands.

United generated a few good chances before intermission but remained scoreless in first halves this season. Its earliest goal has come in the 59th minute.

Winger Paul Arriola (ACL), attacker Edison Flores (facial fractures, concussion) and defenders Steven Birnbaum (bone bruise), Frédéric Brillant (ankle) and Russell Canouse (hamstring) are injured.

Goalkeeper Bill Hamid did not travel for personal reasons, D.C. officials said. He is on the executive board of Black Players for Change, but his absence was not directly related to racial issues affecting the country over the past week, two people close to the team said. On Wednesday, five MLS matches were postponed.

Chris Seitz, a former Philadelphia starter, replaced Hamid and made his first league start in 13 months.

With reserve defenders Oniel Fisher and Chris Odoi-Atsem also hurt, United had just 17 players available. Three homegrown teenagers saw action: Kevin Paredes, 17, made his third consecutive start, and Griffin Yow, 17, and Moses Nyeman, 16, entered in the second half.

Axel Sjoberg, a 6-foot-7 center back acquired from Columbus this month, made his D.C. debut. He lined up next to 6-5 Donovan Pines in a three-man back line that also included left back Joseph Mora.

Yamil Asad handled playmaking duties, and Ulises Segura, a natural midfielder, joined Ola Kamara on the front line.

Philadelphia needed less than seven minutes to go ahead. Jamiro Monteiro’s corner kick was flicked at the near post by Alejandro Bedoya, then skipped under Pines’s right foot, sliding to Przybylko for an easy tap-in.

Four days earlier, United conceded two first-half goals to New England off corner kicks, the first after failing to alleviate trouble and the second on an open header. Overall, D.C. has allowed four goals off corners in eight games.

Nine minutes passed before Przybylko scored again. Kai Wagner shuffled past light resistance offered by Gressel and Kamara. Sjoberg backed off. Wagner crossed. Pines and Sjoberg stabbed at the ball but failed to clear. Przybylko settled the ball at the top of the box and, with perfect location, scored on a 20-yard shot into the low right corner.

There was more in the 21st minute. Santos was left with acres of green grass on the left side. He cut into the box, drawing Seitz just far enough toward the middle to beat the slow-reacting goalkeeper to the near post.

Despite persistent threats, United dodged further damage before halftime mercifully arrived. With United scheduled to visit the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, Olsen pulled Asad at halftime and Kamara in the 57th minute. Yow and Erik Sorga, 21, entered.

The Union did not relent. Santos rattled the left post and, in the 61st minute, Przybylko ran free of Sjoberg and turned provider, setting up Aaronson for a simple one-timer under Seitz.

Gressel answered two minutes later on a 15-yard shot off the gloves of usually sure-handed Andre Blake. Later, Gressel’s departure allowed Nyeman to make his MLS debut.

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