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Union rout Columbus Crew, 3-0, headlined by Jack Elliott’s free kick goal: Observations and analysis

Jack Elliott, Alejandro Bedoya and Leon Flach scored as the Union rose to third place in the Eastern Conference.

Jack Elliott, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring on a free kick for the Union's opening goal.
Jack Elliott, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring on a free kick for the Union's opening goal.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

The Union routed the Columbus Crew, 3-0, on Sunday at Subaru Park. Jack Elliott scored in the 25th minute, Alejandro Bedoya did so in the 46th, and Leon Flach capped things off in the 89th with the first goal of his Union tenure.

Here are some observations on the game.

Elliott’s Glesnes impression

Columbus’ Darlington Nagbe had fouled Sergio Santos around 30 yards from goal, and Elliott and Jakob Glesnes stood over the ball in the stoppage of play. Given Glesnes’ history of long-range smashes, the assumption was he’d shoot the free kick on target.

Then Glesnes peeled off to the right wing, leaving Elliott alone. He’s a great passer, but an infrequent shooter, so the theory became he’d serve it up to the crowd of players in the 18-yard box.

Naturally, none of that happened. Elliott shot the ball low toward Columbus’ wall and goalkeeper Evan Bush, who were as surprised as the rest of the stadium that the ball was coming toward them — and going straight past them.

“That was an outrageous finish,” color analyst Danny Higginbotham said on the Union’s TV broadcast, and he mused that Glesnes might have “been giving Elliott some tips.”

Elliott doesn’t have the cannon of a shooting leg like Glesnes, to be sure. But Elliott’s ability to hit that shot is a big weapon for the Union’s set piece arsenal.

It’s tempting to call it a new weapon, since it was just Elliott’s seventh goal in 120 Union games and his first since May 31. But we won’t, thanks to Union reserve team coach Marlon LeBlanc. He was Elliott’s college coach at West Virginia, and at halftime of Sunday’s game tweeted a video of Elliott scoring a free kick from about 25 yards in a 2016 game.

Bedoya’s late run was on time

The Union’s second goal was a terrific play. Leon Flach started it by stripping Gyasi Zardes in the midfield, then fed a wide-open Bedoya to his right. Bedoya then ran half the length of the field untouched, with speed belying his 34 years.

Kacper Przybylko wasn’t quite ready for a through ball when Bedoya played it, but he got there and sent an inch-perfect low pass into the 18-yard box. Bedoya, meanwhile, had continued his run with only a slight left turn toward the center of the box. Columbus’ defense was distracted, and Bedoya slammed the loose ball home.

It was one of the better goals that the Union have scored this year. It was also a reminder that while Bedoya might not have 90 minutes in the tank every game, at his best he can be plenty effective.

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Wagner earned his ejection

Kai Wagner earned his first yellow card of the game, a 35th-minute sliding tackle on Marlon Hairston. The second booking, in the 64th, was given for a hands-to-the-shoulders obstruction of an onrushing Luis Diáz, with referee Victor Rivas looking right at the play. So, yes, he had to go.

Also on the subject of calls the crowd didn’t like, the 73rd-minute penalty kick and yellow card against Alvas Powell probably had to be given for leaning into Zardes while both players were airborne. But if you believe in karma, the Crew got a serving of it when Pedro Santos took a surprisingly bad shot and Andre Blake saved it easily.

Powell’s performance overall

That foul was one of the only bad marks on Powell’s game, a subject that was always going to be of interest. With Olivier Mbaizo absent due to the death of his father in Cameroon, Powell played for the first time since Aug. 29. The Jamaican recorded four interceptions, three duels won, two clearances, two recoveries, and 16-of-22 passing.

The standings

The Union (11-7-9, 42 points) are in third place on both total points and points per game (1.56), with a game in hand on all the teams from fourth to eighth: Orlando (42 points), D.C. (40), New York City (40), Montreal (40), and Atlanta (39). Just as importantly, the Union are tied with all of those teams except D.C. on total wins, the first standings tiebreaker. D.C. has 12, Atlanta has 10, and the other four teams in the jam have 11.

Up next for the Union is a trip to last-place FC Cincinnati on Saturday (8 p.m., PHL17). Both teams will be missing a lot of players as the game is during a FIFA national team window.

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