Ugly second half defending from Philadelphia spoils first half lead at NYCFC as Union lose 4-2

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Fafa Picault and Kacper Przybylko notched first half goals created by Jamiro Monteiro, but ultimately a lack of solid team defending in their own half became the downfall for Philadelphia at Yankee Stadium Saturday night.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made of the field conditions at Yankee Stadium in the days ahead of Saturday night’s clash with NYCFC. But that excuse no longer holds any weight considering Union Head Coach and his technical staff utilized training pitches that matched the smaller scale field in the Bronx.

To put it plainly, there are no excuses for Philadelphia’s performance. All you need to know is they failed to defend as a group in the second half.

Maxi Morales and Valentin Castellanos made Union defenders look like traffic cones throughout stretches of the second half. In fact, the two contributed in all four of NYCFC’s goals. Morales slotted home a pair of PK opportunities – thanks to some shoddy officiating from head referee Alex Chilowicz.

The first PK occurred after Auston Trusty lazily dragged his right cleat in front of Castellanos legs as he quickly cut inside the box on a breakaway opportunity during the 23rd minute. The second was far less obvious.

Alejandro Bedoya gained position on Castellanos as he tried to enter the box. Bedoya timed the challenge to near perfection but Castellanos decided to flop backwards which fooled Chilowicz into blowing for the PK. Bedoya then received a yellow card for excessive dissent – who can blame him for arguing that soft call?

But perhaps more frustrating for both Union players and fans alike were the other two goals created by NYCFC in the run of play. Both of those occurred just seven minutes apart late in the second half.

Castellanos and Morales combined on both as well.

The first during the 71st minute was perfectly executed. NYCFC had been trying to create along the right wing but were denied access into the final third continually by Kai Wagner and Fafa. But they then began working from right to left in overlapping fashion which left Ray Gaddis all alone with two men to mark along the left wing. NYCFC flicked it into the middle of the pitch to Morales who then simply left it off for Castellanos darting forward into the box. With little chance of making a save, Matt Freese was beat.

Then, during the 78th minute, Philadelphia’s defense official broke down for good. Castellanos received the ball just atop the box where he neatly positioned himself in between Jack Elliot, Beodya, and Haris Medunjanin. Bedoya and Medunjanin stood flat footed watching the ball which allowed Castellanos to dish to Morales while running toward goal. Elliot bit too hard on the pass attempt which allowed Castellanos to get in behind all alone for NYCFC’s fourth and final goal.

In what promised to be an enticing match-up, Philadelphia ultimately failed to hold their early lead. A loss like this can seriously damage team morale but for Curtin and his staff, they’ll most likely focus on the mistakes individually rather than harping on the blown chance to earn a road result for the second consecutive match.

After all, Marco Fabian did sub on in the 73rd minute and made a few dashes forward on the ball. For Union fans, that’s the lone positive Saturday night. If Fabian can work his way back into the starting XI, Philadelphia could rely on his creativity to bail them out in tight game situations moving forward.

But time will tell, as it always does.

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

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