After a poor showing in the first half allowed a San Jose Earthquakes goal in the 35th minute, the Philadelphia Union scored twice in six minutes thanks to goals from captain Alejandro Bedoya in the 70th minute and Kacper Przybylko in the 76th minute. to win the 16th match of the season, a new franchise record.
“This group of players seems to amaze me in different ways each week,” said Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin following his team’s dramatic 2-1 win at San Jose last night.
Philadelphia failed to create any real momentum throughout the first half and conceded a 35th-minute goal in the process.
Just one minute into the second half, the San Jose Earthquakes scored a thriller of a goal. Union fans were just about ready to hit the power button on the remote and call it a night. But, VAR overturned the goal because San Jose’s Danny Hoesen and his heel were marginally offsides.
That would’ve been the proverbial nail in the coffin moment for Philadelphia, battling adversity with the cross-country match-up scheduled for midweek. On just two days rest, Curtin’s crew displayed the determination and fight needed to win at crucial times.
But Philadelphia caught a break. And it was a break because Hoesen did not gain any real advantage with his heel being offside, but the rule is a rule for a reason and Philadelphia benefited greatly because of it.
Following the disallowed goal, Philadelphia managed to settle in with some tactical adjustments.
“In the first half, we weren’t ourselves,” said Curtin. “[San Jose] baited us into a lot of bad turnovers and made us do too much running. In the second half, we went to a 4-2-3-1 and made an adjustment there.”
It was truly a tale of two halves for Philadelphia. In the first half, San Jose completely disoriented Philadelphia in all thirds of the field. The man-marking forced several Union players to become frustrated, and the body language from Curtin’s group before half highlighted that disgust.
The frustration reached its apex inside the visiting locker room.
“In the first half we were very sloppy in transition and with our first touch,” said team captain Alejandro Bedoya. “Technically we weren’t sharp enough. We came in at half time and a lot of guys were pissed. We let it all out. We needed to get it all out of us.”
Considering the impacts the match held on the overall outcome of the year for Philadelphia, tempers rising after a less than stellar half could almost be expected. What wasn’t expected was just how positive a response Bedoya and his teammates would have after the frustrations were released.
What resulted was a two-goal performance and in the process, a crucial three points were secured.
“As a team collectively, our body language was bad,” said Curtin of his team throughout the first half. “We were getting on each other and throwing our hands at each other. At half time we talked about it.”
Teams of years past would’ve splintered during a match like last night. But this 2019 Union team is different. In fact, with the win last night the new franchise record for wins in a single season is now 16.
With two matches remaining, and a very beatable opponent in Columbus Crew waiting on Sunday, Philadelphia can increase that number once more.
“Our guys showed a lot of heart and a lot of grit,” said Curtin. “Our guys rolled up their sleeves and fought. Really proud of the group and the mentality and effort that they put in.”
Union fans will hope to enjoy more surprising feats from this Philadelphia team. First place in the Eastern Conference is still mathematically a possibility, but NYCFC would have to lose out and Philly would need to win out.
The W last night does guarantee Philadelphia a number 3 seed in the MLS Cup Playoffs though. With home-field clinched for the first round, Curtin and his team will look to finish out this grueling 3-match road trip with another positive result Sunday in Columbus.
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Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports