MLS after dark was in full effect on Sunday night! Week two of the 2020 season saw the Union going out to Los Angeles to take on the big boys of MLS LAFC. The match kicked off at 11:00 pm EST and what ensued will go down as one of the craziest matches in Philadelphia Union history!
The Union was coming off a rather dull performance from their first match, losing to Dallas 2-0. Last week, Philadelphia looked like they weren’t up to the speed they needed to be to press a team. Lapses in concentration caused the two Dallas goals. Fast forward a week, and the entire Union team looked shot out of a cannon.
The speed and intensity of the match was high, and it was clear the Union took note of their shortcomings from week one. both teams had chances inside the first half-hour. LAFC thought they struck first, but Diego Rossi’s third-minute goal was ruled offside. It was Philadelphia who was able to actually strike first!
29th Minute: 1-0 Union
LAFC dispossessed a Union attack and looked to push forward to start an attack fo their own. Kacper Pryzblyko made a run back to press and win the ball back. As he turned upfield he saw Brenden Aaronson making a run. The ball was played to the young attacking midfielder, and when he was stopped from moving into the LAFC box, he passed the ball centrally to Jamiro Monteiro.
Monteiro had a defender pressing him, so he had to play a quick pass to the corner of the box to striker Sergio Santos. Santos had a defender coming toward him, but the LAFC player allowed Sergio to take a touch and move the ball toward the goal and onto his favored left foot Santos’ second touch was a perfect curling shot from outside the box that was out of the keepers reach. The Union took a surprising lead at LAFC.
38th Minute: 1-1
Unfortunately for Philly, their lead was short-lived. Less than 10 minutes later the Union conceded a soft foul in a dangerous spot for a free-kick. 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela stood over the ball. He had a good chance to take a shot; the ball was placed about 20 yards from the goal at the top left of the Union’s box.
Vela hit the ball with his left foot, and a shot that started out wide of the net curled into the top left corner. Union keeper Andre Blake could not stretch to keep it out, and a perfect free kick tied the game.
Both teams went to half time tied, but it was the Union who came out swinging to start the second half.
48th Minute: 2-1 Union
As Philly came out in the second half they wasted on time to get on the front foot. After suffering a foul from a long way out, the Union had a free-kick. Jamiro Monterio was set to take a free-kick and play a ball into the box to be attacked. However centerback Jakob Glesnes stepped up and asked to take the kick.
The Norwegian centerback lined up from 35 plus yards out looking to shoot. He approached the ball straight on and hit it perfectly.
The ball’s trajectory swerved from the center of the pitch to the left and carried all the way to the top left corner of the match. It was a screamer, and it should be up for goal of the year once the season is over. A huge goal from an unlikely taker gave the Union another lead.
Unfortunately, this lead would only last one minute.
49th Minute: 2-2
After the Glesnes wonder-strike, LAFC tried to play direct. A ball was up for grabs in the middle of the pitch; both teams tried to win the header, but the ball bounced LAFC’s way.
A quick pass had Diego Rossi in the Union’s box. Rossi’s quick feet handcuffed Mark McKenzie. Rossi was able to pick his shot, and he curled a beautifully placed shot past the outstretched arms of Blake into the upper right of the net.
Just like that, it was 2-2, and LAFC smelled blood in the water.
69th Minute: 3-2 Union
Just after LAFC equalized, the thought they scored their third goal. Rossi did put the ball in the back of the net again, but he was ruled offside. The Union took this and settled down a bit to calm the match down. Andre Blake kept making saves, and centerback Jakob Glesnes almost found a second goal heading a ball off the LAFC crossbar. Eventually, the Union found their third lead!
In the 69th minute, the Union started a dangerous attack in the LAFC final third. Brenden Aaronson tried to ship the LAFC defense to put Sergio Santos in on goal. Santos had to take a touch wide to set up a shot; his shot was blocked, but the ball right back at his feet. While this was happening, Aaronson drifted into the center of the box and was not marked.
Santos found Aaronson and the 19-year-old homegrown spun on the half-turn opened his hips like he was going to shot toward the far post and quickly got his leg over the ball to put a low shot to the right. The keeper had already committed to the wrong side, and Aaronson’s shot gave the Union the lead once again with about 20 minutes left in the match!
71st Minute: 3-3
As the rest of the match proved, once LAFC was hit in the mouth, they came right back. Two minutes after Aaronson’s would be winning goal, LAFC had a corner. The ball came into the Union’s box, and Przyblko headed the ball to try to clear the lines but the ball shot straight up in the air. Blake tried to command his box and punch the ball clear but did not get enough power on his punch.
The ball fell in the Union’s box to Latif Blessing; he took a shot that was blocked by Philly’s Sergio Santos, but the ball fell right to the foot of Eddie Segura. He put a contested shot right at Blake.
The ball spun off Blake and rolled into the net, and LAFC drew level once more. After the third goal for LA, the match descended into utter chaos!
25 more minutes of chaos
The final 19 minutes plus second-half stoppage time was full of chaos. Both teams pushed for the final winning goal, but it looked like LAFC was more dangerous. If it wasn’t for huge saves from Andre Blake, in a night where he made eight saves, the Union would likely be coming home with no points.
In the end, the match ended 3-3 in a crazy contest that had Union fans buzzing after One in the morning!
Main takeaway: Trend-Setting performance
The Union fielded a young and hungry squad. Andre Blake, Jakob Glesnes, Marck McKenzie, Jose Martinez, Brenden Aaronson, and Sergio Santos all played to their full potential, as the Union went toe-to-toe with the 2019 Supporters Sheild winners. This match should be a very encouraging sign of things to come from this team in 2020.
While the Union doesn’t have a big star player, they have a sporting director that has been able to find hungry players looking for a shot to make it big whether it be from the academy or abroad. Couple that with a coach who has shown he can get the most from players makes this team’s expectation of making the eastern conference playoff final a reachable goal this year.
Time will tell if this team is able to play like this throughout the rest of the season, but if they can use this match as the expectation, then they may be able to set the trend as to what Philadelphia Union soccer is all about.
Fast-paced pressing, quick passes, and smart finishing will help this team go far. If they can also find a way to sure up their defensive shape, then they will truly be a force in the eastern conference.
For now, the Union moves on to week three, and their home opener against San Jose Earthquakes!
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Union Editor of Soccer Content
A passion for the beautiful game drives me.