With so many question marks heading into this morning’s first Philadelphia Union match of the MLS is Back tournament, many fans are now enjoying a peaceful sense of relief after Ale Bedoya found the back of the net in the 63rd minute for the game’s only goal.
Goalkeeper Andre Blake stood tall in net saving seven shots on target, including an incredible reaction save in the 87th minute with another game-saving effort in stoppage time to keep the clean sheet intact.
The first half was largely uneventful in terms of threatening goal-scoring chances from both clubs. Philadelphia was lucky to head into halftime without conceding late in the half after squandering two chances on goal earlier in the half.
NYCFC had the first real chance of the match in the 8th minute. Keaton Parks managed to get a head on a cross but his effort was sent directly into the chest of Blake. A few minutes later Valentin Castellanos sent a headed effort just wide of the target.
Philadelphia wouldn’t register a scoring chance until the 20-minute mark after Kacper Przybylko sent a weak right-footed shot on goal. NYCFC’s Sean Johnson was in the right spot to make an easy save. It was a moment Przybylko will probably want to have back considering he was unmarked.
Przybylko would have another chance in the 24th minute but once more Johnson made the stop.
As the first half continued on, NYCFC began to grow into the match, slowly gaining more and more time on the ball after the first hydration break at the 30-minute mark. To make matters worse, Philadelphia saw the first yellow card of the match issued to Jose ‘El Brujo’ Martinez in the 34th minute.
Martinez grew impatient will defending NYCFC’s creative play-maker Maxi Moralez. Moralez was using his hand to ward off Martinez, which Martinez slapped away. Martinez then lost his composure and kicked the back of Moralez’s heel causing him to fall to the ground in pain. The yellow was the first of many rough but ultimately needed challenges from Martinez.
Through the final ten minutes of the first half, NYCFC earned three corner kicks but each was handled competently by Philadelphia.
Przybylko saw another healthy chance at goal in the 44th minute but sent his effort over the bar. A few moments later, Martinez took a blatant elbow to the chest from Ronald Matarrita. However, no yellow from the ref.
Two minutes later, Jamiro Monteiro was a half-step late on a sliding challenge. The ref then thought it appropriate to show yellow, causing many players’ frustration levels to rise due to the ref’s inconsistent ways.
The second half was marred by the Orlando heat and humidity. Just ten minutes into the second half, ESPN rolled out a weather-related graphic with registered the “real feel” temperature at 99 degrees Fahrenheit.
The heat took its toll on Philadelphia’s Brazilian midfielder. The 34-year old Ilsinho, starting in place of the injured Sergio Santos, was swapped out in the 57th minute with what looked to be due to cramps.
In comes Anthony Fontana to replace Ilsinho in the 57th minute. At that moment in the match, NYCFC was forcing Philadelphia into difficult situations. The spacing between the lines for Philadelphia became too loose, and Fontana was a crucial factor in keeping the game in reach for Philadelphia.
His quickness allowed for better link-up play from defense to offense, ultimately allowing for more time on the ball in the attacking half.
In steps Aaronson, who ultimately created the goal-scoring moment for Bedoya. Aaronson collected a loose ball and forced play into the box in the moments before Bedoya’s chance. The possession proved useful when Monteiro flicked an aerial switch to the right side of the box for Bedoya. He tried to center a pass to Aaronson but it was deflected, bounced around the box back to Bedoya’s feet, and was then nailed home by Bedoya.
Johnson could only get a hand on it but it was not enough to prevent it from finding the back of the net. Bedoya scored his 20th Union goal and the first of the 2020 season. What a timely goal it was.
The rest of the match can be describe as the “Andre Blake Save Show.”
He was phenomenal in the late stages of the match. One has to think his epic goalkeeping continued to fuel Philadelphia as time wore on.
Blake made three massively important saves in the final 10-15 minutes of the match, which included two from point-blank range. Without his heroics, Philadelphia would’ve surely lost the match. NYCFC had the front foot for the final 15 minutes of play, but Blake continued to show fans why he will remain the club’s go-to keeper moving forward despite some concerns from some of his critics.
With the first match of group play behind them, Philadelphia can recover from the heat and physical tolls a 9 a.m. kickoff brings. Their next match is scheduled for next Tuesday 7/14 against Nashville SC. But with 9 confirmed positive COVID test results prohibiting Nashville from training at full capacity, that match may be canceled. But Philadelphia can simply enjoy the first W of the group stage and let next week play out as it will without worry.
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union