The Union sealed their advancement to the knockout stage of MLS is back last week, but with Group A honors, regular season points, and a better seeding on the line, a clash with Orlando City was always going to be a fiery encounter.
The match didn’t disappoint, with both sides giving it everything they had in an end-to-end affair filled with near-misses, should’ve beens, and a surprisingly good quality of refereeing. Here’s everything you need to know.
Skillsinho strikes again
Ilsinho hadn’t scored since the 24th of August 2019 against DC United, but his contributions as a super sub are always so valuable to the Union. They were even more so on Monday night when the 34-year-old came on and found the bottom right corner to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead. He’d looked dangerous in recent games and now that the weight is off his shoulders, we may see a few more eyebrow-raising moves in the knockout stages, with the younger players benefitting from his ability to carve open lanes.
Orlando tighten up
Orlando may have an explosive strike-force, but a re-molded defensive pairing has left a lot to be desired thus far. However, it changed shape consistently on Monday night, keeping the Union honest. With a midfield dropping back so deep, there was little room for Aaronson, who had almost taken on a shadow-striker role, to do damage. This could be a blueprint other teams use in future, and Curtin may well be tempted to shake things up ever so slightly in order to get his supporting players wider and force the opposition to move with them, creating those pockets of space.
Blake is red-hot
Andre Blake has been in stunning form this Summer. A seven-save outing against NYCFC was backed up with some breathtaking saves against Inter Miami and he didn’t slow down against Orlando. A euphoric double-save headlined a stellar day at the office.
Maybe it’s the Celtic interest, or maybe he’s just that good. Either way, Mark Mckenzie was like a magnet on Monday evening, shutting down Chris Meuller, who had 3 goals in 2 games this tournament. The Union were the first team to eliminate the threat of the 23-year-old, and a lot of that comes down to McKenzie’s confident challenges.
Andre Blake 9.5
Kai Wagner 6.5
Jack Elliott 7
Mark McKenzie 9.5
Ray Gaddis 8
Warren Creavalle 6.5
Alejandro Bedoya 7
Sergio Santos 7
Jamiro Monteiro 8.5
Brenden Aaronson 8
The Union will face the runners-up of Group C, who could either be Toronto, DC United, or even the New England Revolution. The game will be played next Saturday at 10:30PM.
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports