Philadelphia Union dominate Saprissa & advance to Champions League Quarterfinals

Union, Cavan Sullivan
Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire

There will be cheers echoing from the City of Brotherly Love tonight after the Philadelphia Union decimated Saprissa in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League clash in front of their beloved home fans. Here’s all you need to know from the game.

Philadelphia Union come out swinging

The first half started as most CONCACAF games do – Shaky from both sides as they try and find their footing. About 10-15 minutes in is when the game settled down and the Philadelphia Union took control. They had the better part of play and handled the Saprissa counter very well. Saprissa continuously tried to attack down their right side but to no avail. And, as to be expected, every time Blanco touched the ball he was harassed by the fan’s boos and the Union player’s tackles. Offensively, the Boys in Blue created quite a lot of chances, which is exactly what they needed to do.

Jakob Glesnes had the first of these chances as he hammered a ball of the post on a right-footed half volley from a corner. Then Kacper had some golden ones that were squandered and left everyone wondering if the Union would regret these missed opportunities as they have in the past.

Star power

To go along with a solid team performance in the first half, a couple Union players stood out.
The first player of note, and one I am always apprehensive to praise was Jose Martinez. His passing, as we’ve seen in the past was shaky to start, but as always, his tackling and intercepting of opposing passes was on point. Once he settled in his passing vastly improved and he started connecting play which led to Union attacks.

The other top performer of the half was Anthony Fontana. He was much more involved than in the first leg. He dropped into space, received the ball, and the proceeded to make the defense uncomfortable crossing balls in from both sides, playing piercing through-balls, and running at the back line of Saprissa. The half ended nil-nil on the scoresheet but despite the missed chances the Union had to have gone into the locker room with confidence for the second half.

Putting the nail in the coffin

It’s either that or Jim Curtin is the best half-time-talk-giver in all of sports. At least in terms of lighting a fire under his forwards. Two minutes into the second half, after some nifty dribbling by Fontana, he was taken down in the box for a penalty kick. Jamiro Monteiro stepped up to the spot and fired the ball straight down the middle for the Union’s first goal of the night.

The play then slowed down a bit for all five minutes as the Union got a corner at the River End. It was headed home by none other than the friendly striker Kacper Przybyłko making up for the two first half misses. The third goal of the game also came in quick succession as three minutes after Kacper’s header, Fontana, the Unions’s next homegrown superstar, placed the ball in the bottom left-hand corner to get his first goal of the season.

This all but buried the game and gave some much needed rest to the starters in preparation for the start of the MLS season. On the other side of that coin, it gave some much needed playing time to those on the bench. We saw debuts from Findlay, Mcglynn, Sullivan, and Santos who all came in and it honestly felt as though the team didn’t change at all. They kept the flow going and continued with the high level of play that we saw from the starters, which is always what you want from your subs.

The Philadelphia Union are quarter-finalists!

The game ended 4-0 (5-0 aggregate) as Monteiro got his second goal of the game in the 89th minute of play. From first whistle to last the Union never looked like losing this game or the overall tie. They commanded play with 54% possession and outshot Saprissa 14-5. Even against a depleted Saprissa side, the Philly side never took them lightly and got business done at home. The Union now advance to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League and will meet MLS foe Atlanta United in that round. This is a massive achievement for the Union with this being their first time in this competition and the future of 2021 is bright for the Boys in Blue if they can carry this form into MLS play.

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire