The Philadelphia Union got back to their winning ways in a match they desperately needed to win against DC United. The Union’s attacking front three were clicking as all three contributed to the two goals. The midfield and defense held it down limiting most of the mistakes that have been present in the past few matches. The Union triumph over DC once again, but it wasn’t without a lengthy weather delay late in the match.
Union triumph over DC 2-1
The Union came into this match without goalkeeper Matt Freese and midfielder Jamiro Montiero. Both absences were a huge talking point heading into this match. It meant that Joe Bendik would start in goal for Philly and that the midfield would need to be shuffled around. This shuffling allowed Dániel Gazdag to play his most natural position in the number 10 role. His combination with strikers Sergio Santos and Kacper Przybylko would be crucial. If they could figure out how to combine well, then it would help make this attack that has been lackluster of late click. This happened tonight leading to Philly Union triumph over DC.
The first half started off a little shaky. Unfortunately, this has been a normal occurrence for Philadelphia over the last month. DC was able to boss the game out wide and produced a few half chances. While they put all of their effort to beat the Union by overloading the wings, DC left themselves vulnerable to the counterattack. This is the Union’s bread and butter, and in the 11th minute, Philly created one and found the opening goal.
The Union broke out from DC trying to overload the Union’s right side. Mbaizo started the break by dribbling out of pressure, spreading past three players, and drawing a fourth toward him. Bedoya drifted out to the touchline, and Mbaizo found him with open space to run. Bedoya made a run past half field and picked his head up and picked his head up looking for one of the front three. Kacper Przybylko drew one center back out wide right, and Sergio Santos drew another wide left. This left a huge bit of space for Dániel Gazdag to run into. He beat his defender and Bedoya found him.
When the ball came to Gazdag, the centerback covering Santos came in to try and stop the ball. Gazdag felt the pressure coming and instinctively poked the ball forward to a streaking Sergio Santos. Santos was in on goal and put the ball in a tough spot for DC keeper Bill Hamid. The ball went in, the Union led and Sergio Santos went into the stands to celebrate. He got his second goal in as many games and looks to be in raring form, especially when Gazdag can put him in on goal the way he did.
Bendik keeps the Union up
The main question mark in this match was going to be the play of goalkeeper Joe Bendik, but he played a spectacular match. He made two spectacular saves to keep the Union in the match, one of which was in the first half where he made a reflexive save to stop the ball, pushing it onto the crossbar. His play was spectacular on the night where he was called upon to make a rare start. The win was his first in MLS since 2018 as he helped the Union get all three points.
Philly went into halftime with the lead, and they looked the better team. They needed to choke the match out in the second half, however, that is not how things went down.
The second half was a crazy affair that saw DC United wake back up and try to take points from Philly. There was penalty’s called on the field, goals awarded, and VAR checks that took away both of those. After the first five minutes of the second half, it was clear that DC was going to get back into this game.
DC equalize, Penalty’s, and VAR
DC was awarded a penalty in the 51st minute. It was a bit soft of a call, but after a look at the replay, it was the correct call to make. DC’s Yamil Asad stepped up and converted the pen with ease. Things got a little crazy after that.
Within the next few minutes, a penalty was called for the Union. It looked as if Leon Flach won a ball in the box and was chopped down. The call on the field was Penalty, but the referee went to VAR to check and blew it off as no penalty. It was a quick bang-bang play that could have been called either way. Even though the Union didn’t have the opportunity to go up then. They did soon after.
The Union put some continued pressure on the DC net and off a sequence that saw the Union get three corners Sergio Santos put home an effort. Gazdag whipped a cross in Przybylko heard it on and Santos slotted it home. However, after a VAR check happened, it was clear that half of Santos’s body was offside on the Przybylko flick-on. Once again the Union was left wanting but they continued to push on, until…
Union finds the lead again!
The Union found the lead again in the 83rd minute. The Union thwarted a DC attack and looked to move upfield in a hurry. DC kept throwing numbers forward so the counterattack was on right as the ball was turned over. Gazdag played some good defense and broke up the DC effort and found Leon Flach with a lot of space near midfield.
As he picked his head up he saw Przybylko make a run down the left and Santos making a run down the right. There was only one DC defender back to defend both Union strikers, and Flach decided to put the ball over the top toward the speedy Santos. He took two touches into the box, the DC defender was coming toward him. Santos cut the ball back setting up his favored left foot, as the DC defender flew by him not expecting the cutbacks. He then decided to play the ball over to a streaking Przybylko.
The Polish striker had time to square up the ball coming toward him, where Hamid was in the DC goal, and where to place his shot. Przybylko took the chance first time and fired it past the outstretching Hamid at his near post. The Union was up once again and the two Union strikers embraced as they both scored on the night.
The Union’s front three were directly involved in both goals in the build-up and on the stat sheet as well. They were the kets to the Union triumph over DC. Unfortunately, they had to wait even longer to claim the victory thanks to the weather.
In the 85th minute, right after the Union scored their second goal. The referee blew and made the team leave the field. An inclement weather warner was posted on the scoreboard and the heavens opened up. Rain poured down on fans as they made their way under the stands. Even though supporters were not able to watch their team, that doesn’t mean the party stopped as the Union triumph over DC.
The delay lasted about an hour and a half, however, there was some confusion about the rules regarding if the remainder of the match had to be played. Around 10:00 pm EST, some fans thought the match was called and that the result would stand based on an old rule that stated that if a match had to be abandoned after the 75th minute that the result would stand. This is not the case anymore as that rule was changed ahead of this 2021 season; matches have to be played and finished out at some point. Some Union staff told fans the match was called and that the Union won, leading to some major confusion.
After the hour and a half delay, the teams were allowed to come back on the pitch at 11:00 pm EST to warm up and the match was set to resume at 11:20 EST to play out the remaining five minutes plus stoppage time.
The Union came out with five minutes left and parked the bus. This allowed DC to have a few opportunities to find an equalizer. On the stroke of 90 minutes, a good cross was put in the box, but Joe Bendik came out to claim it. There were five minutes added on, which were tense for the fans that remained in the stadium.
Eventually, the match petered out and the Union triumph over DC was complete! It is a huge three points for Philly as they continue on in a busy summer.
A look ahead
This coming week is one of the most crucial stretches of the season for the Union. With this win, the Union did jump ahead of Orlando City SC for second place in the east but still sit four points behind New England for first place. Philly travels down to Orlando to go head-to-head with the Lions on Thursday night (July, 22). They’ll then stay in Florida and take on Inter Miami CF next Sunday (July, 25).
The Union started off three games in an eight-day stretch with a win at home against DC. Now they have to go down to Florida and get points from a very good Orlando side and a Miami side that is scrappy. From this stretch, if Philly can put together five-to-seven points, then they should be able to inch closer to New England for first place in the east. This is a crucial end to the month of July. Will Philly keep the pressure on to threaten for the top of the east?
August will be busy as well starting off with another three games in an eight-day stretch against Chicago and Toronto at home, then finishing with an away trip to New England. The games of consequence role on after that as well as the first leg of the Concacaf semifinals at Mexican giant Club America happens on Thursday, August 12th.
There’s no time to rest for Philly. Things are coming fast and furious right now, will this team be able to handle this hectic schedule? We at Philly Sports Network will be along for the wild ride that is this dog-days-of-summer!
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union via Twitter