In the biggest moments in a match, who are the players that step up and make the biggest contributions? Most of the time in the game of soccer you think of the flashy attackers as the ones who will be the heroes. You don’t usually see a late-round draft pick of a centerback and an 18-year-old central midfielder become the stars of something so important. But I guess that’s what makes the unpredictability of this game so enthralling right?
Ice in their veins
Jack Elliot and Jack McGlynn both were called upon to take key penalty shots in a shootout to make the franchise’s first-ever conference final, and both struck beautifully taken penalties past Nashville’s keeper Joe Wilis. Both players had the proverbial ice in their veins as they slotted home penalties that would eventually secure that trip to the eastern conference finals. Both of them stepped up when called upon, and it’s important to take a look at just how these two players got to this point and how they made the difference.
Jack Elliot is an ironman
Jack Elliot was a fourth-round draft pick in the 2017 MLS draft going 77th overall. Now he’s a Union ironman who plays every minute of every game and can bang a PK in the playoffs too for good measure! I know, I know, this is almost unheard of nowadays as the Union no longer value the MLS draft, but Elliot’s addition to this Union team has been nothing short of a meteoric rise to greatness.
Elliot was called upon almost immediately from the jump of his tenure with the Union. He paired with Oguchi Onyewu in his first season and then anchored a few different homegrown centerbacks in Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie. Almost inexplicably, Elliot was benched in 2020 when McKenzie and Glesnes paired up to help the Union win the Supporters Shield. Now in 2021, he is a player who has played almost every minute and has shown that he is a huge part of how the Union looks.
Elliot is a part of the great back four the Union has, but what makes Elliot so important is his ability to advance the ball either with his passing or by making a run forward. There are multiple times a game where the ball is at Elliot’s feet with nine players ahead of him; he’s almost allowed to play quarterback and pick the perfect pass or scramble to make the most of the space he has. He has a knack for scoring too as he has 10 goals across his five seasons; not bad for a centerback!
Now as the Union continues to move in the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, Elliot will be a key centerpiece. His ability to be an ironman, play every single minute, and then hit a crucial PK is so so valuable for this team looking to continue this incredible run. The other Jack that scored a Pen in this match is also a very important player who could make an impact.
Jack McGlynn is the future of the Union’s midfield
Jack McGlynn was signed by the Union to a homegrown contract back on August 17, 2020. His contract wasn’t effective with the first team until January, 1 of 2021, but the young teenager would make sure that he’d waste no time making an impact on this Union team. In his first season in Philly, McGlynn has shown his quality in the midfield. He draws comparisons to Brian Carrol and even Ale Bedoya. He got the occasional spot start or substitute appearance, and in the club’s biggest game and the biggest moment, he asked to take a pen and absolutely buried it. This kid is going to be a special player and could be the next homegrown to get a transfer offer from Europe.
McGlynn has a very bright future, and it’s pretty logical to think that this will be crystalized for him in the 2022 MLS season. He seems like a player who is the next man up to come into Philly’s starting XI and play well at the MLS level. Could he have a season the way Brenden Aaronson or Mark McKenzie had in 2020 that sees his time in MLS cut short to go to a top team in Europe? The kid is a baller with ice in his veins so it’s possible!
McGlynn has a killer left foot. He can find a pass that not many other central midfielders can. This means he helps the Union shift from turning teams over in the midfield to creating a dangerous attack in the blink of an eye. Not only does McGlynn have that in his repertoire, but he also has extreme confidence in himself. He asked Jim Curtin to take a penalty and then took it with a stutter step and beat a top keeper in MLS. This kid has it, and he could continue to show up in big moments for this club.
Could McGlynn make another substitute appearance in the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs and make as much of a difference as he did in the conference semifinals? We’ll have to wait to see, but you’d have to think that his “brass ones” that Curtin referenced after the win vs Nashville will have influence in a pinch sooner rather than later.
These two will have yet another part to play in this playoff run
The Union’s pair of Jack’s are going to play a vital role in the eastern conference final. Whether it’s Jack Elliot from the beginning of the game, or Jack McGlynn coming in late on to try and flip the game with his confidence and passing abilities. These two players will have something to say before the final whistle blows on Sunday evening.
Could they be the very difference needed to propel the Union to play in their first-ever MLS Cup? I wouldn’t bet against these two, or this Philadelphia team right now. They believe in themselves and the stars seem to be aligning for them as well.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union via Twitter