Philadelphia went down to the brand new stadium GEODIS Park where the Union looked to spoil Nashville’s party. Mikael Uhre scored his first-ever MLS goal and the first-ever goal at GEODIS Park, but a late penalty conversion from Nashville meant the teams would split points.
Union Spoil Nashville’s Party
The match was one of high intensity. Both teams were flying around the pitch trying to play their game. The Union was in their familiar 4-1-2-1-2 formation allowing them to stay narrow and press the crap out of Nashville; Nashville was in a 3-4-2-1 that allowed them to get their wingback forward, and attacking 10s Mukhtar and Leal in wider areas to create. The two teams and styles make for a great match.
In the first half the Union had a clear game plan: survive. Jim Curtin said as much on the ESPN broadcast at halftime when the score was 0-0. He wanted his team to be sound defensively, and weather the storm of Nashville and their 30,000 plus fans. The main reason the Union went into halftime at 0-0 was the super-human efforts of Andre Blake. Blake made save after save, one of which from point-blank range that should’ve been a goal by Alex Muyl. As the match moved to the second half, Philly had more room to counter.
In the second half, the Union found some areas to hit Nashville on a counterattack. The Union was trying to smash and grab all three points. In the 66th minute, they thought they might have done enough to do just that. A quick turnover in the Union’s half was played to Daniel Gazdag. The Hungarian midfielder played a ball over the top of the Nashville centerbacks to find Mikael Uhre. Uhre took a touch in the Nashville box and was pursued by MLS defender of the year Walker Zimmerman. Uhre cut the ball from his left foot to his right, making Zimmerman fly by him; he was now in on goal and slotted a shot under an onrushing keeper Joe Willis. Could Philly hold the lead; would the Union spoil Nashville’s party?
The answer to that question is yes, to a point. In the 83rd minute Jose “El Brujo” Martinez was defending a corner but left his arm out when he was jumping. The ball struck it in the box, and it was called a penalty. It is a stone-cold pen, that even Martinez didn’t argue. Randal Leal stepped up to take the shot and was able to put it just over the outstretched arm of Andre Blake. The match then ended 1-1; it was a good road point for Philly. The Union did spoil Nashville’s party but could’ve had all three points from this one.
The Union got a good road draw to start a hectic May. The team played well against one of the most structured teams in MLS. Philly was able to play well enough on the road to spoil Nashville’s party, and there are three main takeaways to look at from this match.
1. Ande Blake is the best in MLS
It goes without saying that Andre Blake is the best goalkeeper in all of MLS. His performance in Nashville showed just why he is the best. He made five huge saves in this match, most coming in the first half to keep the Union in the game. Blake is one of the main reasons why the Union were able to spoil Nashville’s party. He’s at the top of his game yet again, and the Union are going to be a force to be reckoned with in MLS if he keeps playing this way.
2. Uhre gets his first goal
It finally happened! Mikael Uhre scored his first goal for the Union, and oh boy is it a memorable goal. His ability to take down the long ball from Gazdag, out run, and out smart the two-time reigning defender of the year Walker Zimmerman, and get a perfect shot to beat Joe Willis was a joy to see. This could be the opening of the floodgates for his goalscoring talley. We’ll see if he can keep things going next Saturday at LAFC.
3. failing to hold a lead again
While the Union did spoil Nashville’s party, they didn’t take all three points. This is now the third game in a row where Philly has taken the lead and failed to hold it. Those three matches were against, Toronto and Montreal, two playoff sides in the east who appear to be rising, and Nashville at their home opener with 30,000+ screaming fans. This isn’t a great trend, but it’s unlikely to be a concern for this group. As long as Philly can draw on the road and find ways to hold wins at home, then they’re going to stay at the top of the east and maybe even the top of MLS.
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Mandatory Credit: Kevin Langley/Icon Sportswire