Union advances to first-ever MLS Cup Final; beat NYCFC 3-1

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The Philadelphia Union came back to win the eastern conference final over NYCFC. They advance to their first-ever MLS Cup where they’ll face LAFC next Saturday! The battle for the eastern conference crown was a rematch of last year’s ECF, and the tables turned to favor Philadelphia this time around!

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CHESTER, PA – JULY 16: Philadelphia Union Midfielder Daniel Gazdag (6) is congratulated by teammates for scoring on a penalty kick during the second half of the Major League Soccer Match between the New England Revolution and Philadelphia Union on July 16, 2022, at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Union comeback to beat NYCFC

The Philadelphia Union worked hard for 329 days since falling to NYCFC in the 2021 conference final. With a second crack at the team that knocked them out last year, and a team not ravaged by Covid-19, Philly stepped up in a huge way.

This time around it was NYCFC who had a bit of an injury bug. Defender Maxime Chanot and attacker Talles Magno were both out for this game, but NYCFC was able to work around their absence. Luckily for the away side, Maxi Moralez (NYCFC’s captain and talisman) was able to play a huge role in the game. Philly’s captain was up for the match as well; Alejandro Bedoya made his first start since the middle of September, and the vibes were up at Subaru Park.

1st Half

As the game opened up two things were clear. One, the Union were going to rely on their pressure on the ball, their pace of play, and the crowd to get after NYCFC. Two, NYCFC was content to muck the game up early on to throw off Philly’s rhythm. It worked in NYCFC’s favor in the first half.

Philly was trying to connect on longer passes over NYCFC’s back three. They felt their strikers Uhre and Carranza could stretch the field and Gazdag and the other midfielders could exploit the spaces in the middle that were left unmarked. The Union’s passing was just a bit off in the first half, and NYCFC looked to control the ball and slow the game down by any means possible.

New York City was able to take Philly’s pace out of the game by connecting on passes in the wide areas, and by winning lots of free kicks and goal kicks for their side. This helped NYCFC chip away at the clock, and get Philly to extend their shape a bit. Luckily it didn’t lead to a goal for the visitors in the first half. The game was tied at zero going into halftime, but there were fireworks to come in the second half.

As the teams went to the locker rooms two trainers were flanking Alejandro Bedoya. He had a towel on his head and was limping and grimacing. His night was over at the half and his replacement Jack McGlynn would come in to replace Philly’s captain. He was a big reason the Union was able to win the match the way they did in the second half.

2nd Half

The second half began and both teams were shot out of a cannon. NYCFC opened their game up a whole lot. They looked like themselves after not playing that way in the first half. Their passing and movement were crisp and it lead to the opening goal of the night. A six-pass sequence off of a goal kick turned the Union inside out and Maxi Moralez finished off the exercise with an exquisite finish.

It was 1-0 to NYCFC in the 57th minute. The visitors were close to finding a second just minutes later but Philly keeper Andre Blake made an incredible save to keep the deficit at one; Philly used that as a rallying call to get things going in their favor.

In the 65th minute, the Union had a free kick that they took early. Defender of the year Jakob Glesnes hit a perfect ball to the foot of Julian Carranza. The pass put Carranza in on goal and hit the effort first time past a sliding Sean Johnson. Philly tied the game up 1-1, and they weren’t going to let their opponents try to get the upper hand again.

Just two minutes later The Union was on the attack again. Mcglynn was on the ball with acres of space and time. He picked out the run of Carranza into the New York City Box. Carranza cushioned a header into the path of a streaking Gazdag. The Hungarian collected himself and smashed a shot into the roof of the net. It was 2-1 Union in the blink of an eye! With the lead, this Philly team wanted to continue to play their game and look for a third goal. About eight minutes later they found it through the work of another substitute.

Cory Burke has been a Union player now for five seasons. He was once a starter and is now the Union’s super-sub. Tonight he showed his ability to grind, and will his way into creating an attacking chance. The Union forward bodied an NYCFC player near midfield to create a turnover, then straight up the middle. He got past one NYCFC defender, then a second as he entered the box. A heavy touch took the ball toward Gazdag, but an NYCFC player got in the way. The ball bounced nicely right back to Burke and he smashed a shot past Johnson to make it 3-1 in the 75th minute!

Philly was on cloud nine after completing this comeback and was now comfortably up two goals with 15 minutes to play. The Union suffocated NYCFC’s chances and rode out the final minutes in style. The final whistle came, and the crowd erupted. Philadelphia is going to MLS Cup Final! The players celebrated on the field lifting the conference trophy, but the job isn’t done, they have one more match to win and a bigger trophy to lift.

Match highlights

Union goes to LAFC in the 2022 MLS Cup Final

The Union goes to LAFC for the 2022 MLS Cup Final! Saturday, November 5th at 4 pm ET the two best teams in MLS will clash to see who will triumph and become champions of MLS! This is the first year that the two number 1 seeded teams will meet in the final since 2003 (Chicago vs San Jose).

Can the Union pull off the unimaginable? Can they beat the team that edged them out of the Supporters’ Shield race? We’ll have to wait for Saturday to find out. Until then the teams will get some much-needed rest and rehabilitation and prep for the biggest game of the year!

Relive how the Union made their first-ever MLS Cup

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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

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