After a 10-day break, the Union traveled down to Florida to kick off the second half of their MLS season against Orlando City SC on Wednesday night. The eastern conference showdown with The Lions came on the back of a 2-1 loss on the road to San Jose, which snapped Union’s 4-game win streak, and 9-game unbeaten streak.
Though they knew leaving Orlando with 3 points would be no easy feat, even with Orlando missing a few important names on their roster, Union would have to do it without a few key pieces of their own, making a positive result that much harder to achieve for Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Union vs Orlando City recap
Wednesday’s showdown saw the likes of Quinn Sullivan, Brandon Craig, and Jack McGlynn return from international duty with the USMNT U20s and available for selection for the first time in a number of games. In addition to the homegrowns’ return, Union Captain Ale Bedoya was also available for selection Wednesday night for the first time since Union’s match on May 17th against DC United.
The reintegration of a few names comes with the absence of some other key names on the Unions roster. Both Andre Blake and Damion Lowe are going to miss a minimum of 3 games while serving international duty with Jamaica. Daniel Gazdag just returned from international duty of his own with Hungary and wasn’t quite ready to go against Orlando City. In addition to those names, former Orlando City midfielder Andres Perea missed Wednesday night’s revenge match with a sickness. So with the revolving door that is the Union’s availability this season, here’s how Jim Curtin had his team line-up.
Jim reverted back to the 4-4-2 Diamond for the first time in a while as a result of missing Damion Lowe to international duty. Some might think this was a good time for homegrown Brandon Craig to get his first start with the first team, but throwing him into the 3-back system, on the road, coming back from International duty is probably a big ask for a young kid, so Union stick with Glesnes and Elliott as the 2 center backs.
Kai Wagner and Oliver Mbaizo filled out the backline in front of Joe Bendik, who was back in net Wednesday night in place of Andre Blake.
In the midfield, Jose Martinez returned to the lineup after serving his yellow card accumulation suspension against San Jose. In front of him you saw Leon Flach as the shuttler on the left, Jack McGlynn on the right, and Joquin Torres as the #10 in place of Daniel Gazdag.
Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza were the two strikers up top.
Union can’t capitalize off good start, concede early go-ahead goal
I actually thought Union started this game pretty well. They looked involved early, Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza were getting in the box and the cast around them were looking to feed them early, and Union actually had the first solid look of the game in the 4th minute, when the ball found its way to Joaquin Torres on the right side of the field all alone in the box, but his shot was directly at Orlando goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar, who swallowed the shot easily. It felt like Union might be building some momentum to jump out to a lead on the road, but in the 13th minute, Orlando City finds a goal against the run of play.
Orlando recovered the ball in the middle of the pitch and played quickly to Martin Ojeda. Ojeda one-touch flicked the ball through the back line to Duncan McGuire, whose first touch was heavy and looked to be one that could be swept away by Jakob Glesnes. But before Glesnes could clear the ball, McGuire’s 2-foot slide into the ball came away from the challenge with the ball cleanly. He finished the play with his left foot past a diving Joe Bendik and it’s 1-0 Orlando.
There wasn’t much to marvel at in the remaining 32 minutes of the half, but in the 30th minute of the first half, Joe Bendik was called into action again as Orlando looked to double the lead before the half. A corner from Orlando City finds a towering Antonio Carlos who gets a free head on the ball. The attempt goes straight into the ground, and before bouncing into the top portion of the goal’s netting, Bendik does well to tip the ball over the bar to keep the game at 1-0, a save that proved to be crucial in deciding the points in this match.
That was just about it for chances in the first half, though. The two teams went into the half pretty even when looking at things from a state-line perspective. Possession, accurate passes, total passes, passes in the own half, passes in the opposition half, accurate crosses, and tackles won were all pretty close to being identical, but the difference in the half was Orlando’s 5 shots to Union’s 3, an xG of 0.60 to Union’s 0.19, and of course, the 1 and only goal. Going into the half 1-0 meant Union was still in the game.
3-goal second-half result in dramatic ending
Once again, Union started the second half well and had a chance to equalize the game soon after kicking off the final 45 minutes.
In the 52nd minute of the match, Leon Flach played a nice ball along the left sideline to spring Mikael Uhre down the flank. Uhre, along the sideline, saw Flach, Torres, and Carranza making a darting run toward the 6-yard box in the middle of the penalty area. Uhre zipped a left-footed pass along the ground into the middle of the box, which was flicked on by Joaquin Torres and fell to Juliana Carranza, who had to dig the ball out of his feet a bit, which delayed him just enough time for Mason Stajduhar to come out and smoother the attempt by Carranza to keep Orlando up 1-0.
The union should have equalized there. But to pour salt in the wounds, Orlando turn around just a minute later and double the lead with a Duncan McGuire deflection on a shot from outside the box that Joe Bendik couldn’t readjust to keep out. It was 2-0 and the hole just got that much deeper. It felt like that might be it for the night to be honest. While the effort from Union was certainly there, you just didn’t feel like a comeback from a 2-0 lead deficit was coming.
However in the 60th minute, just 7 minutes after Orlando doubled their lead, Union found a bit of little to crawl themselves back in the game when a cross from the right side of the field from Jack McGlynn fell in no-mans-land and somehow found its way into the back of the net to reduce the lead to 2-1. Game on.
Union put their foot on the pedal from that point forward, searching for the second-half equalizer, but were struggling to muster up a strong opportunity to do so, but this team has the ability to find a goal out of nowhere when they need it.
In the 85th minute, Orlando thought they had the dagger when Kara was able to bull his way past the Union backline, forced his way through a back-tracking Jack McGlynn, and played the ball off for Ivan Angulo in the middle of the box and an empty net staring at him, and he buries it to make it 3-1, which was probably enough to seal the deal for Union’s second straight loss.
However, before the play can be re-started, the referee is instructed to take a look at an elbow in the build-up leading to the goal, and after taking a look, he concluded that there was, in fact, a foul on Jose Martinez that affected the build-up, and as a result, would lead to Angulo’s dagger being waved off, and the game remains 2-1 in the 88th minute.
The Union were still in the game and were doing everything they could to get the ball wide, get guys in the box, and play the ball in, hoping for a last-minute equalizer, and in the 89th minute, Union found just that. A left-footed cross from Kai Wagner was easily headed away by the Orlando City defense, but the clearance rolled straight to Jose Martinez, who was already leaning toward the Orlando net in an attempt to keep the ball in the cycle for Union.
Martinez realized the ball was rolling at a perfect pace directly to him and that no Orlando defenders were closing down on him quickly, so Martinez carried his momentum into the rolling ball, hitting the bouncing ball on a one-time volley, and absolutely ripped a dipping and swirling ball off the post and into the back of the net from 30 yards out to tie the game in the final minute!
Jose Martinez’s equalizing blast was the first of El Brujo’s MLS career, and came on the 96th shot attempt of his MLS career, with 95 of those shot attempts also coming from outside of the box. This truly was the goal Union fans have been dying to see Martinez score for so long now, and the only thing that would have made it better was the goal happening at Subaru Park.
I think it’s safe to say that you’re going to hear a few fans yelling “Shooooot” on Saturday night, hoping to see Martinez reenact the goal-of-the-week candidate at home. This one wasn’t over yet though, not without the two teams trading a chance to take all 3 points each. Orlando’s chance to steal the game came first, in the 94th minute, when Gonzalez let a shot from the left side of the box rip, and it beat the diving hand of Joe Bendik but was denied by the crossbar, keeping the game level.
Just moments later, in the 96th minute, Union got the chance of their own, when Nate Harriel played a dangerous ball into the middle of the box, where Mikael Uhre spun and reached behind him to deflect the ball on net, but much like Gonzalez on the other end of the pitch minutes before, Uhre’s game-winner was denied by the crossbar, and that would be the last chance of the night. Union left Orlando with 1 point after going down 2-0. It’s another game in which Union showed a lot of heart and fight in order to earn something from a bad situation.
What’s next for The U?
All-in-all, tonight’s one of the nights where a draw sort of feels like a win. Missing Andre Blake, Damion Lowe, and Daniel Gazdag from the starting lineup, going down 2-0, and still being able to earn a point from things isn’t something to be disappointed about, though I do think this was another game that Union had enough chances to ultimately take all 3 points.
The 2-2 draw on the back of Jose Martinez’s 90th-minute equalizer brings Union to 31 points overall, which currently has them at 4th in the Eastern Conference after 18 games. New England sits 2 points ahead of Union in 3rd, and Nashville is 4 points ahead with a game in hand. But at the top of the East, it’s FC Cincinnati, who is currently sitting at 43 points, an 8-point lead on the supporters shield race.
31 points for Union is also good enough to have the currently 6 points clear of the final playoff spot in the east. It’s another good result for Union, and hopefully, it’s the start of another long unbeaten streak. It won’t be long before that’s tested though, with Union having a quick turnaround, hosting David Beckham’s Inter Miami at Subaru Park on Saturday night.
Miami currently sits in last place in the East but is awaiting the arrival of Lionel Messi, who obviously is anticipated to make a difference in South Florida and around MLS in general. And while Messi won’t be playing for Miami and likely won’t even be in attendance, Subaru Park only has standing-room tickets left for Union’s return home on Saturday night.
Saturday will mark 3 weeks since Union last played at home, where they beat Montreal by a score of 3-0, and the energy felt better than it has in a long time. I’d strongly suggest making it down to Subaru Park if you can find a ticket, but if you can’t, be sure to catch the U in action against Inter Miami at 7:30 pm EST on Saturday night via MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia