Union advance to Leagues Cup Round of 16 after beating DC on penalty kicks

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

The Philadelphia Union played in a match that was not very aesthetically pleasing, but one that helped them advance in the knockout round of Leagues Cup. They drew DC United 0-0 and then beat them 5-4 in six rounds of penalties to advance from the Round of 32 to the Round of 16.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union Leagues Cup Round of 32 recap

A sluggish night for Philly

Philly came into this Round of 32 matchup with eight days of rest, and it seemed like that may have created some rust for this side. After beating Tijuana 3-1, and Querétaro 5-1 in the group stage, Philadelphia’s form was flying high. Enter a DC side that was very compact and organized and willing to make the game ugly to knock the home side off their game.

Jim Curtin stuck with his recently preferred 3-5-2 lineup. Andre Blake captained the side in goal; Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliot, and Damion Lowe were the three center-backs ahead of him. Kai Wagner was in the left-wing back, and Oliver Mbaizo came in at right-wing back. The central midfielders were the Venezuelan duo, Jesus Bueno and Jose Martinez. Daniel Gazdag was the number 10, and Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre led the line.

This side is very much Curtin’s preferred XI right now, but they struggled to break DC down. Wayne Rooney had his team ready to sit in and allow Philadelphia to control the ball. He knew that the Union doesn’t like to have the majority of possession, and basically said beat us with the ball if you can. for the majority of this match, it looked like the answer to that question was going to favor the away side. Philly only created eight shots, three of which were on target while having the majority of possession. It was definitely an uncomfortable place for the hosts, and after 64 minutes things popped off.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

25 minutes of pure chaos

In the 64th minute Julian Carranza was played in on goal, and he chipped an onrushing Alex Bono. The Union striker did his best to shield off two DC defenders who were giving it their all to stop the ball from rolling into the net, but they couldn’t do so. It looked like Philly had scored, but he was whistled for pulling back a DC defender, and the goal was waived off. This was a tipping point in the match. It was already a cagy affair, but after this point things got ugly.

The call from the referee was immediate, and it caused both teams to be supercharged and heated. There was a moment for the ref to calm the game down by discussing with both sides why there was no goal, and no card for the foul; instead, the game was allowed to continue right away. Just two minutes after there was a hard foul by DC’s Chris Durkin on Philly’s Daniel Gazdag.

Gazdag took offense to that foul from behind and pushed Durkin’s chest. Durkin rolled around violently on the ground holding his face, as if he got hit higher than he actually was. The goal was to get the ref to brandish a card in the red variety, but it was a yellow for Gazdag as the referee was not fooled. The rest of the match saw DC defend for their lives and Philly struggle to create any real chance of consequence. The match would end 0-0, and penalty kicks would be needed to decide who would advance.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

PK heroics from unexpected players

As PK’s began, it would be DC who shot first. Christian Benteke stepped up and fired past the diving Andre Blake. Philly looked to tie up the shootout score with Daniel Gazdag, a player who has been money from the penalty spot all year. Unfortunately for Gazdag, his magic wore off a bit at this moment as he hit a shot toward the side of the diving Bono. DC had a huge advantage going into the second round of shots, where Mateusz Klich rolled the ball past Blake. The Union did get on the board thanks to Julian Carranza smashing his pen past Bono.

It was 2-1 in favor of DC heading into round three of shots. Derrick Williams scored his penalty to make it 3-1, but Jack Elliot answered for the Union to cut the deficit to 3-2. The fourth round of shots is where things took a turn. Chris Durkin, the player who tried to get Gazdag sent off after fouling him, skied his penalty above the bar. It was DC’s first miss, and the Union could tie the shootout score at three if Jac McGlynn could score his PK.

McGlynn was ice cold as he stepped up and beat Bono. It was 3-3 after four rounds of shots. Round five saw DC’s Eric Davis score, and Philadlephia’s Jesus Bueno score as well. The shootout was now in the sudden death rounds of kicks. DC’s Pedro Santos stepped up and hit a shot that sent Andre Blake the wrong way but struck the post and bounced away from the goal line. DC had missed and now the Union’s hopes laid on the shoulders of right back Oliver Mbaizo.

Mbaizo has been a stellar player for Philadelphia this season, but in big-pressure moments has shown lapses in concentration. Add to this the pressure of his wife and son not being allowed into the country due to visa issues, which prompted him to reportedly want a transfer away from the club, and this footballer seemed like the most unlikely person to be the hero. The Cameroonian defender stepped up and hit a penalty which was too hot to handle for Bono as he couldn’t push the shot away. The Union won and advanced to Leagues Cup Round of 16!

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Up Next: Red Bulls come to Chester in the Round of 16

Philadelphia will not have a long time to dwell on this match. It was a performance that was not great, but they move on and now have to focus on playing New York Red Bulls at home on Monday night in the Round of 16.

Red Bulls won their group and beat their cross-river rival NYCFC 1-0 thanks to an in-game penalty kick. Now they will renew their “rivalry” in a brand new competition!

Philly will need to be much better on that night than they were against DC if they want to keep their Leagues Cup hopes alive to make the quarterfinals!

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union