The Philadelphia Union came back to MLS after six weeks of Leagues Cup play. Philly secured a Concacaf Champions Cup spot in that tournament, and they were hoping to keep their momentum moving in a positive direction as they returned to league play. With three matches in nine days, they needed to hit the ground running and did just that against DC United.
Union at DC Recap
Last season the Union put up 13 goals and gave up none in two matches against DC United. This year, a goalless draw at home, and a nil-nil PK win in Leagues Cup saw Philly keep a slim advantage over DC. This match to restart their MLS play saw shadows of last season!
The Union went back to their 4-4-2 diamond formation. Blake had the captain’s armband in net, and the back four consisted of Wagner, Elliot, Glesnes, and Harriel! The midfield diamond had Martinez at the base, McGlynn and Bueno at the shuttlers, and Gazdag at the tip. Uhre and Carranza were the two strikers up top.
The bench looked good too, with new striker Baribo available, and super-sub Bedoya (who scored two goals in as many matches coming back from injury)! This Philly team was raring to go!
A 3-goal 1st half
Philadelphia’s ability to play a cohesive pressing game when in the 4-4-2 diamond formation is a sight to see. The players seem more comfortable and know when to step forward, especially higher up the field. This led to the first goal of the game for Philly just five minutes into the game. Daniel Gazdag dispossessed DC by the corner flag. He played Julian Carranza into the box; he picked his head up and found a streaking Mikael Uhre. Uhre one-timed a shot that was able to get the better of “MLS All-Star” goalkeeper Tyler Miller. It was 1-0 Union early on, and they kept coming.
Less than 10 minutes later Philly had their second goal. They stopped a DC attack and then looked to break forward. Jose “El Brujo” Martinez moved the ball down the right flank. He beat one defender and kept sprinting. He chipped a last-ditch tackle from another DC defender and was able to move into the attacking third. He whipped in a cross that missed its intended target, but the ball died in the box. An onrushing Jack McGlynn ran onto the ball and smashed it home. Now at 2-0, 13 minutes in Philadelphia was in the driver’s seat.
Just before the half-hour mark, a vital piece of the Union’s squad went down with an injury. Jose Martinez went down and received some treatment, but tried to power on. A few minutes later, he went down again and had to be subbed out in the 26th minute. Leon Flach replaced him at the base of the diamond, and this could have been the lynchpin for a DC comeback if they were able to create any real threatening attacks. They couldn’t, but Philly could!
In the 36th minute, Daniel Gazdag played Julian Carranza in on goal. DC keeper Tyler Miller rushed out to stop the chance, but Carranza chipped him. The attempt went wide of the goal, but Miller clattered into Carranza in the box. It was a clear foul; Miller was given a yellow card for his recklessness, and the Union had a PK. Who else would step up but Daniel Gazdag? He was perfect from the spot in the regular season, and he smashed this effort home. Philadelphia was up 3-0 and took that lead into halftime!
Defensive brilliance in the 2nd half
In the second half, DC came out looking to get a goal early on to flip this match on its head. They almost did so through Christian Benteke. He looked to have gotten the better of Union keeper Andre Blake. Blake was able to get a hand to the DC attempt but it didn’t look like it was enough as the ball was moving toward Philly’s goal line. The ball never crossed the line, as Andre’s touch was enough to take the momentum of the shot and move the ball to the post. Glesnes was able to stop two more follow-up attempts off the line to preserve the 3-0 lead.
After that initial warning shot, the Union’s defense continued to stand stoutly. Glesnes had one of his best matches in a Union shirt, Jack Elliot had a strong showing as well. The sound defense allowed the Union to uncharacteristically use the ball later in the match. The number of passes that the team was able to put together led from their backline to the midfield, and then the forwards. It was nice to see Philly play that well with the ball after having their lead.
DC was able to find one goal in the match through youngster Teddy Ku-Dipietro. He came on the field in the last 15 minutes and created a good spark. He torched Leon Flach, was able to run about 10 yards unchallenged, and riffled a shot from outside the box that was too high and fast for Blake to parry. Flach should’ve done better, but the shot was a thunderbolt. It was 3-1, but Philly would see out the rest of this one.
Up Next for the Union: a midweek trip to Toronto
With a huge three points, the Union moves into second place in the Eastern Conference. FC Cincinnati holds an 11-point lead atop the east and a 10-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield race. Philly surpassed New England to take second place. The Union sits on 43 points, and so do The Revolution and Orlando; Columbus and Atlanta sit just less than a win behind Philly. The race for the Supporters’ Shiled may be over, but the race for second place in the East is definitely on!
Philly now moves on to play their second match in nine days this coming Wednesday night up in Toronto. TFC sits in last place in the east and has been struggling to get their stars to play well, while also having no coach to lead the team at the moment. This could be another huge opportunity to get three more road points!
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union