On Wednesday night, the Philadelphia Union faced off against Charlotte FC in the Bank of America stadium down in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was the second time that the two sides have faced off this season, with the Union using a 70th-minute own goal from Kristijan Kahlina to secure a 1-0 victory in the first match. Fortunes would be a little different in this match, as there would be a total of four goals on the night, with the two sides drawing 2-2.
Union at Charlotte Recap
Justin Meram opened the scoring in the 55th minute, and then teammate Karol Swiderski gave the hosts a 2-0 lead in the 61st. The Union would get a goal back in the 70th minute, as substitute Quinn Sullivan would fire a one-timer into the back of the net for his first of the season. The Union would end up getting the match-tying goal in stoppage time of the second half, as Daniel Gazdag would convert yet another penalty.
The Starting XI
In his pre-match press conference, Jim Curtin mentioned that there would be rotation for the match, due to the quick turnaround with LAFC coming to Chester on Saturday night. Well, Jim did not lie when he was talking about rotation, as there were some changes to the starting eleven that some may not have expected.
To start off, Jim changed the formation from what we saw on Saturday night against Cincinnati. The Philly manager went with the 4-4-2 Diamond, rather than the 5-3-2 that he did in the latest match. This most likely had to do with the fact that Jack Elliott was suspended due to his red card, so Jim Curtin only had Lowe and Glesnes to play at center back.
Other changes for the Union saw Tai Baribo and Chris Donovan coming in to replace Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza. More changes in the starting eleven saw Jesus Bueno and Alejandro Bedoya coming into the midfield diamond, essentially replacing Jack McGlynn and Jack Elliott.
The final change was a small one, and it saw Olivier Mbaizo replace Nate Harriel in the right-back spot.
With these changes, the starting eleven for the Union went as follows: Blake, Wagner, Lowe, Glesnes, Mbaizo, Martinez, Bueno, Bedoya, Gazdag, Baribo, and Donovan. With this starting eleven, the bench went as follows: Bendik, Real, Harriel, McGlyn, Rafanello, Torres, Sullivan, Carranza, and Uhre.
Second Half Comeback
At the end of the first half, the score was tied 0-0, with both clubs creating chances but not doing much with them. All of the action would end up coming in the second half in what would be an overall exciting game to watch.
While there were no goals in the whole first half of the match, it did not take long for there to be a goal in the second half. In the 55th minute, Justin Meram would open up the scoring for the hosts. Damion Lowe would block a shot in the box, and then Bedoya had trouble controlling the ball, leading to Meram just slamming the ball past Blake to give Charlotte the 1-0 lead.
Jim Curtin would immediately respond with two substitutions, bringing on his two big strikers Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre for Chris Donovan and Tai Baribo. Curtin would have to look more from his strikers as Charlotte would end up taking a two-goal lead six minutes later in the 61st minute with a goal by Karol Swiderski. Swiderski would connect on a cross right inside the box and would use his head to put it in the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
With his Union side down 2-0 and looking for some creativity and chances from his midfield, Jim Curtin would bring on both Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan for Alejandro Bedoya and Jose Martinez (due to injury). Quinn Sullivan would make his manager look like a genius, as he would put the ball in the net not even 5 minutes after coming on. Sullivan would connect on a pass from Gazdag, sending a one-timer past Kahlina to make it a 2-1 match.
It was Sullivan’s first goal of the season, and it came at a great time for the Union, giving them some hope that they would be able to come back and tie or even win the match. The Union would constantly be on the lookout for the equalizer, and they would get a gift in second-half stoppage time.
Olivier Mbaizo was tripped up in the box, giving the Union a penalty kick at the death. Daniel Gazdag would do what he does, and convert the penalty to give the Union the equalizer. Gazdag’s penalty would be one of the last plays of the match, and the referee would blow the whistle at 2-2. The Union would get a point in the match, and would currently be in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with six matches left to play.
Playoffs are Clinched!
Even though the Union drew to Charlotte on the night, they were still able to clinch a spot in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs due to other results around the league.
Going into the night, the Union either needed to get the three points themselves to clinch, or they would also be able to clinch with a draw and having both Chicago and DC United either lose or draw. Due to the fact that the Union drew to Charlotte 2-2, they would need both the Chicago Fire and DC United to either draw or lose their matches. Both clubs would end up doing what they needed to do, as Chicago would fall to the Columbus Crew by a score of 3-0 and DC United would draw with Atlanta United by a score of 1-1.
This will be the sixth consecutive year that the Union will be in the playoffs, and they will continue to look for the club’s first MLS Cup trophy.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union