Match recap: Union’s unbeaten streak snapped by late Real Salt Lake winner

Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

For the first time in just about a month, the Philadelphia Union returned to Subaru Park on Saturday night against one of the Western Conference’s hottest teams to start the 2024 season in Cristian Arango and Real Salt Lake.

The Blue and Gold came into Saturday’s inter-conference clash as Major League Soccer‘s only unbeaten team, sporting a record of 4W-3D-0L for 13 points through 7 games – good enough to have them just 5 points off the Supporters Shield race with games in hand on all the teams sitting above them.

Daniel Gazdag made Union history with his 56th goal since coming to Philadelphia, but it was Real Salt Lake that left Subaru Park with 3 points on Saturday night after a last-minute winner snapped Union’s unbeaten streak to start the 2024 season.

Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Union Starting XI

Jim Curtin went back to the 4-4-2 diamond against RSL on Saturday night and made a few changes from the team we saw against Atlanta 2 weeks ago. Andre Blake was fit enough for Curtin to throw between the posts even with a match against Seattle on Tuesday night. Nate Harriel, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, and Kai Wagner made up the backline in front of him. Jose Martinez kept his spot at the bottom of the diamond, with Jack McGlynn, Daniel Gazdag, and Ale Bedoya in front of him. Quinn Sullivan and Julian Carranza led the attack up front.

Leon Flach returned to the bench for the first time this season, but Damion Lowe and Markus Anderson were left off the sheet altogether – which raises some questions for Tuesday as both players were in the starting lineup against Seattle on March 9th and both teams have to start the same set of players in the re-match.

Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Gomez gets Real Salt Lake off the mark

Both teams traded chances in the opening minutes of the game but created nothing dangerous enough to trouble Andre Blake or Zac MacMath in net. In the 34th minute of the game, Cristian Arango evaded a tackle in the midfield, progressed up the field with the ball at his feet, and laid a ball off to Andres Gomez on his right-hand side. Gomez ripped a shot on net which stung the palms of Andre Blake, but the save from Blake deflected straight up in the air and dribbled across the line to give RSL the first-half lead on the road.

The goal from Gomez marks the 5th time in 8 games that Jim Curtin’s Union has conceded the opening goal. No matter how good of a team you are, you can only come back from so many early goal deficits before it comes back to haunt you.

Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Daniel Gazdag’s equalizer puts him level with Sebastien Le Toux as Union’s all-time leading goal scorer

In the 50th minute of the game and with the Union down 1-0, a Jack McGlynn shot from outside the box was inadvertently deflected by Daniel Gazdag inside the penalty area and found its way out to Quinn Sullivan on Zac MacMath’s right. Sullivan one-touched the ball into the middle of the 6-yard box where Daniel Gazdag was waiting for the pass, and Gazdag back-heeled the ball into an open net to draw the game level.

The goal for Gazdag marks his 56th in a Union shirt, now bringing him level with Sebastien Le Toux as Union’s all-time leading scorer across all competitions. Gazdag’s next goal will make him the sole leading goal scorer in Philadelphia Union history.

Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Union unable to grab late go-ahead goal

Once the equalizer from Gazdag went in, it was Union trying to find another level in the game to see if they could track down another goal and earn points from a losing position once again. The first chance at the lead was a missed opportunity from Daniel Gazdag, who wasn’t expecting a pass from Kai Wagner to make its way through the traffic in the box, and absolutely scuffed the attempt on net from 6 yards out.

Mikael Uhre had a chance to grab the go-ahead goal minutes after subbing into the game in the 70th minute when Nate Harriel squared a pass to Mikael Uhre darting into the 6-yard box, but the pass evaded the out-stretched foot of Mikael Uhre.

Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

RSL steal 3 points with last minute golazo

With the game winding down and Union struggling to create chances at the go-ahead goal, Real Salt Lake stunned Subaru Park with a last-minute winner off the left foot of Alexandros Katranis. A ball into the box was headed out by Jakob Glesnes, but fell to the feet of Katranis. Katranis settled the ball with his first touch and let a left-footed shot fly with his 2nd, which beat Andre Blake in the upper corner of the net to his left-hand side, and it would be enough to secure Real Salt Lake 3 points away from home.

Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Kneejerk Reactions

  • Missed chances end up hurting Union:

    It was a solid display from RSL on the road, but Union probably should have won this game. Union outshot RSL 14-9 but only had 5 attempts on target. Daniel Gazdag and Mikael Uhre both missed sitters inside the 6-yard box to give Union the lead late in the game, but the late-game-heroics tank ran empty on Saturday night. I think Jim Curtin and his team know that this is one they should have won.
  • pre-planning for Tuesday:

    Not only did the Union need to consider some sort of rotation with Seattle coming to town on Tuesday night to make up their game from April 9th, but I forgot that both teams have to start the same players on Tuesday that started the game in early April. That might explain some of the decisions from Jim Curtin on Saturday night regarding the lineup and substation patterns. Mikael Uhre also just welcomed another child into the world, which could be another contributing factor to him starting the game on the bench.
  • Slow start finally burns Union:

    It was the 5th time in 8 games that Union conceded the opening goal of the match. Luckily for Union, resiliency has been the theme so far this season and they were once again able to claw their way back into the game. It looked like Union was going to take points from a losing position once again on Saturday night, but the late goal from RSL finally snapped Union‘s unbeaten streak to start the season. Union is still searching for their first true 90-minute performance of the season.
  • Gazdag close to re-writing history:

    Gazdag’s goal puts him at 56 total in a Union shirt – tied with Le Toux as Union’s all-time leading goal scorer across all comps. The next goal for Gazdag will re-write Union’s history books, reaching an incredible milestone and seeing how high he can raise it at the same time.
  • Is Andre Blake still not 100%?:

    Well, that’s honestly pretty likely, him not being 100%. When asked about it after the game, Andre said “I don’t want to talk about it, honestly”. Andre’s barely had rest over the last few seasons and clearly seems to be battling some reoccurring injuries. Blake was back in the net on Saturday but seemed to be limping around at times. I really hope Andre Blake’s not pushing himself into a long-term injury.
Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

A Look Ahead – Seattle Sounders

Union has no time to sulk on this one, as Seattle Sounders are set to come to Subaru Park on Tuesday night to make up the rained-out match from March 9th. Both teams will be required to pick up the game where it left off, with the same players that started the game on March 9th.

Some exceptions might have to be made as Markus Anderson and Damion Lowe – who started the game against Seattle on March 9th – were both unavailable against RSL Saturday night. Seattle comes into Chester on the back of a 2-1 loss to DC United and has won just once in 9 attempts this season.

Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

First Half

4th – Cristian Arango receives the ball at the top of the 18, turns, and shoots toward the net – but his attempt flies over the top of the bar

5th – Union cycle the ball around the box but can’t get a shot off. Martinez whips a ball into the box from the right side but it’s deflected out for a corner. Nothing going for Union on the ensuing corner.

6th – Gomez drifts in from the left and takes a shot on net but it dribbles into Andre Blake’s hands

7th – Kai Wagner tracks back to deliver a slide tackle on Gomez that keeps RSL from jumping on the counterattack

10th – Carranza works his way past the RSL backline but his shot on net does nothing to trouble MacMath

11th – McGlynn sends a ball over the top that sends Sullivan behind RSL’s backline and is tripped up going for the loose ball. The Union crowd wants a foul but the ref waves it off and play continues. VAR had a look at the play and determined there was no foul on the play

15th – A cross into the box almost finds the head of Carranza but his header is deflected out for a corner

25th – Jack Elliott makes a last-ditch slide tackle on Fidel Barajas in the box just before he takes a shot – it deflects off Barajas and goes out for a Union goal-kick

26th – Quinn Sullivan carries the ball forward through the middle of the field and rips a shot from outside the box but it’s an easy one for Macmath

32nd – Carrnaza receives the ball inside the penalty area but his attempt on net is muffled by an RSL defender

33rd – Jack McGlynn lets a shot fly from outside the box that had quite a bit of pace on it, but the attempt strikes Julian Carranza and deflects out for a goal-kick

34th – RSL GOAL: Cristian Arango carries the ball through the midfield and lays the ball off to Andres Gomez who rips a shot on net – Andre Blake makes the initial save but the ball deflects straight up in the air and dribbles across the goal-line. 1-0 RSL.

40th – RSL’s Cristian Arango receives a yellow card for dissent towards the ref

45th – The half-time whistle blows and Union will go into the break down 1-0.

2nd Half

49th – Aled Bedoya gets the ball along the right side of the pitch and cuts a pass back across the middle of the field to Quinn Sullivan.

50th – UNION GOAL! A ball is played into the middle of the box and Daniel Gazdag back-heels the ball into an open net to draw the game level! The goal marks Daniel Gazdag’s 56th in a Union shirt, tying Sebastien Le Toux as Union’s all-time leading goal scorer

56th – Jose Martinez gets mixed up with Cristian Arango in the box and a scuffle ensues. Jakob Glesnes and RSL’s Brian Vera are given yellow cards.

59th – RSL’s Matt Crooks is shown a yellow card

61st – Wagner sends a perfect cross into the box for Daniel Gazdag but Gazdag wasn’t expecting the pass to make it to his feet and sends the attempt wide

71st – UNION SUBSTITUTION: Mikael Uhre checks into the game for Quinn Sullivan

73rd – Nate Harriel gets the ball inside the penalty area and plays a square pass to Mikael Uhre darting into the 6-yard box, but the pass evades the out-stretched foot of Mikael Uhre. Union is close to a go-ahead goal there.

75th – Yellow card to RSL’s Andres Gomez

78th – Yellow card to Union’s Julian Carranza

88th – UNION SUBSTITUTION: Jesus Bueno subs into the game for Jose Martinez

89th – RSL GOAL: Alex Katranis rips a shot from about 30m yards out that beats Andre Blake to his left-hand side. 2-1 RSL.

90th – 7 minutes of stoppage time is announced by the Referee.

92nd – UNION SUBSTATION: Chris Donovan comes on the field for Nate Harriel

96th – Andre Blake makes a save on a shot inside the penalty area

98th – Yellow Card to Ale Bedoya

99th – Final Whistle – Real Salt Lake win 2-1.

Union
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union