Heartbreak in Chester: Union Reserves Fall Short in Conference Final.
Your Philadelphia Union earned the opportunity to host the Eastern Conference Final, but unfortunately the Boys in Blue were met with untimely news. 11 players remained in COVID protocol before the match, and Philly was left short-handed vs NYCFC. AATSports was onsite to cover the game, check out our report!
Mbaizo, Colin, Findlay, Harriel
McGlynn, Martinez, Flach
Amundsen, Callens, Chanot, Gray
Rodriguez, Moralez, Medina
First Half Summary
The lineup was announced about 40 minutes before the match began, and all 11 players remained out because of the league's health protocol. It would be an uphill battle for our Boys in Blue, but what an opportunity for our youth and bench to prove their value today.
Huge credit to the fans today. Subaru Park was LOUD. The players on the field deserved it.
The Union did well within the first five minutes to set the tone and keep NYCFC on their side of the pitch. The first bit of tension came though before the 10th minute. Mbaizo was brought down just outside the box, but it was not deemed a foul. Opposing players soon had a heated exchange of words, with Martinez of course involved. Calmer heads prevailed and play continued. Great start though for this make-shift team.
First shot at Johnson came in the 12th minute. McGlynn took a nice free kick at net, but it was far too easy for the opposing keeper to handle.
NYCFC began to push the ball into the Union's half with more consistency, but Philly did well to keep Freese protected, while also clearing the ball away without issue. You knew NYC would get their chances, but Philly made sure they were minimal to start the half.
NYC earned a corner in the 29th minute, and you could feel the stadium holding its breath as the ball sailed into the air. The Philly D did well though to keep the ball far away from net. Really stout defending from this roster.
I can't say enough about the fans today. Union earned a corner not long after NYC's, and the usual "UNION" chant was at an all-time high. Just remarkable support.
Philly had another great chance at net as the 35th minute approached. The ball was fed to Kacper to the left of Johnson, and Przybylko took a strong shot at net. The angle did not favor the Philly forward, and New York's keeper was able to safely secure it. Regardless, it was keeping NYCFC away from Freese.
The first half finally came to a close, and optimism was obvious from both fans and players. The Union began the match well, and they held their heads up high entering the locker room.
Second Half Summary
Philly continued to keep NYC in their half for the first 10 minutes. Also, quick note on Colin. He didn't play a minute all year, but worked his ass off for 90 minutes. Great performance by the veteran.
Freese passed his first test in the 56th minute. NYCFC had a clear chance from the top of the box, but the strike at Matt was far too easy. He fell to the ground and secured the ball with ease.
NYC tried to take advantage of the Philly's backups in the 58th minute. They brought 3 players on with fresh legs. Curtin remained quiet on the sideline, while his players began to warm up in front of The River End.
The mayhem began in the 63rd minute. Gazdag sent a perfect pass to Kacper, and although NYC's defender made contact, it was an own goal that broke the tie. 1-0 Union, and as the smoke was still clearing in the air, New York struck back. A ricocheted ball off Freese soon found Morales by the front of the net, where he sent one passed the Union keeper. What a huge high, and then a sudden low at Chester. This will be a moment where the "what ifs" come into play. Would the starters have let in such a careless goal? Would Blake have done a better job of sending away the first shot at net? We'll never know.
Jose was brought down in the Philly box in the 70th minute, but soon Miro got a yellow card from the head official. Appeared to be for disagreeing with the call, but it wasn't entirely clear at the time. Mbaizo was the next one in the books in the 75th minute. He brought down another player and was quickly shown a card. Finally, Curtin made his first change. Bueno replaced McGlynn.
Freese made a Blake-esque save just moments after the change. A shot sent Matt flying to his right, but his hand was strong enough to keep the score 1-1. What an amazing save by the young keeper.
A Homegrown product almost put the team up 2-1 in the 87th minute. Mbaizo sent a great cross into the box, and young Harriel leaped for the header. It barely sailed over Johnson, who would have needed a miracle to keep that one out of net. What a chance.
Then it happened. The gut-wrenching moment happened. A ball sailed to the right of Freese, by the edge of the box. Mbaizo just needed to secure or clear it, but he was pushed off the ball from behind. NYC secured the turnover, and put the game winning goal into the back of the net. Union players fell to their knees, and the stadium was the quietest it had been all night. I feel bad for Olivier there, but what a costly mistake that was. We have seen these mental lapses a few times from this club, but they had played well for most of the night. It was tough to give up the deciding goal in that manner.
Four minutes of stoppage time were awarded, and credit to the SOB for continuing to chant as loudly as they did. It wasn't enough time though, and New York finished the match off. Final Score: 2-1, NYCFC. What an amazing season, but what an awful way to lose. Another shout out to the fans. Even when the trophy was being awarded, the Sons of Ben loudly chanted and made their presence felt. Win or lose, they supported this club well.
- Mike Barrera (mbarrera1323)