Photo Cred: thestatszone.com
Well Union fans, tonight is the night we had waited months for. Our Boys in Blue travelled down to Mexico to face off against Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League Semi-Final. AATB was of course covering the match!
Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Mbaizo
Flach, Martinez, Bedoya, Gazdag
Reyes, Caceres, Aguilera, Sanchez
R. Sanchez, Aquino
Lainez, Fidalgo, Cordova
First Half Summary
The Union came out ready to score. Santos gave Gazdag the ball in the box, and he fed Kacper who was waiting on the near post. Przybylko was able to get his back heel on the ball, which then slowly trickled just passed the far post. Oh so close there.
Club America had a chance off a set piece, but both teams began to settle into the match.
Blake received his first test in the 11th minute. A crossing ball found a surging Club America attacker, who put a strong header at net. Blake did what he does best, and he calmly pushed the ball out of the box. He was tested again just a minute later, but thankfully this second header was easier for Andre to gather.
Another dangerous moment came in the 16th minute, when CA earned a free kick outside the corner of the box. The wall did its' job to defend the shot, but the second chance ricocheted off Gazdag and was able to beat Andre. Unlucky start for the Union, who now faced a 1-0 deficit.
Some blood was finally spilt on the pitch shortly after the 20th minute. Mbaizo was pushing the ball toward goal, when he caught a forearm to the mouth. The replay showed the he appeared to lose a tooth in the process. Olivier would eventually return into the match, but surprisingly VAR was not called to review the shot to the face.
Club America's next corner kick came in the 30th minute, but fortunately there wasn't a shot taken at net. Philly was able to clear the ball away, but not without more discomfort from Olivier. The right back sat back down on the ground, and he was clearly in discomfort. It seems like the shot to the mouth may have also caused injury to his head, and Alvas Powell, who had just come off a hamstring injury, was welcomed into the match.
Martinez was the first player to be shown a card, and I'm not entirely surprised. He went in fairly hard with a slide tackle, and Philly is just fortunate to not have lost their midfielder with a red.
Club America began to take control of the match, and they put several dangerous balls into the box. Glesnes, Elliot, and Wagner each had some scary clearances, but Philly was able to hold off any further damage.
Union did end the half on a somewhat good note. Philly earned a corner, and Elliott was able to get his head on the kick. It did sail high over the crossbar, but it at least gave the team some momentum to end the half.
Second Half Summary
The Union carried that bit of momentum into the first ten minutes of the second half. Philly, although not creating any significant danger, certainly looked more comfortable in the attacking half. The first ten minutes concluded with a free kick for Philly, which Glesnes ended up taking. As you'd expect, he took a chance at net, but his strong kick ultimately bounced into the hands of Ochoa.
As the game went back and forth, tensions began to rise between the clubs. Some tough calls and words were exchanged, but the first 15 minutes ended with the score still 1-0.
Union made their change, with Jim clearly pushing for the draw. Burke replaced Gazdag, which pushed Kacper into the 10.
Again, the slow moving match continued, and it became obvious that Philly was not doing enough to put the ball into the net. Things went from bad to worse, as Martinez had a costly turnover in front of the Philly box. When recovering, Martinez dangerously slid across the box, and he appeared to give a clean slide tackle. Upon further review, the ref deemed VAR was necessary, and he shockingly reversed the call. A PK was awarded, and Club America quickly found themselves up 2-0. It appears that Jose's dragging foot caught the tip of Sanchez's foot, but it was not clear in my opinion. A suspect call there, but many will agree it was the right decision to overturn.
Ilsinho soon came on the pitch for Kacper in the 84th minute. Wish Curtin would have brought in some offensive fire power a bit earlier, especially with Bedoya beginning to look a step behind the rest of the players.
Union had their seemingly best chance toward the end of the match, when Burke was brought down within the box. The call was no penalty, and after checking in on his ear piece, the official did not feel VAR was needed. From watching the review, it did appear to be a clean shoulder barge, but the Union fans were not satisfied after what was a one-sided affair for the officiating.
Five minutes of stoppage time finally came to an end, and the Boys in Blue left the pitch with a 2-0 loss.
The second leg of this semi-final will be at Subaru Park on September 15th.
- Mike Barrera (mbarrera1323)