Photo Cred: Philadelphia Union
McGlynn, Torres, Perea, Bueno
Real, Elliott, Lowe, Harriel
Taylor, Sang Bin, Rosales
Lawrence, Tapias, Boxall, Kallman
First Half Summary
Well well well.. Jim Curtin finally made the changes to the Starting XI that Union fans have been screaming for. Even with the excessive matches this year, Curtin has been hesitant to use players like Bueno, Perea, Torres, and Lowe. Tonight, however, we saw seven changes! This suggests that we will see the usual Starting XI in Colorado on Saturday evening.
Considering the changes to the Union lineup, the first 15 minutes were about as expected. Some solid moments, but it was obvious the XI needed to gel more on the field. A decent opportunity came just after the 15 minute mark, when Jesus Bueno made a nice tackle to start a counter. Torres then pushed it down the field, but instead of fielding a pass forward, he took a hefty strike from distance. The ball sailed high over the net, but it was at least something to build off of.
If you have been following us all season long, you know there's been a growing call for Bueno to take Flach's minutes. My confidence in that statement grew after Jesus' first half. He looked poised with the ball, made a handful of tackles that halted Minnesota's attack, and he was ready to fight for each ball that came his way. On the offensive end, he had a great chip into the box to Uhre also. Although this was called for offside, it was the creativity we needed with Brujo out of the lineup.
Uhre had his first shot on goal in the 35th minute. He had a poor angle at net but was able to get a strong shot on target. Irwin was forced to make a reflex save, which was sent out for a Union corner. McGlynn's cross was able to find the head of Lowe, but the Jamaican's header went to the left of the post.
The first 45 minutes finally came to a close with minimal stoppage time added on. Overall, I felt like Lowe and Bueno made their presence felt, but offensively the team needed to find some more chemistry in the final third. One shot on goal in 45 minutes isn't good enough.
Second Half Summary
Minnesota started the second half by attacking down the right side of the field. Matt Real held his own, however, and Philly began to settle into the match on the offensive side. Perea had a shot on goal, while Uhre and Torres both forced Irwin to react to their crosses into the box. Knowing that subs would be coming soon was promising with Philly beginning to find their way.
Union's best set piece chance came in the 62nd minute. Mikael Uhre fought hard for positioning and was knocked down just outside the edge of the 18. Joaquin Torres then put an excellent shot on goal, but Irwin's deflection wasn't close enough for a Philly player to knock it into the net. Uhre was then brought off the field in the 65th minute for Daniel Gazdag. Although we though that Daniel would be replacing Joaquin, Jim wanted to keep some creativity on the field with Joaquin and Gazdag.
The flood gates then opened on the pitch, but Minnesota struck first. The ball bounced away from net and Daniel Gazdag called for a Minnesota hand ball. He stopped his run and Minnesota continued their attack. They pushed the ball down the left of the pitch and a great cross allowed Hlongwane to beat Andre from point blank range.
The Loons were not done yet though. The home squad stormed into the 18 and Damion Lowe, who had been great all night, was beat badly inside the box. Andres Perea and Bueno tried to recover for their teammate, but ultimately Rosales had a clear shot at goal. Just like that, Philly was down 2-0 with 15 minutes to go. Carranza then came on for Perea.
Just when you thought the Union were dead, they finally had their moment. Julian's pressure forced a Minnesota turnover, and his deflection inadvertently found Donovan inside the box. The Drexel product then rolled one cleanly passed Irwin and brought Philly within 1.
Philly began to knock on the door and Jim made two more changes in the final few minutes of regulation. Leon Flach replaced Bueno, while Kai Wagner came on for Jack McGlynn. The Union continued to scrap their way for every single ball, but the minutes passed and the Boys in Blue looked like they would be going home early in the Open Cup.
Joaquin Torres had a night to forget. He sailed a handful of balls over the net, but he redeemed himself in the death. Harriel fought hard to get Joaquin the ball, who lifted his head and sent a lob across the box to Kai Wagner. The MLS All-Star then bounced one off the pitch and beat Irwin in the final seconds of stoppage time. 2-2!
The drama continued into the extra time. Both clubs continued to make changes, which gave us a Rafanello sighting. He replaced Chris Donovan. Unfortunately for Philly, they were caught napping just before the end of the first half of stoppage time.
Joaquin Torres was shoved out of bounds in the Philly half, and he remained on the ground for several moments. With Torres out of play, the ref continued with the match and Minnesota acted quickly. A cross beat the diving Lowe, and Elliott was taken advantage of inside the box. Hlongwane got just enough on the ball to leave Blake with zero chance. 3-2 in a poor defensive moment from Philly, and another frustrating moment from Jack. He just hasn't been the same player this year, and you begin to wonder how much the MLS Cup ending may be affecting him this season.
Once again, you began to lose hope that Philly could make a come back. Nathan Harriel then got fouled at the top of the box, and Kai Wagner stepped up to the plate to be the hero. The German left back left no doubt. A screamer of a free kick brought this one into penalty kicks. UN-REAL.
I believe we are all scarred from watching the MLS Cup penalty kicks, but unfortunately the Open Cup didn't provide us with any relief. Matt Real and Kai Wagner both missed their kicks, with Kai's being the ironic final shot. Irwin did just enough, and Andre wasn't close to saving most of them. A brutal ending to an incredible game between Minnesota and Philly. After the game, Curtin praised his players and applauded their exhausting effort this evening. He also shed some light into Ale Bedoya's whereabouts, as he was home for load management. Glesnes was also out of the rotation tonight for the birth of another child and his wife's health.
The Union now focus on their MLS campaign until League's Cup in the summer. If anything, a less distracted and travelled team may begin to piece things together in the Eastern Conference....Doop!
- Mike Barrera (Mbarrera1323 on Twitter).