Photo Cred: Philadelphia Union
Moreno, Acosta, Angulo
Barreal, Mosquera, Miazga, Hagglung, Arias
Flach, Martinez, Bueno
Real, Harriel, Elliott, Glesnes, Mbaizo
First Half Summary
It was clear that tonight's match held less weight than the 2nd leg of the CCL on Tuesday. With that in mind, Jim Curtin made a handful of subs into the lineup, some of which the Across the Pitch team has been clamoring for. Finally, we got a chance to see Bueno in an extended role, while the beloved Captain earned some much needed rest. In the press conference, Curtin mentioned that Lowe was expected to start in the back 3, but a hamstring tweak on Friday kept Damion out of the match.
The first ten minutes were about as expected from a lineup that doesn't play together often. Some poor passing and turnovers from Philly when Cincy put pressure on. In particular, Bueno had two inaccurate passes when trying to play the ball up to Mbaizo. We did get one chance at net though around the 10th minute. Flach did well to turn the ball over and feed Donovan. Chris' touch before his shot was too heavy, and he ultimately couldn't get a strong enough strike on the ball. People have been giving Donovan some rough criticism, and moments like that certainly don't help his case.
Despite the inexperience on the field, the Union's pressure and defense was doing well to keep Cincy away from Andre Blake. A very dangerous chance, however, was given to the home team in the 18th minute. Brujo had a dangerous tackle on Acosta at the top of the box, but thankfully the free kick was deflected by the wall.
First yellow in the match came around the 20th when Mbaizo and Acosta had a colliding moment in the corner. Just considering how early it was in the match, could not afford to lose Olivier with this level of inexperience in the attack. Another concern came from the Union net. Although Andre is starting again, it's clear the team is trying to limit his reps. We again saw the center backs controlling the balls from the back. I am less concerned about the goal kicks as I am about how healthy Blake really is.
The first 30 minutes came and went, and Quinn Sullivan caught my eye. He had a handful of moments when his passing and off-the-ball movement created some momentum into the Cincinnati half. Right now, the Union are missing the Cory Burke style striker we had last year. It's clear that Donovan is still developing, but this is supposed to be the breakout season for Sullivan. We don't need him to score 20 goals. We just need a physical presence who can net 6-8 goals this year.
We had a vintage Jose Martinez moment just before the end of the half. A deep ball into the Union half turned into a foot race. Martinez just barely won the ball, saw Celentano off his line, and sent a chip from midfield. The young keeper saved it with ease, but wow, if that doesn't sum up Brujo, i don't know what does. For as good as he is on the defense, his offensive choices are...questionable...
The halftime whistle blew and the Union proudly carried a 0-0 draw into the half. Considering the lineup, that was a success for the Boys in Blue.
Second Half Summary
Not only did the Union have a hard task against the home squad, but Cincy has been very stout in the 2nd half. They have only allowed 1 goal in the second frame during their 2023 campaign, which leads the MLS.
The Union faithful held their breaths in the 50th minute. Olivier tried to find Jose, but his pass was a little wide and Brujo had to stretch for the ball. Once he recovered the pass, he sent it away and immediately reached for his groin. Brujo was down for a few moments, but after a quick stretch he returned to the pitch. After seeing Andre Blake's adductor strain, and with Kai Wagner (and now Lowe) still nursing a hammy, seeing Brujo down was very concerning.
Philly had their best chance shortly after. Donovan and Quinn had a nice setup to find Bueno in the box. Jesus had a clear shot on goal, but his one-time touch was sent well over the bar. Absolutely had to put that one on target. Bueno isn't going to get a lot of chances, and he needs to make that a better strike.
Cincinnati then had their best chance of the night. Vazquez sent an accurate ball to Brenner in the box, but the cross was too powerful and Brenner couldn't connect with it. Reinforcements then came on for Curtin. Gazdag, Bedoya, and Uhre replaced Sullivan, Bueno, and Donovan. This gave the 3 regular starters about 30 minutes to earn a road win.
The good effort got a little harder before the 70th minute. A Bedoya turnover led to a counter attack from Cincinnati. A poor clearance from Leon Flach then gave Cincy their scoring opportunity. Despite a goal line clearance from the defense, the second strike couldn't be kept out of the net. The goal was then reversed by the lead official, who instead awarded Acosta a PK after Blake took him out before the goal went in. Acosta then took a powerful strike and sent it passed Blake's diving hand. I know the counter was started after a turnover, but that ball absolutely HAS to be cleared by Leon. I know he had a solid night defensively, but that mistake only makes me want to see Perea more and more.
Curtin continued to make the subs. Carranza replaced Martinez, and McGlynn replaced Olivier. This sent Nathan to the right side of the field. The final 15 minutes did not give us much hope though. To be honest, and from also confirming with others watching the match, the Union looked out of sync with the subs. Poor passing and missed opportunities constantly halted our attack. We also saw some familiar faces come onto the field, as Alvas Powell, Ray Gaddis, and Sergio Santos saw time for the home squad. Santos even put one into the net, but it was fortunately called offside.
Five minutes of stoppage came and went. The Union missed another opportunity at a road point, as the draw was there for the taking. Cincinnati did not have a ton of chances at net, and it's unfortunate that a poor 30 seconds from Philly ended up costing them the match. We now move onto the 2nd leg of the CONCACAF Champions League.
- Mike Barrera (mbarrera1323)