After a year away from the competition, the Union find themselves back in the CONCACAF Champions League. A recap from the first leg of the Union's battle vs Alianza F.C. can be found below courtesy of the AAT Sports Network Team!
Portillo, Monterroza, Maldonando, Oreliana
Montes, Romero, Canales, Mancilla
McGlynn, Torres, Perea, Bueno
Wagner, Elliott, Lowe, Harriel
First Half Summary
We expected to see more of a rotation against Inter Miami, but it looks like Jim Curtin saved his biggest changes for Tuesday night. Out of the lineup you see above, only Wagner, Elliott, and Blake are consistent starters. That means Curtin's staff put an immense amount of pressure on a young, and slightly inexperienced squad. We also watched Austin get embarrassed 3-0 before our match, which put a bit more stress on the Union's replacements to show they could take care of business.
We knew the field was going to be an issue before the match started, but wow. Even from a distance the pitch looked awful. Very patchy and bumpy from end to end. In the pre-match presser, Jim made sure to leave out the excuses, both clubs had to suffer through it.
Neither team really had a good chance until the 12th minute. A long ball from midfield found Donovan in the box, but it seems that the bounce off the grass didn't give Chris a good read on the ball. Quinn Sullivan ended up connecting with the loose ball, but his volley went high over the cross bar. Perhaps a smoother surface would have given Donovan a better read on that one.
Not trying to pile on Donovan right now, but perhaps questioning Curtin's decision to not use Carranza or Uhre in this starting lineup. A perfect cross found a wide open Donovan at the center of the box, but the young forward's header was not controlled enough. It went wide of net and would have certainly been on target with a better strike. I know Chris is young, which gives me reason to wonder why we couldn't have more experience to start the game. I do believe Carranza or Uhre would have capitalized there.
Both teams began a constant back and forth for the next 15 minutes. Alianza's best opportunity in the first half hour came from a free kick after a handball by Lowe in the 33rd. A solid cross was fortunately punched out by Blake, but a missed volley almost ricocheted back into the box. The Union then started a breakaway from Torres, but he couldn't turn the jets on enough to avoid the defense. It was an unsettling couple of moments there from Alianza, especially since Philly had missed the best chances of the game.
No Union player had an excellent half, but Jesus Bueno was active. He had one long ball that almost turned into a shooting opportunity, and a key stop near the 40th minute halted an attack at net. Unfortunately, he also found a booking as we closed in on half time. He forcibly struck Monterroza in the back and was quickly booked by the head official.
The Union ended the first half with a corner kick. A low flying pass almost found the head of a surging Jack Elliott, but the opposing keeper was able to clear it out. Alianza began to counter, but the Union D regrouped and closed out the half with a clearance.
Second Half Summary
The Union had a good start to the half. They kept the ball in the opposing half early and often. When Alianza pushed toward Blake, they did just enough to keep Andre out of harms way. Bueno, again, had another great touch to force Alianza away from the box. The Union, however, missed another golden chance. Torres lost the ball but it bounced high into the opposing box. Quinn then had enough time to get a one-timer with his right foot, but his touch was too hard and sent the ball well over the net. Again, have to think Uhre and Carranza could come in and finish these chances.
Union then had their best sequence of the match in the 58th minute. A controlled ball in midfield by McGlynn started a push by Perea. A little give and go trickery with Torres then gave Wagner a clear cross into the box. Once again, though, the Union could not finish. Torres was able to get a strong shot on net, but Gonzalez kept them off the board. With 30 minutes left, I was extremely curious to see what offensive threat would be brought into to help.
Finally, we saw the reinforcements entering the match in the 63rd. Carranza, Gazdag, and Martinez replaced Torres, Sullivan, and Bueno. Really liked what I saw from all three players, especially Bueno who had a lot to prove in an important match.
An unexpected sub made his appearance in the 69th minute. A dog....yes a dog...ran onto the field when Alianza had the ball in the Union's side. The Concacaf canine immediately ran for the ball and tried to put one in the back of the net. Credit to the staff who quickly gathered the pup. What a typical moment in this wild tournament.
The next twenty minutes the Union continued to be the better of the two sides, but they weren't able to really test the Alianza keeper. Curtin continued to make his subs, but with time winding down, kept it more defensive. McGlynn was replaced by Leon Flach, while Bedoya was the last sub for Perea. Even with four minutes of stoppage time, and the Union knocking on the door, they would soon end this match with a 0-0 draw.
After the match, Curtin immediately thanked the travelling fans and appreciated their support. He also praised Alianza's supporters for creating a good atmosphere. When discussing how the Union performed, Jim was pleased with the outcome, but thought the team missed their opportunities as well. With that said, he had high praise for Bueno and Perea in their efforts tonight, and despite the ugly match because of the field, thought his rotation did well to fight through it.
The Union do not have a long time to rest. They are back home on Saturday night against the Chicago Fire, and then play host to Alianza on Tuesday evening.
Mike Barrera (Mbarrera1323)