Photo Cred: Jose Roberto Nunez
The Union came back to Chester rested and on top of the Eastern Conference. Tonight, a bit of history was made, as they welcomed Charlotte FC to Subaru Park for the first time. Check out our Match Report below!
Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Harriel
Flach, Martinez, Sullivan, Gazdag
Mora, Walkes, Lindsey
Bender, Alcivar, Ruiz,
First Half Summary
There was a handful of pregame notes to mention here. In terms of the lineup, Alejandro Bedoya was kept out, seemingly for precautionary reasons. Additionally, Olivier Mbaizo was kept off the bench due to MLS Health Protocols, but we were able to see Mikael Uhre finally back as an available reserve. Finally, the Union's pregame drummer was the newest member to the Eagles, Hassan Reddick. For those who don't know, Reddick is a local guy who will be playing for his hometown Birds!
Well, the Union did not wait long to get themselves on the scoreboard. Kai Wagner sent a soaring pass up the left side of the pitch. Sergio Santos then put on the jets and found the ball behind the backline. His left-footed cross was a gift for Julian Carranza, who sent the point-blank range shot passed the Charlotte keeper. What a sequence, and what a great way to start this match!
The Union maintained their aggressive approach, and they also did well to keep Swiderski in check. He's come into this game on a bit of a scoring streak, and Elliott and Glesnes did well to keep him controlled over the first 20 minutes.
A close-call came in the 20th minute. Jose Martinez lunged for a ball, with his spikes a bit up, and he forcefully took out Ruiz. The ref did not hesitate to give him a yellow, and there was some pause to see if VAR would be needed. The official allowed play to continue, but not until he gave Jose a stern talking to.
Although Charlotte began to settle into the match, Philly had a few set pieces to work with to extend their lead, but ultimately they were unable to really test Kahlina. Regardless, the boys in blue were happy to take their 1-0 advantage into the locker room at the 45th minute.
Second Half Summary
Similar to the first half, the Union wanted to kick off the next 45 minutes with a bang. Kahlina had control of the ball within his box, and a simple clearance was all that was needed from him. He tried sending a pass toward the middle of the pitch, but Daniel Gazdag was able to intercept the poorly attempted kick. With the net wide open, Daniel made sure the Union took a 2-0 lead. Although this goal may have been more of a gift than anything, Daniel continues to find ways to score. A lot of fans were skeptical about Daniel after his 2021 debut, but he is finally playing at the level we all thought he was capable of. Gazdag played a ton last year between Philly and his Hungarian squad, and he's admitted that the speed of the MLS was something he needed to adjust to. Well, I'd say he's adjusted just fine this season.
You would hope that the flood gates would open after the quick 2nd goal, but we had a quieter half overall. One slight note of concern came just before the 60th minute. Sergio Santos went down on the pitch and was grabbing his right leg. Santos would play for another few minutes before a ball was sent to him inside the box. Sergio tried to chase down the ball, but it went out for a goal kick and Santos came up grabbing his right hamstring area. Curtin quickly made changes and replaced Santos and Carranza for Burke and Uhre. In the post-game press conference, Jim mentioned that it seemed to only be a cramp, but of course the fans are always concerned for Sergio. As good as he has been for the club, he's also dealt with frequent injuries.
The offense continued to look dangerous with the subs in the mix. Philly had some solid movement pushing towards goal, but ultimately the final touch wasn't good enough to make it 3-0. Regardless, you could see the chances building, and that has to excite Union fans for next week. Now that Uhre is seemingly healthy for extended time, you have to think that Curtin has him in the Starting XI next Saturday.
I have to commend Elliott and Glesnes again on their performance against Swiderski. The Charlotte forward came into the match scoring two goals in each of the last two games, but he was kept irrelevant in both halves. Any time he had a chance at net, it seemed like our center backs were there to answer the call.
The final 10 minutes of the match started with McGlynn replacing Sullivan. Although Quinn wasn't able to continue his scoring form since his return from the USYNT, he put together a solid performance in place of Ale. He's certainly the heir apparent to Bedoya, and you'd hope to see more good outings from Quinn as a reserve.
Gazdag had the next scoring chance in the 84th minute. Flach fed a long pass to Mikael, who was able to find Daniel alone within the center of the box. Gazdag went from right to left, but his close range shot was kept out of harms way. Even if he's not scoring goals, Daniel is proving to be a dangerous attacker that defenses will be stressing over throughout the season.
Speaking of Daniel, he would have one final moment before being removed by Paxten. In the 90th minute, the Union forced a turnover and Daniel led the counter. He then sent an excellent through ball to Uhre, who was now 1 v 1 against Kahlina. Although a one-timer could have beaten the Charlotte keeper, Mikael went to his left and took Kahlina out of the play. Unfortunately, Uhre's touch was too strong and the ball started rolling toward the goal line. He was able to swing a cross into a surging Burke, but ultimately Charlotte was able to dodge another bullet there.
The two minutes of stoppage time soon came to an end, and the Union were able to keep the shutout and walk off with the win. This team is firing on all cylinders and will have another tough test on April 9th against Columbus.
- Mike Barrera (mbarrera1323 on Twitter)