After last year's brutal ending in the MLS Cup, the long wait is finally over. Th Philadelphia Union are back and ready to kick off their 2023 campaign. I was live at Subaru Park for the match coverage!!
Moreira, Degenek, Quinton
Farsi, Morris, Nagbe, Sands
Mbaizo, Elliott, Glesnes, Wagner
Bedoya, Martinez, Gazdag, Flach
First Half Summary
Felt great to be back in Subaru Park, and the crowd quickly filled in the seats in Chester. From walking around the tailgates, the energy was at an all time high with huge expectations entering the season. A new change to the pre-game festivities was the Sons of Ben now being in Lot G. I hung out there for a short while and soaked in the atmosphere. People were dancing on tables, ABC News was making their rounds through the crowd, and a line wrapped around the sidewalk to get some food. I can only imagine what the tailgate will look like when the weather improves.
The first five minutes were controlled by Columbus, as the Union only had one push at the opposing goal (which was ruled offside). They did end up managing a corner kick before the 10th minute hit, but it was a short chance that ultimately resulted in a Crew clearance.
Within the first 15 minutes, the lead official blew the whistle a handful of times, all of which seemed to go against the Union side. The crowd began to grow restless, as the Union were not getting any calls their way, nor were they able to get any fluidity in their pushes toward goal.
A great chance at goal for Columbus came in the 17th minute. The Union committed a foul in front of their box, and Zelarayan took a dangerous shot at net. Blake was able to run and snatch the ball out of the air, which was followed up with "Andre Blake" chants from The River End. If Philly hopes to bring home some hardware, they'll need Andre to keep making difficult saves look easy.
Jose Martinez made a fantastic pass in the 25th minute. His ball easily found the foot of Ale, who then fed a wide open Carranza. With his left foot, he had a point blank chance at net, but he shanked it wide of the goal. Thankfully for the Union, the offside flag had gone up. Still.....that was an ugly miss. On a positive note, Martinez had himself a strong showing, and passes like that (and the one that led to the Carranza goal) should excite Union fans. The better Jose plays, the more dangerous this team is when playing out of the back.
An ugly miss was followed up by an easy goal from Columbus. The Union let the Crew march down the right side of the pitch, and a deflected ball was hit into the net passed Blake. Glesnes was given the own goal there. The Crew were simply the better side in the first half hour, and they certainly earned the turn of fortune for them. It was at this moment that you felt things could go South for Philly. Columbus has always played us tough, but as Jim mentioned in his post match presser, the Union did well to weather the storm and adjust.
Despite the one-sided officiating from the refs, we saw our first yellow card in the 39th minute awarded to Columbus. Morris had a forceful tackle from the back of Julian, and the ref didn't hesitate to issue a booking. That, however, was one of the few bright spots of the first half.
We had another yellow issued to Columbus when Sands sent a hard hit to the head of Olivier. Considering how the half was going, having the Crew on a couple of yellows was something to keep in mind with a 1-0 deficit.
Again, the Crew were whistled for another head shot, this time with Jose Martinez as the victim. This, however, would finally fall in the favor of the Union. The free kick was hit around in the box, and Leon's shot was called for a handball by the Crew. This gave Daniel Gazdag his first goal of the season, as the Hungarian easily sent it passed Schulte to end the half. Despite the Crew having been the better team in the first 45 minutes, the Union began to shift momentum in their direction.
Second Half Summary
The two sides picked up where they left off. The Crew were called for a few fouls, including simulation and then a yellow for Zelarayan. For the Union, they added another goal to the score sheet. After Martinez did wonders to win the ball and start the sequence, Bedoya fed Carranza on the right side of the goal, and Julian got just enough to beat the backup keeper. After a rusty first showing from Philly, the Union appeared to be gaining control of the match.
Things continued to go against the opposition as we approached the 70th minute. Philly had a good attack in the Columbus box, and a Crew defender appeared to get a hand ball deflection. A prolonged VAR review resulted in a PK chance for Daniel, who earned his second goal of the year. Degenek also hovered around the head official during his VAR session, which earned him a quick yellow.
Down 2 goals, Columbus began to make their share of subs, but Curtin remained quiet until the 79th minute. We had a Philly debut for Torres, as he replaced Mikael Uhre. No surprise that Jim replaced Mikael first. There were a lot of expectations for Torres, and WOW. The man made his presence felt immediately. Daniel fed Torres the ball under pressure, but the undersized attacker put on a clinic. He made two impressive spin moves before perfectly feeding Carranza in the box. Julian's right footed shot snuck under Schulte, and the entire stadium erupted in amazement. I've seen my fair share of impressive goals from the Union, but we haven't seen that type of footwork since Ilsinho was on the pitch. What a debut in what has to be one of the fastest assists for a new Union player. Instant offense.
Columbus continued to make subs, and McGlynn was the next replacement for Jim. I honestly expected McGlynn to come in much sooner, but we all know the young phenom will be getting more time in this busy schedule. The back and forth continued by the clubs into stoppage time, and with five minutes remaining, Curtin made his final pair of subs. Bedoya and Julian were taken off for Quinn Sullivan and Perea. Entering the offseason, I expected these to be the primary group of subs. With that said, I do hope they can come on sooner for this squad to stay fresh all year. The final whistle was eventually heard, and the Union closed out their home opener with a 4-1 victory over a very strong Columbus side.
- Mike Barrera (Mbarrera1323)