McGlynn, Gazdag, Bueno, Martinez
Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Mbaizo
Vega, Rodriguez, Tona, Zaragoza
Diaz, Fernandez, Balanta
First Half Summary
The Union hosted their first match for Leagues Cup, and despite it being a non-MLS match, we had a solid crowd in Chester. I can recall Open Cup games from years ago where attendance was 50% at best, but last night had a closer to sold-out crowd atmosphere. Just goes to show how much the Union and soccer in Philadelphia has grown over the last few years.
Alejandro Bedoya will be on the shelf for at least 2-4 weeks with a Grade 2 hamstring. Jim has given Jesus Bueno more minutes of late, but now the young Venezuelan earned the start on the right of the diamond. Credit where credit is due, Jesus has been excellent in his recent matches. We saw how he reacted to handling Mukhtar in Nashville, and last night was a bit more of the same. In a match where no one played great, Bueno stood out (earned an assist) and would likely want some of those goal scoring chances back. In the post-match presser, Jim praised Bueno's current form and how he's been a professional throughout his time with the Union. It was not too long ago where Bueno was just another man on the bench. It's great to see the hard work and patience now paying off for Jesus.
The Philly Faithful did not have to wait long to see the first goal. Union turned Tijuana over in the 17th minute, and Jose Martinez, fresh off the All-Star match, found space at midfield. He then threaded a perfect ball to Julian who found himself 1v1 against the Keeper. Just as Carranza took his shot, the trailing Diaz gave Julian a forceful push from the back and immediately earned the red card. Gazdag then stepped up to the box and did what he does best. Perfect PK to give Philly the 1-0 lead. My video from Daniel's goal can be seen below.
Historically speaking, the Union haven't faired well when up a man, just look at last year's home Red Bull match for reference. With that said, the Boys in Blue did not wait long to snag their second goal of the match. A Kai Wagner corner kick came in the 26th minute, and it bounced to Jack McGlynn just outside the box. Jack then gave Wagner another crossing chance from close range, and after a deflection, Julian lucked into the ball at his feet. The Argentine turned around and placed it into the net. Carranza was first called offside, but after a quick look to VAR, the call was correctly overturned.
The Union were confident at the end of the half, and how could you blame them. They were up a man and up two goals. Unfortunately, their overconfidence was visible after the break.
Second Half Summary
Tijuana came out of the locker room energized and caught the Union sleeping in the first 2 minutes of the half. The visitors had space on the left of the pitch, and an uncontested cross found Gonzalez completely alone in the middle of the box. His volley was a good one, and Andre couldn't react quick enough. 2-1.
This small scare wasn't enough to wake the Union up, and they almost found themselves tied 2-2 in the 49th minute. A falling ball was coming down just inside the corner of the box, and Olivier lackadaisically tried for a clearance. A Tijuana attacker had been running right behind Mbaizo, and Olivier's right foot caught him in the thigh. Despite the heated dispute, the call stood as a penalty kick. Thankfully for Philly, we have one of the best keeper's in the league. Andre Blake stood tall and denied Gonzalez of his second goal of the match. Credit to Todd Lewis from The Free Kick for pulling this stat last night. In his career, Andre is 12/40 on penalties saved (30%), but 8/18 since 2020 (44%). Impressive numbers from the GOAT.
Despite the feel-good moment from Andre, Jim and company were not pleased by the start of the second half, and it was vocalized in the post match presser. Curtin emphasized being immature, taking their foot off the gas, and needing to be smarter with that type of lead. Blake also voiced the same message when we spoke with him after the presser. He thought the team let their guard down, and despite there being a message of raising their standard, he feels the message did not get across to the team (which was obvious). When Bedoya is not on the field, the Team needs their other leaders to step up and ensure things like this don't happen again. The silver lining is that this happened early in the tournament and they were able to overcome the mistakes. Finally, both Jim and Blake made comments about Olivier's mistake, and they ensured it would be something they talked with Mbaizo about once things cooled off.
Jim soon made changes to his rotation, especially with Wednesday's match being right around the corner. Mbaizo was removed by Nathan, while Uhre took over for Sullivan. With emphasis being on having a rested team for this month-long tournament, Curtin would later replace his All Stars Glesnes and Martinez for Lowe and Real.
Luck would continue to fall in the Union's favor in the 55th minute. Daniel and Carranza set Bueno up perfectly for a ball around midfield, and again the Venezuelan shined with an excellent pass to a sprinting Mikael Uhre. Uhre was breaking free from his defender when he was brought down just outside of the box by Balanta, and the head official again went straight for the red card. From watching the replay, it's hard to completely agree with the call there, which Curtin even mentioned in his presser. Regardless, the Union were now up 2 men and were gaining more control over this match.
By the time the match was over, you could argue that Philly should have had 4-5 goals at least, but they settled for three on the evening, with Julian earning a brace for his second. Once again, Bueno was involved in the play, and a nice give and go in the box gave Carranza a chance at net. His strike took a deflection but easily beat the keeper.
Up 2 goals and up 2 men was enough for the Union to coast to the end of the match. In the last 15 minutes, we did get to see Lowe again. Curtin mentioned it's important for him to get involved again in the mix, and he is looking to get back to the three center backs on the back line. I think the fans would also agree that having Elliott, Glesnes, and Lowe together might be the preferred formation, which was evident by how well the Union have played with Damion in the lineup.
The Union then closed out the match and took the lead in the Group Stage. Up next, they host Queretaro on Wednesday evening. Doop!
- Mike Barrera (Mbarrera1323 on Twitter)