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Gazdag Hat Trick Lifts Union To Next Round of Leagues Cup

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Jul 26, 2023; Chester, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union defender Nathan Harriel (26) celebrates after scoring a goal against Queretaro in the first half at Subaru Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Star midfielder Daniel Gazdag delivered early and often for the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park on Wednesday evening, scoring three goals in a 5-1 victory over Querétaro FC of Liga MX. The victory clinched a spot in the knockout round of the Leagues Cup for the Union, and their dominant performance in two games ensures at least one more match at the friendly confines of the Chester waterfront next week. Raúl Sandoval scored the lone goal for Querétaro late in the match. 

The tone was set early on with the more physical style of play that is more common among Liga MX teams than MLS squads, as evidenced with two early yellow cards including one on Mikael Uhre in the 10th minute that was almost upgraded to a red for a foul on Omar Mendoza. While Mendoza stayed down on the pitch for a few minutes, the officials checked with the Video Assisted Review (VAR) before keeping Uhre’s card at yellow. The Union broke through in the 30th minute when Jack Elliott fielded a pass around midfield and sent a through ball up to Daniel Gazdag. The Hungarian Hammer then threw down a long range shot from outside the box which found its way through traffic into the bottom right corner of the net to put the Boys in Blue on the board first. A few minutes later in the 36th, Julián Carranza was on the attack and Querétaro goalie Alejandro Arana came out of the box and tripped him for a clear foul, setting up a penalty kick for Coach Jim Curtin to call on Mr. Automatic from the PK spot. Gazdag easily converted with a shot to the bottom left corner to put the Union up 2-0. In the 44th minute Jesús Bueno took a corner kick and planted the ball perfectly in front of the net for Nathan Harriel to come up above the scrum and head the ball into the bottom left corner of the net to give the Union a 3-0 lead going into halftime. 

The second half was more of the same physical play culminating in the 62nd minute. Jesús Bueno was coming into the left side of the box on the attack and was fouled by Emanuel Gularte. Bueno sold the foul a little bit to the officials with enough ambiguity for them to check with the VAR, who confirmed the foul and set up another Gazdag Penalty Kick. This time Gazdag went to the bottom right corner to put the Union up 4-0 to give The Hammer his first hat trick this season. Querétaro took away the clean sheet from Andre Blake in the 84th minute when Jonathan Torres pushed down Jack Elliott in the right side of the box and sent a pass through a slipping Damion Lowe’s legs and found Raúl Sandoval directly in front of the left side of the net to tap the ball home to put Querétaro on the board. In the 89th minute, Jesús Bueno sent a cross from the far right side of the field over to Jack McGlynn several yards outside the box who fired a long range left footer into the bottom right corner of the net for the final tally of 5-1, pumping up the crowd for the post game fireworks show from the river. 

In the press conference punctuated by fireworks blasts just outside the building that made it sound like we were back in 1776 getting shelled by British ships sailing up the Delaware, Union coach Jim Curtin was much happier with a more complete performance than the previous match against Tijuana, saying “We wanted to play a complete 90 tonight, we weren’t quite at a complete 90 but I thought we played pretty well.” Curtin was especially proud of Nathan Harriel’s goal:

“Nathan did really well timing wise, I think he got a boost from Damion, I think he rose a little bit like a Tom Chambers dunk…he hits Damion then goes up another foot and a half and it just kind of bounced off him.”

On Daniel Gazdag’s reliability from the PK spot:

“I never watch penalties. I always look away and then go by the reaction of the crowd. Almost every time the crowd goes loud when Danny scores, or my favorite is on the road when the crowd goes silent. That’s my favorite noise, or lack of noise when Danny scores a penalty on the road…I’ll continue not to watch them because he makes them all.”

Early round sloppiness like the Tijuana game that can sometimes be a bit helpful in a “survive and advance” tournament format:

“You play yourself into the competition. A scare sometimes is good, and we don’t want to have another scare. You never want to play down to the competition, just be ourselves. We’re one of the top seeds in this tournament, we want to go as far as possible…it’s a lot harder than these guys have made it look against really good Liga MX sides.”

Daniel Gazdag was asked how he’s still so automatic on Penalty kicks despite all of the scouting material out there on him:

“I’m sure they’re watching some videos about my PKs but the pressure is always on the goalkeepers. It’s harder for them to save a PK than it is for me to score one. I’m also watching videos on them (the goalies).”

Gazdag also had some advice for younger players practicing their penalty kicks:

“I think the most important thing is to stay confident before taking a penalty. Every player on the field can score a PK in training, but I think it’s a mind game during the game. There’s a lot of pressure on the players taking it so I think that confidence is the most important part of it. 

News and notes:

  • This was Daniel Gazdag’s first hat trick in a match since October 9, 2022 against Toronto FC in the final match of the 2022 regular season. He had two hat tricks last season in MLS with the first one coming against Colorado on August 27.
  • Gazdag is now the leading scorer in the Leagues Cup tournament so far with four goals in two games. 
  • With six points in their two matches, the Union clinch first place in “East Group #1” of the Leagues Cup group stage and will host the Round of 32 match at Subaru Park on Thursday August 3. All Leagues Cup matches are available streaming on Apple TV+.
  • Their opponent will be the team that finishes second in “East Group #2” which consists of DC United, FC Montreal (both of MLS), and Pumas UNAM of Liga MX. Montreal has finished their matches and has earned two points. DC (3 points) and UNAM (0 points) play Saturday at Audi Field in DC to determine who moves on. 

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