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Philadelphia Union Slam Alianza 4-0 to Advance in CCL Tournament

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The Philadelphia Union slammed Alianza FC of El Salvador 4-0 Tuesday evening in the second leg of the first round of the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) Tournament. The Union advanced to the next round 4-0 on aggregate after a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the matchup last week in San Salvador. Andres Perea scored two goals off the bench to lead the Union on a cold, windy night at Subaru Park in Chester. 

The first half started with a bit of chippy play early as Alejandro Bedoya sent a cross to set up Daniel Gazdag in the center of the box in the 6th minute and Alianza goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez appeared to trip Gazdag but no penalty was called, and no video review was requested by the VAR official, much to the disdain of the 8,137 Union faithful who braved the cold wind off the Delaware River.

Alexis Montes of Alianza was tagged with a Yellow Card in the 18th minute for a hard foul. In the 21st minute Gazdag received a rebound off a corner kick in the center of the box and found the back of the net but upon consultation the officials ruled Gazdag was offside and reversed the goal. In the 40th minute, Montes tackled defender Nathan Harriel in the box and was given his second yellow card of the night and sent off, leaving Alianza to finish the match with 10 players. Shortly before halftime in stoppage Kai Wagner sent a corner kick into the box finding Damion Lowe to send a header into the bottom left of the net to give the Union a 1-0 halftime edge.  

The second half brought more controversy in the 48th minute when another apparent Gazdag goal from point blank range in front of the net was disallowed, with VAR review determining he was offside. There was a scary moment in the 55th minute when Julian Carranza attempted a bicycle kick in the box but his foot found the face of Henry Romero instead resulting in a Yellow Card for Carranza. The officiating karma came around for the Union in the 58th minute when William Canales was called for a hand ball subsequently confirmed by VAR, setting up a penalty kick for Gazdag in the 66th minute which he easily put into the bottom left corner to put the Union up 2-0.

Andres Perea came off the bench for Bedoya in the 66th minute to give the captain some rest and paid dividends big time for the boys in blue. In the 81st minute Quinn Sullivan sent a cross to Perea in the right side of the box who sent a right footer into the net to go up 3-0. A few minutes later in the 84th a similar scenario played out this time with Mikael Uhre sending a cross from the left side over to Perea on the right side who planted a second goal in the same spot to bring the final tally to 4-0 advancing the Union to the CCL Quarterfinals next month. 

In the postgame press conference, Union coach Jim Curtin acknowledged the weirdness of the game and the questionable officiating: 

“A unique game for sure, cold weather, you know all the variables that go into it, a missed PK in the beginning where I think the VAR guy must have been shopping at the outlets or whatever they’re doing here…but yea anyway, I don’t know how that penalty was missed…Refereeing is hard, I was surprised a penalty wasn’t called on that one. I think the ref’s job is maybe to let it go and then obviously if he gets buzzed from VAR to sort it out…I’ve seen the play now a few times and anywhere in the world, even CONCACAF that’s a penalty.”

Damion Lowe shined in this game and having experience with the Jamaican national team, he’s used to the hard nosed CONCACAF style of play, summing it up: “Welcome to CONCACAF. This is rough, It’s only going to get harder.”

Regardless, Lowe thinks the Union are built for the challenge:

“Experience goes a long way in MLS. You see, most of the teams that are successful…they’re building a foundation, they build with players that have years in this league, and have international experience because you’re going to need it in Champions League, you’re going to need it in the playoff push, you’re going to need it in Open Cup. So yes if you see the players that we have, they’re willing to fight and it’s a brotherhood here, and I’m happy that I’m able to join a club where we want to achieve great things and that’s what we’re looking forward to doing.”

News and notes:

  • Starting goalie Andre Blake was sidelined after suffering a groin strain on Saturday in the match against Chicago. He is expected to be out for several weeks, Joe Bendik started in his place. 
  • The Philadelphia Union will next face Atlas of Liga MX in the Quarterfinals of the CCL early next month. Atlas of Guadalajara, Mexico defeated Olimpia of Honduras 5-4 on aggregate. The first leg will be at Subaru Park between April 4-6 and the second leg will be in Guadalajara between April 11-13.
  • The Union return to MLS action this Saturday evening at 7:30 playing Montreal CF north of the border. The match will be streamed on Apple TV+. 

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