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Second Half Comeback Falls Short For Union Against Seattle 3-2

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Apr 30, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Daniel Gazdag (10) and Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Josh Atencio (8) battle for the ball during the second half at Subaru Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA

    There’s officially something “off” about this squad, and it’s more than the weird circumstances surrounding the Tuesday kickoff at Subaru Park. This resumed a game against the Seattle Sounders that was rained out after only 5:38 of game play in a torrential downpour on March 9 that swamped the field, despite the valiant efforts of several groundskeepers with giant squeegees trying to push the water off the playing area. The scheduling deities found an opening to finish the game a few days after the Sounders came back east to play DC last weekend. The rules say to resume the game with the same exact lineup as March 9, with adjustments made for trades and injuries. There have been a few of those on both sides which made this unique situation even stranger. “Unique” is Union Coach Jim Curtin’s word of the week describing all of this mess, using the word countless times in multiple press conferences leading up to the match. 

The updated roster. Image Credit: JD Walker – Stream Punk Entertainment

Let’s rewind two months: March 9 was a rotated lineup for the Union that originally fell between the two legs of the CONCACAF Champions Cup matchup against Pachuca, which infamously ended in a 6-0 beatdown on top of a mountain in Mexico. Jakob Glesnes and Kai Wagner were on the bench resting, with Damion Lowe and Olivier Mbaizo playing in their place.  Lowe and original starting goalie Andre Blake are now injured, so they are subbed out. Additionally, Julian Carranza was injured in March and originally not available for selection so Markus Andersen started that match…and is now injured while Carranza is healthy. The Starting XI handout with the list of immediate substitutions from both squads. Through the shell game of lineup moves one player on the original 20 players available for selection who was not injured had to be sacrificed in order for Carranza to sub in, and that player was Tai Baribo. The notes at the bottom look like a word problem from a high school algebra textbook.

(photo caption for the lineup subs pic: If a train leaves Baltimore on the Northeast Corridor line at 2pm going 70 mph and then splits off onto one of the Delaware waterfront freight branches, at what time will the train arrive in front of Subaru Park and run over Tai Baribo? I think the answer is 5:38pm…)

    Once the “pregame” pageantry finished and the free kick in the Seattle end started play again, things went south quickly for the Boys in Blue. In the 13th minute Daniel Gazdag passed the ball over to Jose Martinez who misplayed it for Raúl Ruidíaz to field for the Sounders and take a long range shot from about 40 yards out which passed goalie Oliver Semmle playing deep outside of the net before the turnover, putting Seattle up 1-0 early. Shortly afterwards things appeared to be settling down until Léo Chú Osent a pass up to Obed Vargas just outside of the 18 yard box who fired a laser through traffic that Semmle had no chance to stop, giving the Sounders their second goal. In the 32nd minute Olivier Mbaizo (who was playing because he was on the field on March 9) made a big mistake fouling Vargas inside the box for a clear penalty. Ruidíaz set up for the PK at the 37th minute and easily plunked it into the middle of the net, 3-0 Seattle.  In a bizarre incident shortly before halftime, Jesus Bueno was issued a yellow which was rescinded a few minutes later for a non-existent foul. Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza picked up yellow cards in the first half as well to add insult to injury and put a garnish on this Shit Sandwich (shit hoagie?) of a first half leaving the Union in a massive hole.

A defibrillator strength jolt was needed at the start of the second half for the Union to have any chance of climbing out of the hole they dug for themselves. Jim Curtin yelled CLEAR! Then sent in Alejandro Bedoya, Kai Wagner, and Jack McGlynn in for the second half and pulled Martinez, Bueno, and Mbaizo. It paid off by the 55th minute, with El Capitan fielding the corner kick and finding Jack McGlynn just outside the box on the left side. McGlynn took his “God-given left foot” (as Jim Curtin loves to say) and fired a shot through traffic that hooked just inside the far right post, giving the Union some life at 3-1. 

The team came right back off the restart with Quinn Sullivan sending a long range pass from the right side of the field finding Daniel Gazdag streaking towards the net for a beautiful header to fully wake up the crowd and make this a game again with a 3-2 lead. Gazdag’s goal in the 57th minute was his 57th with the Union, passing Ring of Honor member, Original U, and current team radio broadcaster Sebastien Le Toux for the most goals in club history. 

Gazdag put the ball in the back of the net again in the 65th minute but it was immediately ruled offside (correctly). After the 12 minute spark the wind started to come out of the Union’s sails and while the second half made things respectable, the match still ended in a 3-2 loss, the second straight for Philadelphia, both at home. 

News and Notes:

  • This match was the first occurrence of several bad milestones in quite some time. Here is the last time the Union:
    • Lost two matches in a row: July 2023 at Atlanta and at LA Galaxy
    • Lost two matches in a row at Subaru Park: April 24 and May 1, 2021 vs Inter Miami and NYCFC
    • Allowed three goals in the first half: August 15, 2023 in Leagues Cup Semifinals vs Inter Miami. 
  • Alejandro Bedoya registered the 36th assist of his career in the loss, his third this season. Quinn Sullivan’s assist was his fourth of the season. 
  • Cryptic social media posts during and after the game from two players are adding to the drama and “off” feelings. Andre Blake posted on Instagram on Wednesday, “When you are no longer happy, it’s time” leading to all kinds of wild speculation since then. Martinez posted and later deleted a post while the game was still being played. The post translated to “If not the one in the house screws you, the one who visits you screws you. #todossonunoscagones” (They are all shits). Yikes, this could get ugly if things don’t turn around Saturday…
  • …When the Union play their next match on the road at Audi Field against DC United on Saturday May 4 at 7:30pm. All games are streamed on Apple TV+, and this weekend’s full slate of games will be available for free as a promotional preview of the MLS Season Pass service. 

JD Walker is one of the co-founders of Stream Punk Entertainment and has covered the Philadelphia Union, Big East Basketball, and New Jersey high school basketball since 2022. He has a wide-spanning career with experience in a variety of roles inside and outside the world of sports including basketball operations, gameday entertainment, promotions, broadcasting, and finance. He’s a Jersey Shore native sprung from a cage on Highway 9, and loves to geek out on the business and legal side of the games we all love.

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