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Uhre Comes Up Big in Extra Time to Lift Union in CCC

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Image Credit – JD Walker: Stream Punk Entertainment

    The beauty and the quirkiness of a two leg home and home series is that every goal counts. Every. Goal. Counts. (Well, aside for the ones overturned by VAR…) Even the ones given up in garbage time of a hat trick fueled comeback in a monsoon, like the one by Gerald Taylor of Saprissa in the first leg at the 90th minute. Union coach Jim Curtin and many of the fans watching said “uh oh”, or something more colorful because 3-2 leaves the door open for something crazy to happen. Crazy things happen in Chester, and “Peak CONCACAF” is only just warming up. The team known for their defensive prowess and a brick wall in front of the goal has been uncharacteristically playing from behind in every match this season so far, but they’ve still come back. Costa Rican fans showed up in force to a drizzly but relatively warm-ish night for February at Subaru Park to see the second leg of CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) Round one go to extra time to end up with a 6-5 aggregate victory for the Philadelphia Union to advance past Deportivo Saprissa to the Round of 16 against Pachuca of Liga MX. Mikael Uhre scored the winner in extra time for the Union to send the team over the top. 

    Jakob Glesnes was called for a foul in the 9th minute when he got tangled up with Saprissa’s Javon East in the penalty area. The officials went to VAR and confirmed the foul and awarded Saprissa a Penalty kick. Luis Paradela lined up at the spot in the 14th minute and drilled it into the left side of the net to give Saprissa an early 1-0 lead. 

The Union dusted themselves off and came right back down the field to counter. In the 17th minute Quinn Sullivan was in the far right corner and sent a cross over to Julian Carranza in the center of the box who got up for a header and sent the tying goal into the bottom left corner of the net. Shortly after in the 26th minute the Union were crashing the net again with shots from Markus Anderson and Daniel Gazdag both getting blocked. Sullivan got the rebound off the Gazdag shot in the right side of the box and put it into the bottom right corner to put the Union up 2-1 and what appeared to be a solid lead of 5-3 on aggregate goals. Saprissa wasn’t done yet and immediately came back in the 28th minute. A corner kick from the right side went into the pack and Fidel Escobar rose up and headed the ball over to Warren Madrigal directly in front of the net for an easy tap-in to tie the match at 2-2 and keep the Union sweating. After four goals in 15 minutes the match finally settled down a little bit and the score remained 2-2 at halftime and a precarious 5-4 aggregate lead for the Union. 

At the beginning of the second half Jim Curtin made an adjustment to bring in Alejandro Bedoya off the bench and take out Markus Anderson, who put up a solid performance for half the game in his debut with the club. Quinn Sullivan simultaneously moved up to the striker spot from the midfield. In the 53rd minute Jack McGlynn and Kai Wagner attempted a bit of trickery on a free kick where Wagner came up and just blasted a “Brujo bomb” style long range shot which only just missed the top right corner by a few inches. 

    Saprissa set up for a free kick from just outside the top right corner of the box. The free kick sailed over the pack without any interference to Mariano Torres set up perfectly in front of the lightly covered left side of the net to give Saprissa a 3-2 lead in the second leg, and more importantly to tie up the aggregate not just at 5-5 overall, but 3-3 on the primary tiebreaker of away goals. Jim Curtin shuffled the lineup just after this goal bringing in fresh legs with Mikael Uhre to spell Quinn Sullivan, and bringing in “El Brujo” Martinez for Jesus Bueno for fresh legs and midfield intimidation. This stopped the bleeding immediately but the offense was still stalled. Chris Donovan spelled Carranza at the left striker spot in the 84th minute. As the game went into stoppage time, with extra time on its way if nothing happened, something did indeed happen but not what the Union were hoping for. The Union set up for a corner kick at 90+2” which Saprissa fielded and Javon East went on a breakaway in the other direction. Jakob Glesnes was knocked down in the scramble and Jack Elliott gave chase and went for the slide to knock the ball out but instead caught East’s leg resulting in a red card and the Union not only needing to dig deeper for 30 more minutes of extra time after their third game in a week, but doing so a player short. 

Jack Elliott (PHL) earned a red card for this tackle on Javon East of Saprissa
Image credit
Mikael Uhre celebrates his go ahead goal – Image credit

    Early in extra time in the 94th minute Jack McGlynn set up for a corner kick on the left side of the net. The corner managed to sneak through the pack to find Mikael Uhre standing alone on the right side of the six yard box and put in the go ahead goal putting the Union up 6-5 on aggregate goals. This sets up what feels like the most stressful minutes in soccer: trying to kill off the remaining extra time without conceding. It’s the stuff of nightmares are made of, like the one where a certain greasy haired Welshman crushes your dreams that Union fans will forever be haunted by. This wasn’t a nightmare, just CONCACAF. Two more yellow cards were dealt out for good measure. One was mysteriously issued to Union goalie Oliver Semmle in the 102nd minute for time wasting because he…ran over to the ball boy in the corner to retrieve a ball for a goal kick instead of waiting more time for the one that had just sailed into the river end to be returned to him. Damion Lowe earned another one in the 104th for unclear reasons which earned him a suspension for the next CCC match as it was second yellow over the two legs. Saprissa had one final chance in the 119th minute just missing by a few inches for one final heart palpitation before the finals seconds ticked away as the Union survived and advanced. 

News and Notes:

  • Julian Carranza is now the Union’s leading scorer in CONCACAF Champions League/Cup history with 6 career goals, 4 in this year’s event. 
  • Andre Blake is still nursing a leg injury so Oliver Semmle made his CCC debut alongside new striker Markus Anderson making his debut for the club. 
  • Jack Elliott and Damion Lowe will be suspended for the next CCC match due to their cards received in this match. They should return for Leg 2.
  • The Union’s next MLS match is on Saturday March 2 at Sporting Kansas City. The Union will return home quickly for the First Leg of the Round of 16 matchup of CCC against Pachuca of Liga MX on Tuesday March 5 at 7pm broadcast on FS2. 
  • Deportivo Saprissa returns to Costa Rica Primera Liga play against San Carlos on Sunday March 3. They are currently 5th of 12 in the Clausura table with 15 points in 9 games. 

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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