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Union Look Like Old Selves Against Minnesota

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Image Credit: JD Walker – Stream Punk Entertainment

    Something has felt a bit off about the Philadelphia Union for most of the first five weeks of the 2024 season. Most of it is easily explained by the fatigue of a brutally long 2023 season, short offseason, and immediate double duty of MLS season and CONCACAF Champions Cup. The biggest silver lining to the 6-0 demolition at the hands of Pachuca in the Round of 16 of CCC is that the Union can focus on MLS play with only one game a week for most weeks until May/June. The exhausted (and injured) players are finally able to rest and recover for the first time in quite a while, so the sharpness is coming back right before our eyes. Last week in Portland with a depleted roster due to a number of players being away with their countries for International play, the Union emphatically claimed they were back in business with a 3-1 victory. They came back home to play a rare afternoon game on Saturday for Kids Day at Subaru Park and continued their roll with a 2-0 victory over Minnesota United FC. Daniel Gazdag and Julián Carranza scored while Andre Blake and Oliver Semmle shared the clean sheet in goal. Mr. Sun was the MVP with a rare appearance for the entire pre-game and first half bringing nice weather to Subaru Park for the first time this season for a Union home match despite leaving a little early to beat traffic. 

    Teemu Pukki got the first early chance for Minnesota with a shot in the 4th minute that was blocked. During this play Andre Blake appeared to take a hard fall and was evaluated by medical staff for the first time of the match. Blake remained in the game but this was the first sign of trouble. In the 16th minute Philadelphia drew a corner kick on the right side of the goal. Kai Wagner’s service came into Jack Elliott who had the first chance saved but Daniel Gazdag was in front of the net to take the rebound and tap it home to give the Union an early 1-0 lead. This was oddly enough their first time scoring first in a home match at Subaru Park this season. Conceding early goals is another uncharacteristic trend for this team that appears to be righting itself. 

In the 33rd minute a Minnesota corner kick led to a scrum in front of the net and a second knock on Blake causing him to stay down on the pitch for a few minutes for a second check from medical staff and remaining in the game once again. Blake shook it off and was able to save a shot on target at the bottom left of the goal from Teemu Pukki in the right side of the box in the 41st minute, preserving a 1-0 halftime lead for the Union. 

The second half brought a chance for Quinn Sullivan in the 53rd minute. Wagner set up for a corner kick on the right side which bounced out to Sulllivan at the top of the box who fired one high that had the goalie beat but it glanced off the crossbar into the Sons of Ben supporters at the River End. 

    In the 70th minute Blake went down on the pitch and after a third time staying down for evaluation coach Jim Curtin decided he had seen enough and subbed Blake out for backup goalie Oliver Semmle in the 74th minute due to possible head injury. Semmle appeared to allow a goal to Bongokuhle Hlongwane in the 82nd minute but it was quickly ruled offside and confirmed by VAR to preserve the Philadelphia lead. The Union executed the restart brilliantly. Semmle’s goal kick sailed down the field and was headed by a Minnesota player then Alejandro Bedoya headed it forward to Julián Carranza in the right center of the box, who promptly sent off a roller into the bottom left of the net to give the Union a 2-0 lead in the 84th minute and the boys in blue held on for their first victory at the Chester waterfront this season. 

News and notes:

  • Jim Curtin said after the game that Andre Blake felt a little lightheaded towards the end of the game and praised the medical staff for acting with caution treating a possible head injury that they hope will not linger. Blake will be monitored this week for his status for Nashville on Saturday. 
  • Julián Carranza and Daniel Gazdag both scored their 3rd goals of their MLS seasons
  • The Union are the only team in MLS to score in five of their opening six matches of the season. 
  • Next up for the Union is a trip to Geodis Park to face Nashville SC on Saturday, April 6 at 8:30pm. All MLS matches are streamed on Apple TV+.

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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