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Union Neuter Red Bulls on PK’s To Set Up Q Rematch

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Credit: Philadelphia Union

Familiarity breeds contempt. Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin said after the DC United match the other night that the regional format of the Leagues Cup tournament results in playing the same teams over and over much like the US Open Cup. As a result, he expected the match with Red Bull New York to be like “Organized fighting”, and the match lived up to Curtin’s prediction with a flurry of yellow cards in the second half. The Union advanced for the second match in a row on Penalty Kicks Tuesday evening, winning the shootout 4-3 after a 1-1 draw to advance to the Quarterfinals of the Leagues Cup against Querétaro. 

The rivals from up the Turnpike struck first in the 4th minute when Omir Fernandez fielded a through ball on the right side of the box which found a hole in the Union defense. Fernandez passed over to Elias Manoel in the center of the box who easily sent a shot past Andre Blake putting the Red Bulls up 1-0 early. The Union had a chance in the 31st minute when Daniel Gazdag fielded a cross from Julián Carranza and sent a shot wide right by a few inches. In the 41st minute Gazdag came up the left side but was grabbed by a defender and pulled to the ground but no card was issued resulting in only a free kick for the foul which was not converted, so the score remained 1-0 at halftime. 

In the 51st minute Gazdag tweaked his knee in front of the Red Bulls net and stayed down on the pitch for several minutes while receiving medical attention. He moved to the sideline to stretch and see if he could go back in while play resumed. Ultimately in the 55th minute coach Jim Curtin decided to pull Gazdag for Mikael Uhre, moving Jack McGlynn back to midfield. Jesús Bueno came in for Leon Flach in the same substitution window. The tensions ratcheted up in the 61st minute when Carranza was on the attack but knocked down by Sean Nealis at the edge of the penalty area. Jesús Bueno went towards the ball and was knocked down by Red Bulls goalie Carlos Coronel who came out of the box. Neither foul was called much to the chagrin of the Union fans at Subaru Park. In the 68th minute Kai Wagner set up for a corner kick on the left side and planted it perfectly in the box for Nathan Harriel to get enough air for a header into the bottom right corner to knot the match at 1-1. A few minutes later Franuel Amaya did his best to put a target on his back for all future visits to Subaru Park, being involved in multiple rough fouls before enforcer José Martinez got in his face, resulting in yellow cards issued to both players. The officials had completely lost control of the match by this point, with Olivier Mbaizo earning an additional yellow card despite not even being in the game on account of some choice words he said to an official on the sidelines. The Union had one last chance in the 88th minute when a Jakob Glesnes shot from a difficult angle on the far right side went high, sending the Union to a PK shootout for the second game in a row. 

The Union took the lead in the first round of the shootout when Jack Elliott put his kick into the bottom right of the net following a Lewis Morgan miss. This was Morgan’s first action in several games after being injured. Franuel Amaya and Sean Nealis converted for the Red Bulls while Mikael Uhre and Julián Carranza scored for the Union in the subsequent rounds. Daniel Edelman nailed the crossbar and Jack McGlynn was stopped in the 3rd round of kicks which was empty for both teams. Going into the 5th and final round with the Union leading 3-2, John Tolkin tied the kicks at 3, setting up Jesús Bueno with the gut check kick in the bottom of the 5th for the second game in a row. The result was the same, Bueno hitting pay dirt in the bottom left corner and the Union surviving another round. 

In the postgame press conference, Jim Curtin finally told the world how he really feels about Red Bull shenanigans:

“This has nothing to do with Troy. (Lesesnes, the Red Bulls coach) I think for a team and a group to be in 21st place to talk and run their mouths as much as they do on the field…to be beat here 11 times in a row by us is something that while yes I’m giving bulletin board material, I’ve kind of had enough of it. Credit to my guys for sticking together, pushing, winning again, finding ways to win. I’m proud of them, but for all the stuff they have to deal with off the ball, nonsense, people coming off the bench and talking. Bench players that come into the game and talk and run their mouths, it’s just strange. It’s something I’m going to address, and I’m going to speak my mind because I’m proud of my group for the way that they do their talking on the field and have now for 11 games in a row, almost five years against Red Bull.”

Curtin added a few more bumper sticker messages for Red Bull team culture, adding: “Be a little humble. When you’re the little brother and get beat up a lot, just know how to act” along with, 

“Have the self-awareness to know when to speak and when to be humble.”

Jesús Bueno was happy to step up in a huge moment, volunteering for the high pressure fifth slot again: “These games are crucial. In these moments you need someone with confidence and ready to take the responsibility. Luckily it came to a situation where it came up to me again and I was able to convert.” Andre Blake sent a message to his teammates on facing Querétaro a second time in this tournament: “Don’t take them lightly. This is knockout, we beat them in the group stage. This is knockout and if you don’t show up you’re going to get your ass kicked.” Blake was also amped up by the crowd in The River End behind him while he stepped up to take the penalty kicks:

“I love it. Soccer is about confidence and trying to intimidate your opponent as much as possible. You want them to feel uncomfortable. I tried to use the best fans in the league tonight to our advantage, and I think they did an amazing job.”

News and Notes:

  • The match was postponed to Tuesday from Monday night after a tornado warning was issued for Delaware County due to severe weather in the area which caused widespread damage in several nearby towns. 
  • The 11 games in a row that Jim Curtin mentioned in his Red Bull smackdown refers to the Union’s unbeaten streak against them, going 8-0-3 in that timeframe. Red Bull’s last win over the Union was a 2-0 victory at Red Bull Arena on September 23, 2019. Their last win at Subaru Park was a 1-0 match on October 21, 2018, almost five years ago. 
  • Jim Curtin confirmed that Daniel Gazdag had hyperextended his knee and was responding well to initial medical exams. Gazdag is set to have an MRI and is questionable for the upcoming match. 
  • Penalty kicks have been a common theme throughout Leagues Cup, with five of the eight Round of 16 matches decided in PKs. 
  • The Union’s next match in the Quarterfinal round of the Leagues Cup is a rematch with Querétaro at Subaru Park, who they defeated 5-1 in their second Group Stage game on July 26. The match is set for Friday August 11 at 8pm. All Leagues Cup matches are streaming on Apple TV+. 

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