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We’re On To Cincinnati! Donovan Goal Stomps Revs Season

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Oct 28, 2023; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward Chris Donovan (25) in action against the New England Revolution during the second half in game one in a round one match of the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs at Subaru Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

    Major League Soccer changed the playoff format to a Best of 3 first round playoffs to encourage chaos and form new rivalries (with a side effect of creating more content for Apple TV of course). When you add this formula to teams that are already fierce rivals, it makes for a tinderbox ready to blow at any minute. Add in racist comments during a fight, a subsequent suspension, multiple injuries, and a player making thinly veiled threats at headhunting opponents to “protect” his teammates, and this one had the makings for an inferno at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Good thing it was cold and the Union had plenty of reinforcements to put out the small fires that did erupt, as Chris Donovan emerged as the hero with a goal in the 79th minute to give the Philadelphia Union a 1-0 victory Wednesday evening and a 2 games to 0 victory over the New England Revolution in the first round of the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

    New England threatened early in the 6th minute when Gustavo Bou took a shot from the center of the box and Andre Blake made a diving save to stop the shot in the bottom left corner although Bou ended up being offside anyway. In the 27th Jack McGlynn stepped into the set piece role in Kai Wagner’s absence and fired a corner kick into the scrum. Mikael Uhre got a shot off after a few bounces that was saved and Nathan Harriel got a good look at one of the rebounds in the scrum but his shot went off the right post. A Damion Lowe yellow card in the 33rd minute set the burners to simmer, and things boiled over by the 43rd minute. Marc-Anthony Kaye challenged Gazdag for a ball near midfield and got tied up with Gazdag prone on the ground. Kaye’s legs were tied up and he stomped on Gazdag’s chest while getting untangled. The officials reviewed VAR and upgraded the offense to a red card on Kaye at the 45th minute for violent conduct, putting New England down a player for the remainder of the match as the teams went into halftime scoreless. 

    Andre Blake came up big again a few times in the second half, especially in the 48th minute when bsent a cross from the corner over to Gustavo Bou in the box who got a quick one-timer off his right foot but Blake blocked it on the right side of the net. In the 51st McGlynn set up for a free kick from the far right corner of the box, but the pack was assembled more towards the center of the net, leaving McGlynn an opening to take the kick directly at the goal instead of into the pack. The shot had Revs goalie Earl Edwards Jr beat, but the shot hit the right post keeping the game scoreless and slowed down to a methodical grind for the next 20 minutes. A foul by Tomas Chancalay set up a free kick for Jack McGlynn in the 79th minute. McGlynn’s kick from the right side trailed just in front of the pack enough for Chris Donovan’s foot right to catch the ball at close range and send the ball into the center of the net to give the Union the deciding goal and a series victory to move on for a semifinal matchup at Cincinnati and send their longtime rivals home for the season. 

News and Notes:

  • MLS announced on Tuesday that Kai Wagner would be suspended for three games for violating the league’s on-field antidiscrimination policy for the incident in Game 1 in which he directed a racially insensitive term in German at New England’s Bobby Wood. Wagner is also required to continue to participate in league-mandated education and training sessions. Wagner cooperated with the league’s investigation, immediately accepted responsibility for his actions and willingness to participate in restorative processes to repair the harm caused, which the league factored into issuing a shorter suspension than 5-6 games typically issued by MLS for similar incidents in the past. Wagner served the first game of the suspension tonight and it will roll over to next season if the Union lose their next game. 
  • Julian Carranza missed the game due to a hamstring injury. Coach Jim Curtin said in the postgame presser that Carranza had attempted training this past weekend and played ok but he still felt the injury and was held out of this game not wanting to risk further injury. Carranza is expected to return for the Cincinnati match. 
  • Chris Donovan’s goal was his first playoff goal of his career, and the assist was Jack McGlynn’s second career playoff assist. Andre Blake also recorded his third playoff shutout. 
  • Prior to the match, New England defender Matt Polster spoke to the press about Carles Gil’s injury in Game 1 which the Revs felt was an intentional target from the Union, saying “Maybe we need to do something similar. Start targeting their players to an extent, obviously not to hurt them like what happened to Carles, but protect him and make sure that it is not okay to keep hitting our players.” Jim Curtin referred to the comments as “Some noise from the New England locker room before the game”, later adding “We tend to do our talking on the field.”
  • This victory marks the Union’s fourth trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the past five years. The Union will now play 2023 Supporters Shield winners Cincinnati FC at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati. Game date and time TBA, but it will be at least an 18 day layoff due to the upcoming FIFA International break and Thanksgiving Holiday. 

JD Walker is one of the co-founders of Stream Punk Entertainment and has covered the Philadelphia Union 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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