Chester, PA- The Philadelphia Union would host the New York Red Bulls in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs. The playoffs for the MLS chose a different format than the ones in previous years. This year is a one and done game with the highest seed would host the playoff game and winner would move on. The Union ended the season with the 3rd place see while the Red Bulls would finish with the 6th seed.
The first half was completely awful for the Union. Within 6 minutes the Union would give up an awful goal. Josh Sims would find the net after a good pass from Alejandro Romero Gamarra to give the New York Red Bulls a 1-0 lead. In the 13th minute, the Union would have back to back corners setting up two perfect chances for them to score but nothing would come to fruition. The Red Bulls would get the same chance but instead, they would score on the second corner, a header from Tim Parker and the assist from Daniel Royer. At this point, the Red Bulls would be up 2-0, the first of two separate occasions that the Union would be down a two-goal lead. Around the 29th minute, Josh Sims would suffer an injury on the pitch and would have to be early subbed out with Alex Muyl replacing him.
The Union would make a push to come back in the first half through a free kick taken by Sergio Santos. That would easily set up Harris Medunjanin with space to then pass it to Alejandro Bedoya who would kick it in the back of the net. The Union would then be down 2-1 in the 30th minute. By this point, the Union’s offense would finally wake up and start attacking and testing the Red Bull’s defense. But the moment would slowly die down, many who would blame the referee Chris Penso who would make so questionable calls and no calls. One was a yellow card given to Jamiro Monteiro which was fair but the obvious miss call was when a Red Bull defender would make a handball foul when the Union were attacking but nothing came out of it, foul wise. Red Bulls capitalized on the extra stoppage time by scoring seconds before the halftime whistle was called. That goal was scored by Tom Barlow following a set piece given to New York. This would be the second time the Union would be down two goals as the score would now be 3-1.
The second half of the match saw a much better Union team. The Union would start off with scoring their second goal in the 52nd minute from Jack Elliot. He would make the score 3-2 with the Union getting started getting back into the game. Thankfully the momentum wasn’t lost when Alejandro Bedoya was shown a yellow card on a bad foul and the Union would continue their attack and pressure on New York’s defense. The Union would tie things up after a pair of subs with Ilsinho coming onto the pitch for Andrew Wooten, but also Fabrice Picault for Brendan Aaronson. Fabrice Jean-Picault was the most important sub as he was the one to head the ball in the net from a beautiful cross from Sergio Santos in the 78th minute. The Red Bulls would try to mix things up bringing on Sean Davis (before the 3rd Union goal) and Bradley Wright-Phillips for Alejandro Romero Gamarra and Tom Barlow. But nothing would come out of those changes before the full-time whistle was blown. Thus, making the game go into extra time.
Extra time in the MLS means there are two 15-minute halves. Each team will get the ball starting a half and whatever the final score when the time expires, that is it and the game is over. If still tied it would go to penalty kicks. This isn’t a typical overtime like the NFL or NHL where the first goal wins, think more like NBA format, for those who are not quite familiar.
The Union would keep up their pressure through the extra time given. Especially early on with shot attempts from Kai Wagner and Haris Medunjanin. Both teams would go back and forth while also making moves with substitutes. The Red Bulls would sub first in the 97th minute by bringing in Brina White for Daniel Royer making that their last sub for the night. The Union would bring on Marco Fabian for Segio Santos. Philadelphia would benefit greatly with that move as almost 3 minutes later, Fabian would score the go-ahead floater goal in the 106th minute. The Union for the first time throughout this game would lead, making the score 4-3. Fabian’s goal was also assisted by Fabrice Jean-Picault from a good cross to Fabian that set up the goal.
The second half proved slightly uninteresting. The Union would continue attack while the Red Bulls would also fight back to. But the Union proved too much in the end. Both teams suffered a yellow card. One given to Union’s Ilsinho in the 108th minute. Two players from New York would pick up cards, Tim Parker in the 107th minute and Cristian Casseres Jr in the 114th. The Union would also make their final sub in the 112th minute bringing in Warren Creavalle for Alejandro Bedoya as Bedoya seem to suffer a calf cramp. The Union would hold on and win the game 4-3.
For the Union, this marks their first playoff win in their franchise history. Even Jim Curtin admitted Marco Fabian’s goal was probably the most important goal in the Union’s 10-year history. The Union would now have to travel to Atlanta, Georgia to play Atlanta United in the conference semi-finals. This game would be on Thursday, October 24th at 8 pm. For the Red Bulls, they obviously don’t advance and would have to work towards building a better team next year.
Written by: Eric Williamson
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Eric Williamson is the host of the Union podcast Full Time Philly and also contrinutes to many of the Union coverage. He is a huge fan of all the 4 major Philly teams on top of music too.