Chester, PA: The Philadelphia Union hosted the New York City Football Club (NYCFC) on October 6, 2019 for a match on what the MLS would call, Decision Day. Decision Day is a term that the MLS use for the last game of the season especially for teams that are fighting for the last couple playoff spots left. Fortunately for both teams, they already locked up playoff spots with NYCFC securing first place no matter of the outcome. The Union are fighting for the second-place spot and for a chance to qualify for a spot in the CONCAF Champions League.
The first half proved to be very underwhelming for the Union. Within the first 7 minutes of the game, they would give up a goal to Ronald Matarrita of NYCFC, he was assisted by Valentin Castellanos. That would make the score 1-0. NYCFC would keep up their attack, in the 22nd minute of the game they would score. It was a shot on target from Ismale Tajouri-Shradi that bounced off of the head of a Union defender to get past goalie Andre Blake for a 2-0 lead. Valentin Castellanos would be credited with another assist. Meanwhile, NYCFC would play with too much aggressiveness and Mxime Chanot would receive a yellow card in the 27th minute. NYCFC would then make an early substitution in the 32nd minute of the match, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi would come off the pitch for Jesus Medina. The Union would constantly fight back throughout the half creating plenty of chances but with the lack of execution, nothing could be made. Even with the extra 4 minutes added on before halftime, the Union’s offense would stall out making it 2-0 at the half.
Pictures by: Eric Williamson
The second half would show more problems for the Union as far as executing. The Union would have two very early chances in the half. Both of which would end up with shots sailing right over the crossbar. The Union would finally make a substitution with bringing in Marco Fabian for Isinho in the 60th minute of the half. Around the 65th minute, NYCFC’s Anton Tinnerholm would pick up a yellow card for a foul. The Union would make another substitution putting in Anthony Fontana for Fabrice-Jean Picault in the 75th minute. The Union will then use up their 3rd and final substitution by bringing in Matt Real for Brenden Aaronson in the 80th min. NYCFC would use their 2nd substitution in the 82nd minute for James Sands who would then replace first half goal scorer Ronald Mararrita. In the 85th minute, the Union would get a much-needed penalty kick from a handball. Marco Fabian would take the kick and unlike most of the night, he’ll execute an on-target shot giving the Union their first goal of the game. It is now 2-1 at this point in the game. After the goal, Fabian got into it with NYCFC goalie Sean Johnson trying to get the ball back to the half-line for kickoff. NYCFC would use their 3rd and final substitution of the matching by bringing in Sebastein Ibeagha for yellow carded Anton Tinnerholm. The Union would control the ball much of the second half and containing NYCFC in their half of the pitch. With the extra 5 minutes of stoppage time, the Union would turn up the pressure. Within these 5 minutes left, Alex Ring of NYCFC would receive the last yellow card. The game would then end 2-1 as the Union wouldn’t be able to execute and tie up the game.
After the game when talking with head coach Jim Curtin, I asked if he feels the pressure to finally win a playoff game especially after making it to the playoffs 3 out of 4 times the past 4 seasons. He said that if you’re a coach or player, you will feel the pressure from the game in general. But he stresses that winning the game against the Red Bulls next round is important and they are focused on that. Meanwhile, in the locker room, some of the players were disappointed with the performance left on the pitch. Even to some, they are saying how they have to improve especially if they want to make a deep playoff run for the cup this year.
With the win, NYCFC would officially lock up the first-place spot in the Eastern Conference and go into the playoffs with the number one seed and locking up home-field advantage while also securing a bye week. With the loss, the Union will drop down to 3rd place falling behind Atlanta United. The Union will be hosting the New York Red Bulls in the playoffs. As far as international play, the Union are still in it but they would either have to have Atlanta United to win the cup or themselves win it, along with a lot of other variables too.
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.