The Union and Crew were deadlocked in yet another tactical chess match in the first half as both sides looked to unlock the opposition. With a full capacity crowd replenishing lost energy the Boys in Blue grew into the match with the high press causing issues as the Crew looked to build out of the back. The turnovers became opportunities with Cory Burke nearly getting the opener off a corner kick in the 22nd minute.
Three minutes later, Jamiro Monteiro put his stamp on the match with a display of tactical awareness and pure finishing skill. Racing into the open space between the Crew’s defense and midfield, he quick did a combo with Olivier Mbaizo with the right back racing into space and cutting up the line. Mbaizo’s cross was headed clear by the Crew but landed right at the boots of Monteiro who sent the crowd to their feet with a left-footed finish.
Knowing the goal was force the Crew to chase the game, the Union again continued to keep the defending MLS Cup Champs at bay with Burke putting the defense in a tizzy and flipping the attack with a pass to homegrown Jack McGlynn. Recognizing the over lapping run from Kai Wagner on his left, McGlynn hit the defender in stride with Wagner’s nearly connecting with Kapcer Przybylko.
Another chance came in the 35th minute as the Union displayed smooth defense to offense motion that saw chance from both Burke and Leon Flach. Przybylko played the role of playmaker with him laying it off for Burke inside the box. While the Jamaican’s shot was blocked, it fell to a wide open Flach. Recognizing all he could do was head it, he smashed it across the frame toward a crashing Przybylko at the far post but Crew center back Jonathan Mensah put the ball over the bar.
Caleb Porter’s side was struggling to create chances so the head coach brought on his star player, attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan. The diminutive playmaker dominated the 2020 MLS Cup final, but couldn’t find space early in the second half.
Meanwhile, Jim Curtin’s side remained patient as the Crew sought to control possession and wear down the home side’s press.
In the 58th minute, Sergio Santos and Matt Real came in for Burke and McGlynn. Santos was on hand to stretch the field and Real was looking to an edge to the midfield. Indeed, in the two minutes after Real entered the match, three fouls were called including one on the homegrown.
Philly continued to cede ground but hold a compact shape in their own half, forcing Crew striker Gyasi Zardes to drop into midfield to receive the ball. Pulling Zardes deep made Columbus far less sharp in front, and the Union were untroubled by the champs.
In the 74th minute, Real went into a loose ball challenge on a slide and took the ball out before the man. Much to the surprise of Real and the rest of the Union squad, referee Joe Dickerson immediately brandished a red card.
VAR called Dickerson over to review the play and he changed his decision to a caution.
The ensuing free kick was half-cleared before right back Harrison Afful sought to test Blake with a long volley that the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year calmly gathered.
Marlon Hairston gave the Union stopper more to think about in the 82nd minute. Mayhem in the box allowed a loose ball to dribble free at the top of the six yard box and Hairston spun around Jakob Glesnes to find himself in alone on Blake. The Jamaican stayed big and Hairston’s attempt at slotting it past the goalkeeper’s hip was met with a strong hand that pushed the ball right back at the attacker for career save No. 500.
As the match moved into extra time, the Crew had no more gears to hit. Homegrowns Real and Quinn Sullivan were tackling everything that moved in midfield and Monteiro was releasing Santos every chance he got.
It was the type of win the Union never used to get over a Columbus side that has a knack for creating anxious matches that turn on a single moment. On Wednesday night, Philly made the moment, and they Union fans the win they deserved on a loud and joyous return to full capacity at Subaru Park.
The Union continue a busy return to MLS action with another trip to Soldier Field to face Chicago Fire FC. The Boys in Blue knocked of the Fire 2-0 in May and aim to do it again at 8:00 p.m. ET on June 26th, with the match going out live on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com.