Playing for the first time in three weeks, the Union faced a tough task in the form of FC Cincinnati under the command of former Union assistant Pat Noonan. Looking to throw a wrinkle at the Boys in Blue, Noonan morphed his lineup into a back three to compress the space in front of goal. Philadelphia responded by looking to play over the top of Cincinnati’s wingbacks and found success early. Three minutes after the opening whistle, captain Alejandro Bedoya chased down a ball and cut back inside to allow for an overlapping run into the 18. Seeing the space, Bedoya threaded a pass to Julian Carranza for a one-timer but the shot went directly at rookie goalkeeper Roman Celentano.
Bedoya continued to get into the space and set up another strong opportunity in the fifth minute as he sent a long cross to Kai Wagner. With the defense racing to the opposite side of the pitch, the German left back had a go but saw his shot blocked by last-second reaction by a defender.
After setting up a pair of strong chances, it was the Captain who took matters into his own hands to put the Boys in Blue ahead in the 17th minute. Employing the Union’s back to front attack, Daniel Gazdag sent a volley over the defense that Carranza battled to the endline. Getting physical with his marker, the Argentinian kept the ball in play while battling his defender and played a ball to the Union captain. Bedoya had a look up at the defense before smaking a left-footed curler that snuck through FC Cincinnati and inside the post to send Subaru Park into a frenzy.
Trailing by a goal, FC Cincinnati stepped up the intensity and nearly equalized within moments of the Union gaining the advantage. Two-time MLS Goalkeeper Andre Blake lived up to the billing with a reaction stop on Álvaro Barreal at the left post which then floated on the goal line. Jack Elliott reacted quickly to the play, clearing it away before the Ohio side could tap it in at the back post. Seconds later a low cross from the midfield forced Blake off his line and into a foot race against former Union right back Ray Gaddis with the Reggae Boyz keeper sweeping it clear before Gaddis could have a shot.
The pressure paid off for Cincinnati just before the halftime whistle with a set piece conversion in the 40th minute. Barreal provided the service and sent a cross centrally into the box that connected with a leaping Tyler Blackett. With the Union defense surrounding the center back, Blackett headed it down into free space. Brandon Vazquez, FC Cincinnati’s leading goalscorer, reacted perfectly to the header, throwing his body at the ball and just past a diving Andre Blake for the 1-1 scoreline going into the break.
The visitors came out of the locker room looking to impose their will on the Union, keeping the hosts compact on their side of the pitch. Keying in on locking down the middle of the pitch, FC Cincinnati kept the quick attack limited and thus created some offensive opportunities of their own. In the 54th minute the Ohio side got one of their best looks of the match off a free kick opportunity, going short and into the middle of the field for Barreal. The forward had a go from long-range but Blake once again rose up to the challenge, making the diving save.
Just past the hour mark, Curtin made his first adjustment to the lineup sending on Cory Burke in place of Uhre. The Jamaican striker sought to stretch the match even more with his size and speed. In the 73rd the Union found space with Jose Martinez sparking a counter attack with hard pass to the center line. The Hungarian dribbled centrally to create additional passing lanes and space before laying off a pass for Bedoya in stride. Ale cut inside and sent a left-footed pass out wide to Burke for a 2 on 1 play. Seeing the run by Gazdag into the penalty spot, Burke played the midfield perfectly only to see Gazdag’s shot saved by the keeper.
In the 77th again the Union played Burke into space on another counter attack, with Gazdag treading the needle from the center circle. Burke cut inside the box with his left and nearly had a go before passing it to Julian Carranza. With the Cincinnati defense rushing back, the Argentinian fought off a shot bounced to the keeper.
Pat Noonan went for the three points on the road with the move to bring on the dangerous Luciano Acosta and Dominique Badji in the 78th minute. Moments later it was a MLS debut for the Union’s recently signed forward Chris Donovan who took to the pitch alongside homegrown Matt Real in the 85th minute.
Looking for a match winner, Daniel Gazdag had a go with a right-footed shot set up by a Cory Burke header but once again stopped by the keeper that saw both sides end with a point.
Philadelphia Union stays at Subaru Park for an Eastern Conference showdown as they battle New York City FC on Sunday, June 26th. The contest will serve as Pride Night presented by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater Florida with kick off set for 6 p.m. ET on FS1. Limited tickets for the Eastern Conference Final rematch remain so be sure to purchase your tickets before they are gone.