Philadelphia Union captain Alejandro Bedoya picked the perfect time for his first goal of 2021 as his smashing finish from a Kai Wagner cross saw the Union pick up an important 1-0 win on Wednesday night at Subaru Park.
Back in front of the Union faithful, including investor, community partner, and Olympic Gold Medalist Kevin Durant, Alejandro Bedoya rose to the occasion. In a match featuring the Eastern Conference’s best defensive sides, Philly’s captain caught NYC napping in the second half for his first goal of 2021.
The opening half lived up to the billing as the sides generated just one shot on target each in the first 45 minutes. The visitors nearly got the opening goal in the eighth minute when Valentín Castellanos grabbed a pass from Santiago Rodriguez and sent a shot crashing off the post and back into play. Ultimately the play was whistled offsides but goalkeeper Andre Blake still sent a message to his defense to tighten up the marking.
Seven minutes later NYCFC’s only chance on frame came with a right-footed shot by Rodriguez that went directly to into Blake’s waiting arms.
With the opposition keen on counter pressing like the Union, Philly took advantage and used quick passes through midfield to transition, resulting in numerous NYCFC fouls. MLS All-Star Kai Wagner was busy with set pieces and delivered a cross in the 21st minute toward Kacper Przybylko at the back post. However, a timely defensive header turned the opportunity into a corner kick.
After Rodriguez saw a curling effort go wide, Sergio Santos turned in the first half’s best scoring chance in the 24th minute. Beginning with the Union’s counter pressing and a strong effort and tackle by Jose Martinez, Daniel Gazdag looked to push the attack forward and fast. The Hungarian megged a pair of defenders before laying off a pass to Alejandro Bedoya on the right flank. With no overlapping run on the outside, the captain dribbled into the attacking third and sent a hard pass to Santos who flicked it into the air and spun180-degrees to fire a shot that forced a diving save from Sean Johnson.
The second half continued the cagey but dangerous approaches by each Eastern Conference power.
An exceptional defensive read by Jack Elliott earned the Union an early free kick that led to a Bedoya cutback deep in the box and a Philly corner kick. In contrast to the first half, now the Union were making it difficult for New York City to get out of their half following changes in possession.
Santos and Przybylko chased the NYC defenders well but the visitors continued looking to overload the wings and make Philly’s defensive shape move side to side.
After an absence from the team, Jamiro Monteiro was right back into the action when he came on for Daniel Gazdag just after the hour mark. An electric presence on a pitch full of tired legs, Monteiro began working with Santos and Przybylko to create chances. In the 66th minute, Santos challenged Sean Johnson for an aerial ball and Philly recovered to hold play near the visitors’ box.
Monteiro was on the ball again on the left and dropped a pass to Kai Wagner, who lofted in a right-footed cross to the far post that Bedoya crushed into the net with a header at full sprint.
Cory Burke entered for Przybylko but NYC was next to threaten. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi stepped into a shot from 22 yards out and got every bit of it, but Blake was not so easily beaten and held the shot with ease.
Thiago, Talles Magno, and Andres Jasson came on as NYC pushed for an equalizer. A collision at the top of the box left Tajouri-Shradi with another opportunity and he stared down Andre Blake with purpose. The free kick was low and curling, but Philly’s wall was as tough as the city itself and stood firm, deflecting the attempt high into the air.
Quinn Sullivan entered for Santos and twisted away from defenders, looking to hold the ball up underneath Cory Burke’s running.
The Boys in Blue are back in action on Saturday night as they welcome CF Montreal to Subaru Park for Philadelphia Union Foundation Alumni Night presented by Ardent Credit Union. The night will see the return of Ray Gaddis along with other former Union players and tickets for the match still available here. Kick off for the Eastern Conference clash is set for 8 p.m. ET and can be seen on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com.