Andre Blake was too big, too strong, and too quick to be beaten from the penalty spot Sunday night as he stoned Pedro Santos and helped the Union leave Ohio with a point. Julian Carranza had Philly’s best chance of the night but saw his deflected shot pushed wide by Eloy Room’s extended leg.
Philly turned to a unique formation against the Crew as Head Coach Jim Curtin reshuffled his lineup for the team’s third game in seven days. The starting XI came out in a 5-3-2, looking to congest the middle of the pitch on the defensive end. the Union’s defense was connected early in the contest as the home side looked to open the scoring inside the first 20 minutes.
Two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake was tested twice in two minutes and aced each one to leave Columbus fans on the edges of their seat but lacking a critical goal. The first came against the dangerous veteran Darlington Nagbe off a Crew counter. Set up by a long volley from Lucas Zelarayan, Steven Moreira drove into the 18 but was met with a defensive wall of Union center backs. Moreira laid off a pass that Nagbe connected in stride to put a right-footed blast into the path of Blake.
Next, the referee pointed to the penalty spot after Daniel Gazdag and Sean Zawadzki were tangled in the box on a corner kick. Santos stepped up but, like many before him, was denied by Blake with an impressive diving save to the right.
Playing for the second time in 2022, the Union and Crew weren’t looking to give up an inch with yellow cards dished out left and right. The first was an important one for Columbus with defensive anchor Jonathan Mensah booked just 24 seconds into the contest. Union center back Jack Elliott was also booked for a shoulder-to-shoulder battle against Jacen Russell-Rowe that sent the attacker sprawling.
Forward Chris Donovan was awarded his first start in MLS play and pressed with energy alongside Cory Burke at the point of attack. With the Union happy to concede possession to the hosts, execution on the counterattack and set pieces were crucial in the first half. Burke’s quick pace saw the Jamaican striker get open on the flank early in the contest but he sent a cross into the box that couldn’t connect with any teammates.
Just before the halftime whistle, the Boys in Blue nearly converted from a set piece. Wagner delivered a left-footed blast from the sideline that snuck through the 18 and into the path of Stuart Findlay. The center back nearly tapped it in at the back post only to see a last second flick off the line by a Crew defender.
In the second half, the Union came out with more organization and intensity. Gazdag was lurking at the back post when a corner kick deflected and spun past him, then Cory Burke met a cross alone in the box but needed to get his touch perfect from 12 yards out to trouble Room.
In the 55th minute, Burke forced a turnover at the top of the Columbus half and Gazdag sent Chris Donovan up the left channel. The young striker was surprised to look up and see Jakob Glesnes charging into the box alone. The ball was knocked out for a corner and Glesnes took off on another impressive sprint moments later to snuff out a chance for Columbus to counter.
Columbus made the first sub of the match as the hour mark ticked by, with James Igbekeme replacing Aiden Morris. The Union immediately attacked up their right, but first Bedoya and then Mbaizo failed to find a route through the many bodies loading the Crew box.
In the 66th minute, Pedro Santos cut a first time ball through the box from the left and Lucas Zelarayan strode into space to pummel it past Blake. Nima Sagafi and his VAR referee spotted Erik Hurtado far offside and blocking Andre Blake’s view and the goal was called back.
Curtin already had Mikael Uhre and Julian Carranza prepped to enter the game, so when the call was reversed the two strikers immediately came on to exploit the emotional letdown the Crew felt after the disallowed goal.
Hurtado found space outside the box in the 74th minute and decided to test Blake, only to find the Union goalie was as good as his reputation and easily parried the driven effort.
The ever-dangerous Kevin Molino and former Red Bull Derrick Etienne, Jr checked in for the home side after Zelarayan snapped off another dangerous free kick.
On the other end, Uhre was stuck playing with his back to goal too often as Columbus played it safe in midfield and kept bodies in the middle in transition.
Philly’s defensive block remained impeccable, but when they conceded fouls on the edge of the final third, uncertainty crept into the game. Carranza’s movement into midfield helped the Union’s midfield retain its defensive shape, and the striker finally got his poacher’s moment in the 84th minute. Gazdag’s exceptional technique drew in the defense but the Hungarian navigated away and poked through to Carranza. With two Crew bodies strewn in his path, the striker fizzed a deflected shot on frame that Room had to stick out a leg to nudge away.
In their third match of the week, Philly continued to be the aggressor as the home side looked to slow things down and strangle the match.
As time ticked away, it was clear Columbus would settle for a home point, and despite being the stronger side in the second half, Philly left with a point as well.
Philadelphia Union is back at Subaru Park for an Eastern Conference rivalry showdown as they host D.C. United on Friday, July 8th. The match presented by BIMBO Bakeries will see the return of the favorite Fireworks Night and Alumni Night with with kick off set for 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Limited tickets for the rivalry contest remain so be sure to purchase your tickets before they are gone!