Philadelphia Union saw its inaugural run in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League come to an end in the semifinals against Liga MX Club America on Saturday night, falling at Subaru Park by a 2-0 scoreline.
With Philadelphia Union needing a goal to put the North America’s most successful club on the back foot, Jim Curtin employed a starting XI that would press the visitors’ every touch. The Union’s midfield diamond of Jamiro Monteiro, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, and El Brujo Martinez led the charge with four successful tackles and 11 duels won in the opening 15 minutes.
Curtin’s aggressive plan led to the match’s first attacking chance with Martinez intercepting a pass outside the Union box and rifling a pass up the field. A quick switch from Monteiro hit Bedoya in stride but the captain’s right-footed pass into the center was blocked away.
With a two-goal lead on aggregate, the Liga MX side were more than happy to slow down the match and take advantage of the moments when the Union were a bit too aggressive for the referee’s liking. That strategy took the life out of the match during a nearly 20 minute stretch when the Union picking up a trio of yellow cards. The first half momentum swung on Club America’s first yellow of the night when Sebastián Córdova was put into the book for a hard tackle on Kai Wagner.
The Union left back responded by creating a big chance for Burke, flicking a pass into his stride only to see a sliding defender knock the finish away.
The ensuing corner saw the Boys in Blue turn a broken play into a golden opportunity as the corner was fired past the far post. Bedoya chased it down at the edge of the box and played it back to Olivier Mbaizo. The Cameroonian international picked out a wide open Jakob Glesnes in front of goal, but the center back lifted his header over the bar.
America recognized that the Union were growing into the match after receiving a raft of early cautions only ignited the latent energy fizzling between the two sides.
Nicholas Benedetti was sent on for Cordova as the visitors sought the goal that could put the Union away.
Instead, they met a Philly team that is never bowed at home.
Kacper Przybylko slipped behind the defense and was brought down from behind in the box by Bruno Valdez. A foul was awarded and Valdez received a caution. Monteiro’s penalty was saved and Burke’s follow-up was also denied.
Five minutes later, Bedoya rumbled up the right and curled a ball into space as Przybylko dove and stretched for a finish, coming up just short.
America slowed the match at every opportunity, recognizing that despite strong visiting support, the Union and their fans were controlling the match.
But where Philly was unable to convert their chances, America took theirs just before the 80 minute mark. Moments after Mbaizo and Monteiro were pulled in favor of Paxten Aaronson and Daniel Gazdag, Club America countered and Benedetti’s shot from close range deflected of Jakob Gleses and past Blake.
Undeterred, the Union pushed hard for the next five minutes and pinned America deep, Gazdag nearly finishing a tight-angled cross from Wagner.
Quinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn came on in the final minute of the game as Curtin made sure his homegrowns got to feel the atmosphere on the pitch.
It was a difficult loss but Philly exits their first ScotiaBank Concacaf Champions League run with the respect of an entire continent. Over 180 minutes, they gave the best club in Mexico all they could handle.
Philadelphia Union is right back into action this weekend with a big Eastern Conference showdown against Orlando City SC on Sunday afternoon for Kick Childhood Cancer Night. The Boys in Blue will celebrate their Fearless 43 families on Sunday, September 19th with a nationally broadcast contest on ESPN. Kick off from Subaru Park is set for 4 p.m. ET with tickets for the battle available for purchase by clicking here.