Jim Curtin said before the match that his Philadelphia Union squad were an angry first place team just waiting to break out. A goal to start each half in Portland helped Philly stay in first place and return to the win column Sunday night. Those feelings of anger Curtin saw after his team drew 0-0 against Miami spurred their play from the opening whistle as the Union went into a hostile Providence Park with no fear and took the match directly to their hosts.
Four minutes into the contest the Union showcased their strength on both ends of the pitch, locking down a potential scoring chance through a timely Kai Wagner tackle that sparked a counterattack. Moments later, Homegrown Nathan Harriel delivered a long throw-in that found captain Alejandro Bedoya at the edge of the six yard box. Bedoya sent a hard flick centrally for leading scorer Daniel Gazdag and the Hungarian instantly flattened his body and made magic with a bicycle kick that silenced Providence Park.
With momentum filling their sails, the Boys in Blue kept their foot on the pedal in the 11th minute with a set piece play straight off the grounds of the Power Training Complex. Set piece specialist Kai Wagner stepped up and sent a low ball into the path of Bedoya that caught the Timbers by surprise. Bedoya had a go with a right-footed shot to the near post but was denied by a reflex save.
Forward Sergio Santos looked to stretch the game in the 19th minute and nearly doubled the lead but his shot was blocked away.
The Boys in Blue turned to set piece throw-ins once more with Santos winning the initial throw and sending a headed ball to the middle. The Brazilian’s partner in attack, Julian Carranza, read it perfectly but saw his smashing header zip over the bar.
The Timbers grew into the match after absorbing the Union’s attacks and tried to take control in the middle of the park. Jose Martinez and Leon Flach wouldn’t allow any of it, reading the Timbers’ offense and delivering strong tackles to deny the hosts any rhythm. In the 35th minute, Flach stuck out a toe to deny a clean shot inside the box. Martinez made his mark against one of the best No. 6’s in league history in Diego Chara as well, engaging in battle with the veteran midfielder and twice shutting down counterattacks.
After knocking on the door throughout the first half, the Union wasted no time grabbing a second goal once the latter frame kicked off. Wagner spun a cross into the box from the left and Sergio Santos rose highest among a group of bodies to power a header into the lower corner of the net.
Minutes later, Santos stepped off with an injury as Paxten Aaronson stepped in up front. The Homegrwon was immediately involved as his dribbling added a new dimension to Philly’s attack.
Throughout the match, Portland’s response to every Union tactic was physicality. They looked to bully Jack Elliott, Daniel Gazdag, and Jose Martinez and each time Philly proved tough enough to respond.
Just past the hour mark, Diego Chara connected his elbow to a Union head while carrying a yellow card but avoided a sending off.
Portland then pulled a goal back in the 69th minute when Sebastian Blanco tucked home a loose ball from close range after scrambling defense from Glesnes and Elliott nearly kept the Timbers out. After a review, however, Santiago Moreno was offside when Josecarlos van Rankin tipped the ball with his head and the goal didn’t stand.
Philly’s moment of lost focus hadn’t hurt them, and even as the Timbers ramped up the physical play, Jim Curtin’s side stuck to their gameplan and played calmly out of pressure to their creators up front.
In the 85th minute, Yimmi Chara curled around Moreno and found space to fire on Andre Blake from close range, but the Union goalie tracked the ball and unspooled his body to parry the blast.
Portland had a final chance in extra time as Bill Tuiloma came charging down the left channel and met a looping cross with a fierce left-footed effort. Blake reacted instantly and pushed the vicious shot away with ease as the Union rode out the final minutes to a shutout win.
Philadelphia Union concludes May back on the road with a roadtrip up I-95 to take on the New England Revolution on Saturday, May 28th. Kick off from Gillette Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. You can join the Union for a one-of-a-kind Watch Party at P.J. Whelihan’s in West Chester, PA! Enjoy Drink Specials, hang with Phang and all guests will have the chance to receive Union giveaways on-site by participating in our Enter-to-Win. To RSVP for the event, please click here. Coverage of the match will begin at 7:30 p.m. on both PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com.