Quick feet allowed Daniel Gazdag to flip the ball into Orlando’s net from close range and the Union defense allowed a single shot on frame in a statement-making 1-0 win on the road in Orlando.
Jim Curtin and his side are on a mission to turn early season draws into midseason wins, and that’s exactly what they did on a muggy, Florida night.
Momentum swung back and forth in the first half with the home side looking to break through early against the Eastern Conference leaders. Head Coach Jim Curtin sought to break the match open with a reshaped right side of the formation with homegrown Jack McGlynn and Olivier Mbaizo and the duo were involved early in the contest as they looked to pounce on the counter attack but couldn’t break through.
After a back and forth opening 10 minutes, Orlando settled in and went after the left side of the Union’s defense with All-Star Kai Wagner and Jack Elliott who returned to the lineup after missing the past two matches with a knee injury. The center back showed no rust at all, making a key tackle in the 14th minute to deny a run from Ruan into the box.
With possession hard to gain in the first half, forward Julian Carranza nearly opened the scoring in the 27th minute. The Argentianian looked up after collecting a forward pass at the center stripe and saw the keeper off his line. The forward had a go with a long blast that had the distance but was just wide of the post. After the missed chance, Orlando City too nearly converted with a quick attack that saw designated player Facundo Torres break free into space with a cut back to his left but rifle a shot wide of Andre Blake.
After absorbing the pressure, the Boys in Blue turned to set pieces to silence the crowd with Wagner connecting with Carranza for a near post header that was stopped.
Seeing the chance created with a near post action, the Union went back to it in the 39th minute with Wagner flicking a hard cross for center back Jakob Glesnes. The Norwegian won the ball and flicked it into the six yard box where Daniel Gazdag was positioned with Orlando City’s Ruan and the keeper, Pedro Gallese. Seeing the ball heading his way, the Hungarian raised his leg and flicked it in for the advantage on the road.
Oscar Pareja came out of the break with Benjy Michel replacing Jake Mulraney. The intent was to put more pressure on the Union’s attack-heavy right side, but the home side’s first look of the half came off a set play. After a corner kick from the left was half-cleared, Cesar Araujo stepped into a rebound but lifted it over the bar.
Orlando was on the move again moments later as Pereyra flitted between bodies to open up the defense, only to see Philly’s scramble defense smother the attack.
Philly found their footing in the 55th and Wagner nearly found Carranza with a laser corner kick that zipped past the Argentine as he cut across the box from the back post.
Just before the hour mark, Curtin added Cory Burke’s box presence in place of Uhre, and Pareja responded by replacing Parea with Brazilian star Pato in the 61st.
Pereyra’s deep positioning ws creating gaps in Philly’s defense and allowing the playmaker more freedom that the Union typically allow.
In the 64th, Pereyra built a move that left Michel with a chance at an acrobatic shot in the box but Mbaizo bravely threw his body in the way and earned a foul.
Two minutes later, Jose Martinez needed to step off when he couldn’t shake an earlier knock. Paxten Aaronson joined the match, pushing Leon Flach and McGlynn into a double-pivot behind Gazdag. Burke slid out to the right wing with Carranza furthers upfield.
Orlando’s shape disintegrated in the 70th minute and the match became a wide open affair. Philly couldn’t puncture the home side’s back four on the break and seemed almost surprise at how much time and space they had in midfield. Araujo caught Burke with a loose arm in the air and while the Jamaican was down Orlando sent on Urso and Tesho Akindele.
Play paused again in the 77th when Burke and Urso’s heads collided in the middle third. Once again, the Jamaican emerged healthy, but Urso sustained a small cut and needed a wrap on his head to continue. Antonio Carlos came on for Joao Moutinho in the 81st and moments later Jim Curtin had to replace Burke with Quinn Sullivan.
Curtin now had a four-man midfield behind Gazdag and Carranza with every player 21 years old or younger, and that midfield was dictating play to an experienced Orlando side.
The Union’s final move of the match saw Chris Donovan take over for Carranza. However, Orlando found the next good look of the game when Pato got a head of steam through the left channel and fell under Sullivan’s pressure.
The ensuing free kick was easily cleared as nine minutes of extra time was shown on the fourth official’s board.
Donovan created an opposing half turnover in the 92nd minute and Philly kept a high but organized shape when Orlando finally gained back control of the ball. The plan was to stay organized and break with speed only when the chance looked good.
Orlando shouted for a penalty deep in extra time when Antonio Carlos and Gazdag got tangled up in the box. A VAR check revealed both players equally involved in the extracurricular action and no foul was signaled.
Michel created a good chance in the 99th minute after driving to the endline and ballooning a cross to Akindele at the back post. The striker got a head to the ball but couldn’t put it on frame with the Union surrounding him.
Play continued into the 102nd minute as Glesnes dove to clear the Union lines. Donovan’s pressing up front was impressive as he turned Orlando back toward their own goal when the final whistle sounded.
Philly now bring a four match winning streak to Subaru Park for a Saturday evening showdown with Houston Dynamo FC on July 30. Tickets are available by clicking here, and the match will be available for viewing on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com.