Selfless work and an all-for-one attitude allowed the Union to stick together after going down a man early. NYCFC won 2-0 but veterans and Homegrowns combined fight for 90 minutes in front of fans that demanded nothing less.
With an eye on a May 4th Scotiabank Concancaf Champions League Quarterfinal second leg against Atlanta United FC, Jim Curtin gave Kacper Przybylko, Kai Wagner, and Leon Flach a deserved breather as Cory Burke, Anthony Fontana, and Matt Real stepped into the fray against the visitors from up north.
However, Philly was on their heels early after Jesus Medina ladled in a low cross from the center of the box to put NYCFC ahead. It was Medina’s third goal in two matches.
In the 16th minute, Jose Martinez was sent off for a foul on Valentin Castellanos. Martinez was initially awarded a yellow card but after reviewing the incident on his VAR monitor, referee Ismail Elfath changed the color of the booking.
Unwilling to back down at home, Jim Curtin opted to move to a 4-4-1 shape with Cory Burke and Anthony Fontana on the wings behind Sergio Santos. Playing alongside Alejandro Bedoya in the center, Jamiro Monteiro created a quick turnover and sent Santos racing upfield, but three defenders crowded the Brazilian out and forced a long, blocked shot.
After Maxi Moralez forced a deep turnover, the playmaker sought to chip Andre Blake but watched in awe as the Jamaican twisted through the air to tip the shot over and keep the match close.
Santos had another chance to even the scoreline as the half wound down. Monteiro spun a free kick over NYC’s high line for the striker but he pushed a shot wide of Sean Johnson’s goal.
With Curtin determined to keep a unit on the pitch that could pounce on mistakes, NYC pushed to create quick separation. Blake was having none of it and performed acrobatics three times in a six minute span, including another stunning stop on Moralez.
Przybylko, Flach and Wagner entered in the 60th and brought a jolt of energy to their ten-man side.
NYCFC doubled its lead in the 65th minute when a miscommunication between Jakob Glesnes and Blake granted Castellanos a tap-in.
The Union now turn their sights on what would be a historic achievement when they host Atlanta United FC in the second leg of the CCL Quarterfinals on May 4th at 8:00 p.m. ET at Subaru Park. The Union hold a 3-0 lead from the first leg in Atlanta and will look to build on that lead in front of a national audience tuning in on FS1 and TUDN. The Boys in Blue look to secure their spot in the Semifinals on Tuesday, May 4th at Subaru Park. Kick off is set for 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on FS1 and TUDN.