On their only regular season visit to a Western Conference opponent in 2021, Philadelphia Union was greeted with pouring rain and cool temperatures for the second time in five days. Jim Curtin looked to cancel out the Loons’ pregame scouting by putting out a lineup that departed from his preferred 4-4-2 diamond in favor of a 4-3-2-1 that placed more emphasis on space out wide and sought to put the club’s two most creative players in roles between the lines.
The plan saw Olivier Mbaizo involved in the attack in the opening moments of the match, with the outside back racing into the attacking third and beating his marker. With no angle for a shot on goal, the Cameroonian flicked a cross into traffic that Kacper Przybylko headed at the keeper.
The formation wrinkle also allowed a return to the Union’s high pressing system to shut down any creativity from Minnesota’s dynamic attackers. The tactical chess match played out for the opening 30 minutes with neither side able to generate any big threats. The Loons turned to their own counterpressing and in the 41st minute Chase Gasper turned the Union over high up the pitch. The tackle saw the ball trickle to playmaker Emanuel Reynoso at the edge of the box. Seeing that the Union were out of their defensive block, he played a pass to Franco Fragapane that the midfielder put into the path of Adrien Hunou for a low near post finish and the opening goal.
The Union didn’t hang their heads and regained momentum just before the half with counterpressing of their own. Leon Flach regained possession and quickly sent a pass up the wing to Kai Wagner. The German outside back picked out a wide open Jamiro Monteiro inside the Loons’ box. It was a No. 10 to No. 10 connection as Miro laid off a pass to Gazdag for the Hungarian to rip past the keeper from 19 yards out.
With crooked numbers on the board, both sides opened up in the second half. Philly’s central five looked more organized but the attacking talent on the home side continually created dangerous isolations around the Union box.
Gazdag struck again in the 57th minute, this time with his head. A corner kick flicked on at the front post by Bedoya looped into the air after Tyler Miller’s punch got away from him. With calm and care, the Hungarian deposited his second of the night into the net.
In the 61st minute, Ethan Finlay cut around Wagner on the right and lolled a shot toward the far post that failed to curl back into the netting.
Two minutes later, the Loons evened the scoreline off high pressure on the Union back line. Under pressure, Mbaizo played a backpass short to Glesnes and Reynoso carried the ball into the box before popping the ball into space for Robin Lod to blast home.
Gazdag’s hat trick nearly arrived in the 65th but his knockdown header at the far post fell wide of the net.
In the 67th minute, Minnesota pulled ahead after another high turnover created confusion in the Philly defense. Franco Fragapane was the beneficiary as he arrived at the back post for a simple header.
In the 75th minute, Monteiro and Gazdag connected again but after getting in behind the Hungarian’s centering pass was cut out.
On the ensuing corner kick, Jack Elliott nearly nudged a header over Miller at close range but the goalkeeper got a palm up to preserve the home side’s lead.
Two minutes later, Romain Metanire received his marching orders after wildly throwing his elbows around and intentionally throwing the soccer ball, which is meant to be kicked, at Kai Wagner from close range.
Bedoya nearly got on the board in the 82nd minute when he met Wagner’s cross at the back post but a deflection off a defender left Philly with a corner they couldn’t convert.
Jim Curtin remained fearless and creative with his substitutions as he pulled Martinez from an increasingly scrappy match and added Paxten Aaronson to the attacking corps.
Although the Union put enormous pressure on the home goal and handled the Loons’ counters, the tying goal was not forthcoming.
After a long three-game road trip, Philly returns to the friendly confines of Subaru Park for a huge Eastern Conference showdown against Nashville SC. The match up will also be Kids Night presented by Independence Blue Cross with numerous activities taking place for the youngest Union fans. The battle for second place in the East will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, October 23rd with both PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com carrying the action.