Fueled by a stand out performance from Sergio Santos, Philadelphia Union defeated rival D.C. United by a 2-1 margin at Subaru Park on Saturday night. Santos led the way with a first half goal and set up the match-winner to Kacper Przybylko in the 83rd minute to propel the Union into second place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Playing in front of their home fans for the first time in nearly a month, the Union found themselves in the defensive side of the pitch for the opening minutes of the contest. As D.C. looked to test goalkeeper Joe Bendik and the Union defense, the Boys in Blue showed off their strong defensive prowess with Jose “El Brujo” Martinez sparking an attack after a key defensive tackle. The Venezuelan laid it off for Olivier Mbaizo and the Union were off to races when captain Alejandro Bedoya collected the ball with acres of space on the right flank. Seeing the left side wide open, Bedoya passed centrally to Daniel Gazdag. D.C. anticipated the pass but the midfielder gave the Union fans a taste of his quality with a toe pass to a wide open Sergio Santos. D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid couldn’t deny the Brazilian as he sent Subaru Park into a frenzy.
With the energy of a Union-faithful filled stadium behind them, Head Coach Jim Curtin’s squad fed off of the cheers and nearly made it 2-0 if not for a spectacular save from Hamid. After a Santos shot was blocked, Mbaizo reclaimed possession and quickly sent in a volley to the middle of the D.C. box. Santos flew into the air and connected with a powerful header that Hamid made the reaction save.
As the Union continued to put D.C. under pressure, Union keeper Joe Bendik made a pair of key stops to guide the group to a halftime lead. D.C. tested Bendik in the 38th minute as Yamil Asad fired a right-footed shot that Bendik got a glove on so it deflected off the crossbar and out. Minutes later it was Julian Gressel that blasted a shot but once more Bendik make the diving save.
It didn’t take long for DC to equalize once the second half began.
A penalty call gave Yamil Asad the opportunity to slip the ball past Joe Bendik from the spot and he delivered.
Soon after, however, the Union earned a penalty of their own. After Przybylko had his feet taken out, the play went to VAR. As Subaru Park raised the volume, the ruling came back in DC’s favor and the penalty became a restart for the visitors.
A physical match began to give way to sloppy play as rain threatened to fall and Jose Martinez struggled for fitness after a rough tackle in the middle of the pitch. Philly’s front three were constantly close to a breakthrough but DC did just enough to stave off a second goal.
Philly thought they finally had a breakthrough as the 70th minute approached. Przybylko redirected a bouncer off a corner kick and Santos stuck a foot out to nudge it past Hamid. Once again, VAR stepped in to favor the visitors and ruled the goal out for offsides.
Minutes later, Santos and Gazdag were back on the hunt with the latter sprinting onto a loose ball after Santos pushed the DC defense deep. A last-ditch sliding tackle saved the day for DC and once again the Union were left a touch away from a winner.
But as they often have under Jim Curtin in recent years, the Union refused to be denied. Santos galloped onto a throughball, cut past his man but had to toe-poke the ball free. It rolled across the box to Przybylko, who hustled to join the play, and he slotted it inside the near post.
Quinn Sullivan entered for Santos and Philly pushed Daniel Gazdag higher to keep pressure on their opponents.
As they 86th minute began, lightning moved into the area and the match went into a weather delay. After a nearly two hour weather delay play resumed as the Boys in Blue saw out the result to push into second place in the East.
Philly hits the road once more for a two-match road trip to the Sunshine State with a nationally televised showdown against Eastern Conference foe Orlando City SC. Kick off from Orlando is set for 7:30 p.m. ET on both ESPN and ESPN Deportes.