A trio of second half goals lifted FC Cincinnati to a 3-1 win over the Union on Saturday night in Haris Medunjanin’s final MLS match. Paxten Aaronson scored a late goal as a substitute to close the gap in the scoreline, but Philly could not even things up in the final 15 minutes.
It was a tactical chess match as Jim Curtin and Pat Noonan sought to use their club’s style to control the contest. Employing high presses from the top of the lineup, both teams were forced to play it over the top or on the flanks with no quarter given for any passes in the middle of the park.
The hosts, with their home crowd to aid them, came out on the front foot with a cross that gave Brenner a look in the box. The Brazilian’s headed effort was wide of the Union goal, but he became a persistent threat. Hungry to bag a goal, Brenner next looked to catch MLS All-Star Andre Blake off his line on a counter attack but Blake was quick on the back pedal.
With a defense looking to make league history with the fewest goals allowed in a season, the Union got a pair of key plays from their outside backs to preserve a scoreless first half. Just past the ten minute mark, Cincinnati playmaker Luciano Acosta threaded a pass into open space for Brenner. All-Star Kai Wagner raced back to kill the 1v1 moment and delivered a perfectly-timed slide tackle to block the shot in the box.
Four minutes later it was Olivier Mbaizo, on his 50th regular season start, getting into the highlights with a clutch tackle of his own. FC Cincinnati was looking to turn the screw and get a goal during an extended possession, and Acosta broke into the six-yard-box but was denied a shot by a splendid sliding effort from the Cameroonian. Appeals for a foul and pointing the spot were abandoned as the videoboard showed Mbaizo had gotten the ball before making contact with the former D.C. United midfielder.
The ball finally trickled into the back of the net in the 36th minute as former Union defender Alvas Powell whipped in a cross that snuck through and into a diving Brenner’s path. Drew Fischer was summoned to the monitor located at the midfield line by the Video Assistant Referee. After a pair of slow motion looks, the goal was taken off the board due to a handball by the scorer.
Charged up by the defensive stops, the Union sought to sneak in a first-half goal just before the whistle off a corner kick opportunity. Wagner sent a left-footed ball into a swarm of bodies and after some arcade pinball action, Jakob Glesnes’ shot was blocked away.
The second half nearly began with a stunning giveaway from Ian Murphy under Union pressure, but the Union couldn’t corral the loose ball through the center and the home side was let off the hook.
Both sides continued to execute their gameplans: Switch the ball quickly and get it up and into space so center backs had to think on the run.
It paid off for Cincy in the 50th when Brandon Vazquez was first to a low cross off the left and tucked home the go-ahead goal.
Philly immediately responded by going right to left and creating a classic chance off of Kai Wagner’s left foot, with Mikael Uhre lifting a header just over the bar in traffic.
The Union remained aggressive down a goal, but Cincinnati’s dangerous attacking combos turned the game into a wide open affair.
In the 55th minute, Acosta wriggled free in midfield and found Brenner in the box for a so angled finish to double the lead.
The two sides traded big chances when Bedoya was clipped while taking a shot in the box and then Acosta broke free down the right but couldn’t find the far post with Blake stretching himself to close the angle.
Cory Burke and Jack McGlynn replaced Julian Carranza and Leon Flach as Jim Curtin turned up the attacking heat.
Philly was on the doorstep again in the 62nd minute on a corner kick that was dinked back into the box for Jack Elliott to chase, but the defender was called for physical play as he charged after the looping ball.
Nick Hagglund picked up a yellow card in the 66th when McGlynn bypassed him with a deep ball to Uhre and the defender dragged Philly’s striker down on the left. Wagner’s free kick went to McGlynn at the top of the box and the Homegrown midfielder lifted his shot over the bar.
In the 71st, Cincinnati got their third of the night when Alvaro Barreal ran onto a ball at the top of the box, got a friendly bounce, and poked it past Blake.
Paxten Aaronson relieved Uhre as the Union packed the midfield behind Burke and looked to grab a bit of control on a difficult night. The move nearly paid immediate dividends as Cincy struggled to track an extra midfielder and Philly quickly switched fields to Mbaizo, who curled in a low cross that touched Burke’s outstretched foot inches from goal.
Aaronson breathed life into the game with an exceptionally persistent play that resulted in a ballooning, deflected shot into the Cincy net. After fighting through one tackle, Aaronson looked for Burke in the center. When the big striker was dispossessed, Aaronson was first to the loose ball, and he patiently waited for his moment to strike before watching as his shot dropped just in time to slip under the crossbar.
Moments later, Aaronson again drove the team forward before Gazdag earned a free kick in the center. McGlynn stepped to the ball and nearly found his angle to the right, pulling the ball an inch wide of the post.
Acosta had an answer on a weaving move by Cincinnati up the left, but Elliott slid through to push the ball out for a corner.
In the 83rd, Burke flicked the ball to Gazdag in the center before gunning past his man, but the Jamaican couldn’t turn the corner on the endline.
Down two, the Union were far from folding, and McGlynn was dictating play from deep to slice up the Cincinnati pressure.
Aaronson was at it again in the 86th but couldn’t bring the ball under control at the far post off a corner kick. Then Gazdag received in tight space from Mbaizo but Burke’s read was off and he didn’t meet the final pass.
Philadelphia Union is back in front of the Union faithful as they look to avenge a loss earlier in the season to Chicago Fire FC on Saturday, August 13th. Champions League winner Xherdan Shaqiri, former Union striker Kacper Przybylko and Chicago Fire FC are coming to Subaru Park. Limited tickets remain for the contest so don't wait and secure your spot at Subaru Park by clicking here.