Jim Curtin shook things up by rolling out a 4-3-2-1 formation on the road. Both Daniel Gazdag and Jamiro Monteiro had more freedom to create in open space ass they supported Kacper Przybylko. The playmakers’ chemistry shone as Gazdag sent a long cross from the right wing to Przybylko inside the red zone two minutes in. With only a half chance to flick the ball on goal, the forward send a hard header toward Monteiro’s late run, but a last second block soiled the opportunity.
D.C. United took control of the match as the Boys in Blue settled into their new formation. Philly’s midfield granted space to the home side as Gazdag and Monteiro sorted out their positioning.
The adjustment period was made possible by Andre Blake, who came back from the MLS All-Star game confident that he remains the best goalkeeper in MLS.
No matter what DC threw at him, Blake was ready. Julian Gressel, Ola Kamara, and Andy Najar all tested the Union backstop and came away frustrated and goalless. Gressel’s left-footed chance looked destined for the right corner before Blake floated left and pushed it around the post.
As DC huffed and puffed, Philly found their goal through their relentless closing of space. A sharp cross from Kai Wagner was knocked down at the top of the box by Przybylko. Monteiro darted in to knock the ball loose from Junior Moreno, then Przybylko lifted a dinked pass to Bedoya in the box on the right. The Union captain dropped a soft cross into the center and deflections turned it toward Steve Birnbaum, who in turn chested it past his goalkeeper, Jon Kempin.
The home side answered in the 36th through Ola Kamara’s spot kick. The ball squirted out to the left side of the box and Jordy Reyna popped it into the air as Alvas Powell slid in to defend. The contact was minimal but VAR led Rubiel Vazquez to award a penalty.
At the half, it was clear the Union’s intensity would need to change to allow them to take control of the match.
Early in the second half, DC leaped in front when Reyna acrobatically finished a rebound in the center of the box. After Kamara met a cross from the right well and forced Blake into a stunning reaction save, Reyna was first to the rebound and bullied it home.
Quinn Sullivan and Cory Burke entered on the hour mark as Jim Curtin dialed up the attacking energy. With Gazdag and Przybylko departing, the Union’s attacking shape became more expansive, and in the 62nd minute, Powell had a penalty shout after Tony Alfaro created contact in the box.
Philly had worn DC United out and were the better side, but Reyna’s goal remained the difference. Paxten Aaronson and Olivier Mbaizo came on for Monteiro and Powell and Curtin continued his fearless substitution pattern when chasing points.
Sullivan took up a second striker position and Aaronson stepped into the creative role at the top of a diamond midfield.
In the 85th, DC threatened again off a corner kick but Blake casually rounded up the downward header.
Late substitute Ramon Abila added a third in extra time as DC secured a home win.
The Boys in Blue are back in action on Friday night as they welcome the New England Revolution to Subaru Park with the match presented by Crozer Health. The MLS Cup Playoffs rematch will also see the return of a fan favorite: Fireworks Nights presented by BIMBO. A fireworks spectacular will take place following the final whistle. Tickets for the contest are going fast so click here to reserve your spot today! Kick off for the match is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com.