Match Recap

Recap | Union fall in seven goal shootout at FC Cincinnati


Tai Baribo delivered his first two goals as a member of the Philadelphia Union but a late winner from FC Cincinnati saw the Union’s unbeaten road form end by a 4-3 scoreline.

Baribo's performance capped off a resilent display from the Boys in Blue as they battled back from three deficits in the contest against the defending Supporters' Shield winners but last year's MVP Luciano Acosta delivered the fourth goal for the Ohio side in the ninth minute of stoppage time to claim the three points for FC Cincinnati. Baribo's performance was a memorable one for the Israeli forward as he scored his first MLS goal in the 43rd minute to give the Union momentum going into the halftime break. Jesus Bueno also found the back of the net for his first ever MLS goal for the Boys in Blue in the 55th minute. Baribo collected his second goal of the night in the first minute of stoppage time to cap off an amazing play from Kai Wagner and Jeremy Rafanello.

In the head-to-head between Head Coach Jim Curtin and his former assistant coach turned Cincinnati team leader Pat Noonan, the Philadelphia side sent out a a new-look lineup on Wednesday night, opting for a 3-5-2 formation that featured Tai Baribo in his first start this season. He was paired with Mikael Uhre up front, joining the striker from Denmark who’s found his stride as of late scoring two goals in the two consecutive matches leading up to it.

With team captain Alejandro Bedoya out with an injury suffered against Inter Miami CF just days prior, the midfield saw Leon Flach in the middle between Jack McGlynn on the left, and Jesus Bueno on the right. As for the defense, Curtin went with five in the back, adding Nate Harriel into the centerbacks mix for a trio with him, Jakob Glesnes, and Jack Elliott between Olivier Mbaizo and Kai Wagner on the wings.

The first half started off like a chess match pitting two teams that knew each other very well with neither side really finding their footing. Wagner took a sixth minute free kick after Cincinnati’s Kipp Keller was shown a yellow card caution, but his effort was saved by keeper Roman Celentano. In the following Cincinnati possession, Yuya Kubo nearly gained control of the ball on a breakaway toward the net, but a combined effort from Oliver Semmle and Elliott stopped the Japanese player, who scored a nine-minute hat trick in his previous match.

A series of smart passing between Uhre, McGlynn and Mbaizo on the left side of the box unfolded into Philadelphia’s first corner of the night, but instead of the typical service from Wagner, Bueno crossed it in to find Uhre for a header toward the net. His teammates found multiple near chances in the box of rebounded shots, but Cincinnati ultimately regained possession. Their transition quickly escalated to Philadelphia’s first bookings of the evening, as the official on the field flashed yellow cards to both Wagner for taking down a player in blue, then Elliott for dissent.

The game heated up before the 20-minute mark, with both teams displaying constant aggression and physicality that saw multiple players go down. It stayed that way throughout the second half, but it was ultimately the hosts who claimed the first lead of the match in the 28th minute. It was Kevin Kelsy who hit the back of the net for the Orange and Blue, heading a floater into the box from Lucho Acosta past Semmle, despite the keeper’s attempt to save. He got a hand on it, and nearly changed the trajectory just enough to send it out of play, but instead it hit the right post and banked in.

Despite a league-mandated hydration break due to the hot weather, Cincinnati continued to lay on their attack, nearly doubling their lead in the 34th minute when Kelsy and Wagner battled head to head in a quick counter in the box. The home crowd rose up arguing for a point to the post but the referee remained cool as he correctly determined it was just shoulder to shoulder battling for possession.

Philadelphia Union answered back in the 42nd minute and it was the team’s second-year Israeli striker who leapt up to finish off the play, scoring his very first Major League Soccer goal in epic fashion. Mbaizo sent a cross into the box, finding Uhre for a header chance in front of the net. His knock forward wasn’t quite powerful enough, and Baribo found the rebound for the score with an acrobatic flick with his right boot to push the ball under the keeper and inside the post.

Unfavorably for Philadelphia, their first half goal didn’t shake their opponent. Instead, Cincinnati grabbed the lead again, converting a penalty kick in the 49th minute. Kubo drew the foul, giving Acosta a chance to take on Semmle from the spot, scoring his eighth goal of the season.

The Union-Cincinnati rivalry rang true as Curtin’s side knotted the score again in the 54th minute, when Wagner sent in a perfectly placed corner to the opposite side of the box, finding Bueno’s calm foot for a tap in past Celentano. Grinning ear-to-ear with his signature bull-horns celebration, the 25-year-old Venezuelan joined Baribo for his first regular season Union goal.

The second half had no shortage of action and competition as FC Cincinnati turned in back to back big players in the 60th minute. It started inside the defensive third as center back Kipp Keller delivered a key defensive stop to deny a possible scoring chance from Uhre. The Ohio side gained possession and put the ball out wide with Argentinian Luca Orellano on the left flank. As the 24-year-old crossed the center stripe the defender went for a long-range chip that snuck inside the crossbar to send the crowd at TQL Stadium into a frenzy and restore Cincinnati’s lead once again.

With the confidence behind them that they’ve already found an equalizer twice, Philly went right back to work to chase the contest once more. In the 68th minute, the Boys in Blue turned to a set piece chance as Wagner hit a cross to the near post that connected with Harriel in the box however the homegrown’s header was wide.

Head Coach Jim Curtin turned to his young bench in the 71st minute inserting homegrowns Quinn Sullivan and Jeremy Rafanello for additional pace in place of Uhre and the goalscoring Bueno. Less than 90 seconds after the change, another homegrown had a stinging shot as McGlynn ripped a left-footed blast that crashed off Roman Celentano and stayed out.

With eight minutes to go, Curtin subbed off right back Oliver Mbaizo for Chris Donovan to return the lineup to a 4-4-2 formation as the sub joined Baribo atop the lineup and Harriel went to his natural right back spot.

Ten minutes were added to the contest due to the hydration break inserted into the match due to high temperatures and it was both a blessing and a curse for both sides. Right after former Union forward Sergio Santos saw his chance to extend Cincinnati's advantage go adrift, Phlily again found a third game-tying goal. With the Ohio defense rushing and off balance with back and forth crosses, Wagner laid off a pass to Rafanello who teed up a perfect cross into the box for Baribo to finish inside the six.

The 2023 MVP took over after falling behind as Acosta saw a dynamic run into the box end with a big block in front of net from Jack Elliott. With the seconds ticking down, Acosta was given one more chance to send the home fans home with a win and delivered with a right-footed finish for his second of the night to break the hearts of the Union faithful.

Philadelphia Union wraps up its three-game stretch in a single week on Saturday night as they take on Charlotte FC for Pride Night presented by Subaru. Kick off from Subaru Park is set for 7:30PM ET.

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Every match matters! In 2024, you do not want to miss your favorite matchups as the Union take on the best MLS has to offer! When we score, make sure you are there to get Subaru Park shaking!

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