In a match with a playoff atmosphere and intensity, Philadelphia Union and FC Cincinnati ended level via a 2-2 draw at Subaru Park on Saturday night.
The stage was set for a gritty matchup between top-ranked Cincinnati and Philadelphia Union well before kickoff as they squared off at the sight of their feisty MLS Cup Playoffs contest just a year ago. Both teams rolled out matching 3-5-2 lineups with Head Coach Jim Curtin entrusting the same starting squad he’d used in the team’s 4-1 win over New York Red Bulls two weeks earlier, with the exception of José Martinez, who took the place of Alejandro Bedoya due to MLS yellow card accumulation rules.
The opening whistle marked a milestone moment for the team’s stalwart defenseman Jakob Glesnes, who achieved his 100th consecutive Major League Soccer start. After the first kick, the Boys in Blue’s lone focus was achieving three points at home, but by the end of the match, Glesnes wouldn’t be the only player leaving the stadium with a new MLS honor.
The ton of a physical contest was set from the opening whistle with the visitor’s captain Matt Miazga and Julian Carranza exchanging a pair of pleasantries within four minutes. The away side took the first shot of the game in the sixth minute, when a Jack McGlynn block bounced to the foot of FC Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez who booted it from distance. His attempt was saved by Union keeper Andre Blake, who proudly sported the team’s captain's band pregame. In the 12th minute, Cincinnati earned another – Vazquez sparked the play again, passing to Yuya Kubo who’s effort was halted by Philadelphia’s defense.
In the 19th minute, Daniel Gazdag went down near midfield after battling with Miazga, spurring the referees to investigate a possible red card violation for the Cincinnati centerback, but ultimately decided on a yellow. A series of Blake saves kept the Union knotted at zero until the team opened scoring with an electrifying José Martinez banger that shook Subaru Park.
The lead-claiming play began when Mikael Uhre brought the ball down the sideline to Philadelphia’s attacking end, finding Daniel Gazdag near the top of the box. Maneuvering out of traffic, Gazdag passed away from the goal to Jack McGlynn, who spotted José Martinez alone, anticipating, and in his favorite spot outside the box in the center. El Brujo did what he does best and nailed the ball from distance, past three Orange kits and to the back of the net for his third goal of the season.
From there, the Union’s attacking attempts were aplenty. The team tallied six shots in the first half, but their second goal came via penalty kick from none other than Gazdag from the spot.
In the 37th minute, McGlynn floated a long pass across the field to Gazdag at the top of the box, causing Cincinnati’s 23-year-old keeper Roman Celentano to urgently advance in an attempt to stifle the impending shot. Instead, he illegally slid into Gazdag, earning Philadelphia’s resident penalty specialist a trip to the spot.
As is standard for the Hungarian midfielder, he found the back of the net with ease for his 10th from there this season, setting a record for the most penalty kick goals scored in a single season in MLS history.
Former Union assistant and current FC Cincinnati Head Coach Pat Noonan made a double switch to kick off the second half, pulling former Philadelphia Union forward Sergio Santos and defender Nicholas Hagglund in exchange for fresh legs from the bench.
The move paid off immediately for the Supporters’ Shield leaders as substitute Aaron Boupendza trimmed the lead to a single goal in the 49th minute. A quick build up in the Union’s side of the pitch, the DP forward was clinical with a strong run toward goal to tap home a pass from Kubo.
The away side rode that momentum with Obinna Nwobodo earning a chance just five minutes later, but a valiant effort from Blake in the form of a diving shoulder save prevented them from leveling the score.
Philadelphia had a few chances near the net to build on their lead in the 59th minute; Jose Martinez passed into the box to Uhre who slid for the shot between four Cincinnati defenders. His shot was blocked, but Cincinnati's clearance found Kai Wagner in position. The left back booted the ball from distance, instead finding the face of the Cincinnati defenseman. In the midst of the team’s near chances, José Martinez went down with an injury, exiting the game in the 64th minute. Jesus Bueno took his place off the bench, seeing his first minutes this month after missing the team’s Red Bulls win due a red card violation.
Sensing the match had another goal in it the Union turned to Tai Baribo for pace atop the lineup in place of Uhre in the 73rd minute of play. Three minutes another goal came for FC Cincinnati as they pounced on a counter attack. Again it was Boupendza creating for the visitors as he took advantage of an errant pass and raced down the left side. The forward shot a hard pass on the grass into the six where Vazquez redirected it on target with the ball floating over the Union’s keeper and into the back of the net.
With 12 yellow cards shown during the 90 minutes, one of the biggest was shown in the 83rd minute when Mosquera collided with Damion Lowe and was booked for the second time of the evening. Down to ten men, the visitors were more than content to try and hold on for the road point with former Union defenders Alvas Powell and Ray Gaddis getting minutes late in the match to see out the result.
While a road point was what the visitors wanted they nearly bagged all three late as a cross from the left side from Cincinnati forced a reaction clearance from Elliott inside the six. Cincinnati pushed numbers corner on the ensuing corner but the Union defense held strong. The Union match FC Cincinnati with 10 on the pitch when Elliott was shown a second yellow card of his own in second half stoppage as Vazquez attempted a one-man counter attack off a half clearance.
The Boys in Blue are back in action on Wednesday night as they make the trip south for an Eastern Conference showdown at Charlotte FC. Kick off is set for 7:30PM ET with the action on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.