Philadelphia Union opened its run in the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs with a resounding Round One performance to pick up a 3-1 home victory against New England Revolution.
Playing in front of the Union faithful at Subaru Park, the Union unloaded with first-half goals from Daniel Gazdag, Mikael Uhre and Nathan Harriel to set the tone for the postseason. Gazdag opened the scoring in the 19th minute with another smooth finish from the penalty spot that got the crowd on their feet. Seven minutes later the Boys in Blue doubled their advantage as Uhre cashed in a ball at the door step which was quickly followed up by Harriel's fourth headed goal of 2023!
The Union entered their first match of the postseason playoffs with their entire roster available for selection, with the exception of centerback Jakob Glesnes, who was ruled out for the match on Saturday due to a lingering sports hernia injury.
Curtin kept a near-identical Starting XI compared to their last meeting with New England one week ago with the only swap being José Martinez, who missed the team’s last match due to yellow card accumulation. New England Revolution’s interim Head Coach Clint Peay made a lone change as well, starting midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, who was transferred from Toronto FC to New England in July, in place of 32-year-old veteran Thomas McNamara.
Thomas Chancalay found the first shot of the game in the fifth minute, taking a chance from outside the box, but his attempt instead soared above goalkeeper Andre Blake and into the River End. Homegrown Jack McGlynn followed suit with a shot of his own on the opposite end of the field, using his lethal left foot to shoot from distance for what could've been an early dagger, but it’s path was blocked by New England’s Andrew Farrell.
There was no shortage of intensity in the opening 10 minutes – standout midfielder Carles Gil went down in pain after a collision with Mikael Uhre early in the match. After a quick delay due to injury, the teams were returned to battle on New England’s attacking end with an aggressive attack from Noel Buck in the form of a left foot shot saved by the post. Blake stayed vigilant, blocking a Chanchalay rebound from the center of the box.
In the 17th minute the energy in the build changed with a crafty run from Julian Carranza that forced a difficult position from rookie goalkeeper Jacob Jackson. A pass into the box set the two up for a collision with Carranza getting the first touch before Jacobson slid into the Union forward instead of the ball. After brief pause in paly, the Video Assistant Referee summoned the head official who quickly ruled a penalty kick for the Philadelphia Union.
Philadelphia’s resident penalty specialist Daniel Gazdag earned his first goal from the spot of the postseason, giving Philadelphia a 1-0 lead.
Down a goal early on the road, things got tougher for the Revs as Gil required a substitution in the 23rd minute after the early collision. Peay replaced him with veteran midfielder Bobby Wood and it forced the visitors into a different look without their leading playmaker. Despite the setback New England attempted to decrease their deficit with two attempts in the 24th and 25th minute, but Philadelphia’s three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year didn’t allow it, saving both.
With the big stops from Dre in the back, the Union gained momentum and doubled their lead in the 26th minute with a finish from Mikael Uhre. Jack McGlynn teed up a perfectly weighted volley over the Revolution defense that unlocked Kai Wagner into open space on the left sideline. The German left back sent a hard cross toward the goal toward Jackson, tapped it away in an attempt to protect his team’s net, but instead sent it toward Uhre who took advantage and put it away from close range.
Philadelphia Union continued to maintain possession with multiple series of smart passes, and New England’s desperation built, causing Wood, Andrew Farrell, and Tómas Chancalay to each pick up a yellow card within a 10-minute span.
Curtin’s squad maintained the upper hand, further solidifying their dominant lead in the 37th minute with another score, sending Subaru Park into a frenzy. After a set piece situation, Kai Wagner crossed the ball into the box, finding Harriel on the left side of the six yard box for yet another aerial header into the back of the net.
Just before the break, New England tried to get back into the match with a late goal but once again were denied by an impressive Blake save as the Reggae Boyz captain turned away a point blank attempt off a set piece in first half stoppage time.
Revs Interim Heed Coach Peay tried to bring to life to his squad during the break with the addition of 25-year-old Designated Player Giacomo Vrioni in place of Kaye. As the group tried to gel it was the Boys in Blue that had the first shot of the half with Carranza taking a chance from outside the box that went too high.
Homegrown Quinn Sullivan was the first player called upon by Curtin, rewarding the 19-year-old his first-ever postseason appearance when he entered in the 62nd minute for Carranza.
Neither team found any offensive success through the first 20 minutes of the second half, but Jose Martinez came close, responding to the crowd with a shot Brujo blast from distance that went just past the left corner of the net. With both teams pushing for the game’s next goal it was an up and down affair that stretched both sides. New England’s in-form forward Gustavo Bou took advantage with a darting run into the box and split a pair of Union defenders. With just the keeper to beat, Bou launched a rocket into the roof of the net to spoil the shutout and give the forward his third goal in two matches against the Union in the 68th minute.
Philly added some fresh legs with defensive minded changes in the form of Leon Flach and Chris Donovan to see out Game One. Shortly after taking to the pitch, the Revs nearly trimmed the lead to one as Bou’s right footed shot from the right side of the box.
With just under five minutes left in the contest both Martinez and Vrioni exchanged pleasantries that saw both enter the referee’s book with yellow cards. After both captains were summoned to cool tensions, play resumed with the Union seeing out the remaining minutes to put them on the verge of another trip of another Eastern Conference Semifinals appearance.
The Union look to secure their spot into the next round when they return to New England for Game 2 of the Best-of-Three Series which will take place on Wednesday, November 8th. Kick off is set for 7PM ET and will be available on FS1, Fox Deportes and MLS Season Pass.