In a historic matchup that saw Major League Soccer’s 2020 Supporters’ Shield Winners take on the MLS Cup Winners for the first time on opening weekend, Philadelphia Union collected an important road point in a scoreless draw at Columbus Crew SC.
The defending champs came out of the gates eager to please their home fans after unveiling a celebratory banner to mark their 2020 accomplishments. Just seconds into the match, Lucas Zelarayán threaded a pass through the midfield so Luis Diaz could test Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake. The Jamaican National Team captain was on his toes for the early opportunity, making the diving save that set the tone for the match.
Philly settled into the contest and gained confidence by flying into tackles in the high-energy, aggressive style that has marked their rise to the top of MLS. Newcomer Leon Flach, making his MLS debut, made the first of his three opening half tackles to put the Union on the offensive in the eighth minute. Moments later the Union’s counterpressing again pinned Crew SC inside their box but the needed final pass never came.
The first successful look came off a set piece. Jamiro Monteiro floated a cross into the center of the box and Kacper Przybylko smashed a header on frame that Columbus keeper Eloy Room scrambled away.
Against the run of play, Columbus nearly bagged the opening goal in the 34th minute with MLS Cup MVP Zelarayán at the center of the action. The DP collected the ball at midfield and took a quick touch to his right to find space away from the watchful eye of El Brujo Martinez. With a line on goal, he fired a shot that crashed off the crossbar.
Things heated up in the second half as referee Ramy Touchan dished out four yellow cards. Monteiro, continuing his influential start to the season at the attacking midfield role, was in the thick of it all as he battled it out with Crew SC midfielder Perry Kitchen’s elbows. After Flach fired a shot directly at Room in the 49th minute, both sides traded scoring chances that ended with Luis Diaz forcing another reaction save by Blake.
Philly nearly cashed in on another set piece with a crafty second ball from Kai Wagner. Monteiro floated a ball to Wagner on the left side of the box, and with no opportunity to get a shot off, the left back flicked a header centrally that captain Alejandro Bedoya corkscrewed his body around to drill a left-footed shot against the upper corner of the goal.
As the clock ticked down, both trophy- winning sides pushed for a break through goal but were denied with by spectacular goalkeeping. Andre Blake displayed cat-like stunning reflexes as he sprung to his left in the 83rd minute to stop Artur off a set piece with the rebound falling to Columbus but headed over the postfrom six yards out. The Union brought created a pair of attacks in the dying moments but both Bedoya and substitute Sergio Santos were turned away by Eloy Room.
The Boys in Blue are back in MLS action next weekend as they return to Chester, PA. for the club’s MLS Home Opener against Inter Miami CF. Kick off from Subaru Park is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on PHL17 as well as on PhiladelphiaUnion.com.