Playing in front of a national audience, Philadelphia Union proved their bona fides as one of the best teams in the league with a resounding 3-0 win over the Portland Timbers.
Set piece perfection was the theme of the night as Kai Wagner set up back-to-back goals for Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos in a five-minute span. Przybylko’s header was special: It was the eventual matchwinner, but it was also the goal that moved the big striker into sole possession of third place on the Union’s all-time scoring chart with 26.
Playing under the lights of Subaru Park, the visitors struggled to find their footing after a set piece chance in the opening moments saw reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake make a diving stop to deny Diego Valeri.
From there it was all Union. In their all-white adidas Primeblue jerseys, made with Parley ocean plastic, Philadelphia took control and pinned Portland inside their own half of the pitch. As the fouls racked up in the physical match, so did the goals. Wagner and Przybylko connected in the 26th minute after Santos was taken down just outside the box. Wagner waved off Jamiro Monteiro so he could chip a looping ball over the Timbers’ defense. The offsides trap couldn’t stop Przybylko as he timed his run to perfection to head home his eighth goal across all competitions.
Five minutes later, fans were DOOP’n again with Wagner sending a perfectly placed ball into the box. Once again, the left back connected with Przybylko and this time the striker selflessly flicked the ball central where Santos got a perfectly placed backheel to double the lead. Just before halftime, it looked as though Leon Flach had opened his MLS account with a finish in traffic from close range. VAR examined the goal and determined that the ball hit Flach’s arm before he fired it home and wiped away the tally.
With the three points locked up, Andre Blake’s 50th clean sheet was still worth fighting for as the Union sought a comprehensive victory. Brick Wall Blake wouldn’t stand for Jeremy Ebobisse’s attempts to open the scoring for the visitors. First the UConn product snuck a shot off a corner that Blake chested down. Seconds later, Ebobisse intercepted a Union pass in the back and was in on goal before Blake raced off his line with stunning quickness to snuff out the opportunity.
In the waning moments, 17-year-old Paxten Aaronson became the third homegrown to make his league debut in 2021, joining Quinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn as another teenager making his presence known in MLS.
The congested start to the season gives way to a period of rest now. Philadelphia Union and the rest of Major League Soccer recharge their batteries before restarting the season in mid-June. The Union head to Atlanta United FC for a rematch of the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinals that saw the Union romp through their opponent’s defenses. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 20th, with ESPN broadcasting the showdown nationwide.
Head Coach Jim Curtin didn’t have his squad sit back in the second frame and the pressure continued on the visitors. Monteiro floated a cross in from a corner in the 63rd minute and freshly inserted Cory Burke stepped in front of his defender and and blasted a header that was pushed into the ground on the goalline. The Jamaican striker was relentless in his pursuit of the rebound and sliced a shot from no angle into the center of the goalmouth. Jack Elliott, alert as always, tapped it home from a yard out.