Facing a home side making a push for the final spot in the postseason, Philadelphia Union dropped its 2022 regular season finale at Charlotte FC, 4-0.
Playing on the road for the first against Charlotte FC, the Eastern Conference leading Union were challenged early with the hosts earning a corner kick inside the first 90 seconds of the match. The Boys in Blue pasted the opening exam with a proper clearance as Charlotte sought a goal from a backpost run.
With a home crowd aiding them on during Fan Appreciation Night in the Queen City, Charlotte kept on pushing for the first goal and again attacked with a cross from out wide but saw a foul end a possible scoring chance by Kamil Józwiak. Just past the 11th minute the Union set up their first scoring opportunity of the evening after Uhre drew a free kick chance after a clever bit of play near the end line. The Danish forward played a pass Leon Flach but sensed that the midfielder was offside and quickly raced to win his own pass. Uhre was successful and set up a free kick after getting fouled by Charlotte’s Nathan Byrne. Leading assist man Kai Wagner whipped in a cross that was dealt with by the home defense but right into the zone for Jose Martinez to unleash a long-range blast that just missed the upper 90.
Philly sought to convert on the counter just past the 19th minute with Wagner sending a cross of a defender but the deflection pushed the ball to Daniel Gazdag. With possession at the top of the box, Gazdag unleashed a right-footed shot but saw it crash of Uhre just in front of the keeper.
After absorbing the Union’s attacks it was Charlotte that broke through in the 24th minute with a counter attack of their own as they took a turnover at the halfway line and quickly raced up the pitch led by Karol Swiderski. The Polish international fed a pass Józwiak who took a touch and the drove a pass toward Daniel Rios. Seeing the play coming, Union center back Jack Elliott reacted first and blocked the pass but Swiderski was there for the touch and dribbled centrally into the box. With a pair of defenders protecting the Union goal, he fed a pass back out wide to Józwiak. Settling down and stopping just before the endline, the forward picked up his head and rocketed a cross into the box that was finished home by Rios.
After conceding first for just the eighth time in 2022, the Union didn’t need much time to showcase their creativity to set up a potential leveler. Kai Wagner blasted a diagonal ball to the edge of the 18 which Julian Carranza won and toward homegrown Nathan Harriel. Backing down his marker, the right back laid it back to Carranza and then sput into the open space. Carranza timed his pass precisely with a weighted pass toward the end line and then darted into a scoring spot in the red zone. Harriel sought to feed the forward at the top of 18 but a tough bump on the turf saw Carranza’s blast unable to make contact with the hard pass.
Daniel Gazdag took the offense into his own boots in the 34th minute as he took a quick pass from Wagner and raced into the attack. Seeing space and feeling confident with 19 goals to his stat sheet in 2022, the Hungarian laced a right-footed blast from 33 yards out but the keeper made the low stop.
Chance | Gazdag rips a shot from distance
The Boys in Blue came out of the locker room and had the first opportunity of the second half three minutes after the whistle with a strong spell of possession around the 18 but were unable to capitalize. The missed connection in the final third would rued as Charlotte FC doubled its advantage with another goal from Rios. Much like the opening goal it came from the homeside forcing a turnover in a dangerous area with the Union pinned inside their own 18. Unable to clear, defense became offense for Charlotte Józwiak delivered another pass to Rios for the another goal.
Down by a pair of goals, Jim Curtin turned looked to jump start the energy of the team with the insertion of Cory Burke and Paxten Aaronson. Burke’s speed and strength were on display moments after entering as he fought off a defender and then switched the attack with a blast to Gazdag who drew a corner kick. The ensuing corner almost saw the Boys in Blue halve Charlotte’s advantage with a second chance ball missing by a matter of inches with a Jack Elliott header.
In the 67th minute it was Curtin’s other lineup change Aaronson creating a big chance. Gazdag sent Wagner into the space on the left flank and drilled a cross into the box intended for Burke. Charlotte flicked a header to clear the chance but right to the feet of Aaronson at the top of the box and he quickly drilled a shot toward the open net but was denied with a crucial block by Adilson Malanda.
Chance | Aaronson's blast blocked
Things got more difficult for Philly in the 71st minute as Wagner was sent off with a second yellow card on the night as he went to ground to block a shot and saw the ball crash off his arm. The play set up a penalty kick opportunity for Rios to finish off the hat trick and he was successful as Blake guessed the correct way but couldn’t get to the bottom corner in time.
With a hat trick already to his name, Rios wasn’t done as he added a fourth in second half stoppage time against the 10-man Union. Full of confidence, he timed his run into the box to finish off cross from Orrin McKinze Gaines II at the door step to finish off the statement match that sees the expansion side continue their push for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Philadelphia Union wraps up the 2022 MLS regular season next Sunday with a Decision Day showdown against Toronto FC. The match on October 9th will see the Union celebrate U Thank U presented by Independence Blue Cross. Limited tickets remain for the regular season finale so don't miss out by securing your tickets by clicking here.