With a new formation and powered by a pair of long-range blasts, Philadelphia Union knocked off the Colorado Rapids by a 2-1 margin for its third-straight MLS win.
The Boys in Blue battled back from a first-half deficit as Kai Wagner continued to make long-range goals look simple just before the break. The Union completed the comeback with another stunner as Julian Carranza baged the winner with a right-footed shot from outside the box.
On the road for the third consecutive time in a week, Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin put out a squad that sent fans buzzing with the move to a 5-3-2 instead of the traditional 4-4-2 diamond. With all three center backs on the pitch, outside backs Kai Wagner and Olivier Mbaizo were freed up to be even more aggressive in the space that Rapids would concede in their own 3-back lineup.
It took a little bit of time for the lineup to click on the road, battling another cross country flight and altitude as the hosts got the first real chance of the evening in the seventh minute. Colorado’s playmaker Diego Rubio opted to go for a long-range shot on the ground but instead of the blast sneaking through it went right to the feet of his teammate Kévin Cabral. The Rapid’s forward unleashed a quick shot as he spun toward the Union net but three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake kept it scoreless with a reaction stop near his boots.
Philly got into a groove after the big defensive play, flexing what the new formation could lead to. Pressing high up the pitch, the Boys in Blue earned a corner in the 12th minute that saw the ball end up in the back of the net after Damion Lowe’s cross at the end line was spilled out by the keeper and tapped home. The assistant referee called the play off, saying the ball had fully crossed the line before Lowe blasted it. With yet another corner, Wagner ripped a near post cross that was headed home but again called dead for a foul.
Homegrown Jack McGlynn made sure to leave a lasting mark before departing for the FIFA U-20 World Cup with a deft touch to set up a scoring chance for the Boys in Blue in the 16th minute. After drawing a free kick that ended a Rapids chance, the Union got the midfielder on the ball deep in their defensive half of the pitch. With Wagner pushed forward and near the sideline, McGlynn went direct with a tight angled pass that curled through the defense and sprung Julian Carranza in on goal. Colorado goalkeeper Will Yarbrough raced out from the goal line to make it a tough chance for the forward, with the Union front man getting around the keeper but seeing his left-footed shot go wide from the angle.
Things got chippy as the clock ticked up in the opening half with both sides showing intent to rise up the league table. With the midfield congested by both sides, playing from the outside in set up many an encounter between the back lines and attacking pieces.
In the 35th minute Jonathan Lewis cut centrally at the edge of the box to generate a chance and sent a soft pass to Diego Rubio were Lowe raced out to clear and collided with the trailing leg. The referee quickly raced over and pointed for a free kick at the edge of the box. Moments later he was summoned by the Video Assistant Referee for an extended look at the monitor which resulted in a penalty. Connor Ronan stepped up for the home side and fired a blast above the outstretched glove of Blake to make it a 1-0 scoreline.
Seven minutes were added to the first half after the VAR check and other stoppages but the Boys in Blue needed just three to tie things up with another golazo. Playing on the flanks for the majority of the first half, the Union found space down the heart of the Rapids defense with McGlynn. The 19-year-old again wanted the ball and saw open space and took advantage with strong run before playing a pass out wide to Mbaizo. McGlynn continued his run at full pace to which Mbaizo immediately got him back on the ball. Facing a defensive block, the homegrown slowed down to set up a run from team captain Alejandro Bedoya to the edge of the box. A flicked pass later saw Bedoya in possession and on his left foot. Instead of having a go, the captain sent a pass to Carranza who backed down his defender. Seeing space at the top of the box, Carranza tapped a pass backward and right into the run for Wagner who unleashed a left-footed laser from 25-yard out for make It 1-1.
The Union carried that momentum into the second half, needing only seven minutes to grab the lead via another long-range blast. Showcasing defense to offense, center back Jack Elliott deflected a Rapids’ volley right to the McGlynn in the middle of the park. Taking a look at Colorado’s shape, he floated a ball to his right for Mbaizo to get into the attack on hosts side of the pitch. The Cameroonian flew up the field and delivered the perfect cut back pass to the edge of the box where Carranza unleashed a blast of his own that had so much power it hit off the keeper’s glove and went in.
With a one-goal lead on the road, the Union knew it would be a battle to hold onto the result and got key plays at the back to preserve the lead. Moments after the Boys in Blue took the lead, Colorado sought to equalize with a counter attack led by Cabral but Elliott made the diving block as he forward sought a near post shot.
In the 62nd minute Blake was tested twice in a matter of seconds as again Colorado hoped to score on a counter. Diego Rubio had the initial attempt on frame, ripping a shot from 20-yards out that forced a diving stop by the Union goalkeeper. Pushing it clear, the ball went to Jonathan Lewis for another go but the Jamaican international wouldn’t be beaten.
Michael Barrios joined into the attack for the hosts, entering in the 72nd minute to create some magic to extend their unbeaten streak to double digits. The Colombian added more pace to the right side of the Colorado attack as they sought to get in behind Wagner.
With a trio of center backs in the middle of the box, outside to inside is all the hosts could muster however.
Two chances did come about for the hosts that put the Union on their heels with an 89th minute chance created by Rubio. With the Union focused on the midfielder, a pass out wide to Braian Galvan broke things open as he sent a hard cross to the back post. Lewis made the run and was unmarked but couldn’t get a touch on the cross with the sliding effort.
Again seven minutes of stoppage time was added to the half with Rubio again trying to even things up. The playmaker had a go with a shot across the grass that snuck through the defense but Blake saw it coming.
Philadelphia Union returns to Subaru Park on Wednesday night as they kick off a week of rivalry games hosting D.C. United on Wednesday, May 17. Kick off from Chester, Pa., is set for 7:30 p.m. ET with the match presented by Coors Light. Fans can catch the action starting at 7:30PM ET for free on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV and on FS1.