Highlights | #PHIvCIN

Philadelphia Union booked its ticket to the Eastern Conference Final for the second-consecutive season as they defeated FC Cincinnati, 1-0, at Subaru Park on Thursday night. Leon Flach perfectly timed his first goal of 2022 with a precision finish in the second half while Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake lived up to the billing with five saves to notch a shutout.

Postseason soccer returned to Subaru Park with a filled and vocal crowd cheering on the Boys in Blue as they faced off against Pat Noonan and FC Cincinnati. With the Union unbeaten in Chester during the 2022 regular season, the visitors didn’t seem rattled as they earned a corner kick just 31 seconds into the contest. Cincinnati’s Álvaro Barreal had the first scoring chance of the night as he fired a shot off a sliding Jose Martinez that deflected toward three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake but he made the stop look easy.

Philly found their footing with the big three of Mikael Uhre, Julian Carranza and Daniel Gazdag just a minute later with the Argentinian having the first shot on frame in the sixth minute for the Boys in Blue. In true Union fashion, it was direct with Kai Wagner sending a long volley over the defense that allowed Carranza to show his blazing speed to beat Matt Miazga into the ball and gain possession. With the center back pressing down on him from behind, Carranza could only generate a precision shot but saw it saved by the keeper.

The Union turned up their pressure a few minutes later to draw up a set piece chance in the eighth minute with Olivier Mbaizo taking a second ball from the wing and connecting with Gazdag inside the box. The Hungarian was the first to the ball but saw his headed flick missing the corner of the far post.

Chances | Union looking to open scoring early

Playoffs bring intensity and it was no different as the Brotherly Love between the two clubs was tossed to the side in hopes of reaching the Eastern Conference Final. Carranza’s hold up play put the forward on the receiving end of the many fouls. The hard tackles were all over the pitch with Uhre drawing the first half’s only yellow card in the 25th minute after getting taken down by Cincinnati’s Nick Hagglund.

The Ohio side turned to their U.S. Men’s National Team hopeful Brandon Vazquez to test Brick Wall Blake in the 20th minute but once again Blake was there for save.

As halftime loomed for both sides, the whistle came out in a matter of moments that got Union fans out of their seats as Miagza exchanged unpleasantries with Carranza and Obinna Nwobodo sent Wagner flying with a slide tackle near the sideline.

Both sides came out of the locker room looking to break things open and get into open space and succeeded just five minutes after play resumed. Philadelphia Union began the rapid minute with Leon Flach sprinting up the field and into space before laying off a pass for Uhre. The Danish forward pulled back the attack for a Wagner cross that snuck through the defense much to the surprise of Carranza as it crashed off his shin. The ball fell into Cincinnati’s possession and much like the Union, they sprinted into the attack with Lucciano Acosta leading the charge. The regular assist leader pass it off to Brenner before a blast was unleashed at the top of the box by Barreal but Blake turned it aside to keep the match scoreless.

The first half physicality returned as a Cincinnati’s Matt Miazga was shown a yellow card that got Subaru Park on its feet again. That energy was turned up another level as the Boys in Blue fed off it to bag the opening goal of the contest. With another quick attack, Gazdag collected a ball inside the penalty area and was forced off the ball. Uhre collected the dribbled ball and shot it volley over to Leon Flash who smashed it home for with his left foot.

Goal | Flach's finish puts Boys in Blue ahead!

With a one-goal lead at the Subaru Park, the Union defense knew they have to take every single counter punch that the visitors could bring at them. But just like they did in the regular season with the best defense in a 34-game season, the Union’s bulletproof backline stood strong.

In the 71st it was the Union’s MVP finalist Andre Blake denying a left-footed blast by Acosta. Moments later, Cincinnati’s Brenner found space at the penalty mark but was swallowed by the Union’s center back duo. Not to be left out, Mbaizo was patient and read every movement perfectly to block an attempted shot by Acosta.

Brick Wall Blake coming up big in final half!

As the clock ticked up, the rally towels were waved in a frenzy at Union fortress and erupted in applause for the defensive effort put in by the entire team.

The Union face off against the winner of NYCFC and CF Montreal on October 30 at Subaru Park, with the time and TV details to be determined at a later date. Don’t miss out on one of the best seasons Philly sports has ever seen — get your tickets now because soon they will be gone!

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Every match matters! In 2023, you do not want to miss your favorite matchups as the Union take on the best MLS has to offer! When we score, make sure you are there to get Subaru Park shaking!

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