Union fall 2-1 to NYCFC, turn focus to playoffs

Philadelphia Union attacked New York City FC’s goal relentlessly the entire second half but came up short as they closed out the regular season with a 2-1 loss. Marco Fabian scored a penalty kick to cut NYC’s lead in half but an equalizer never came. 

The visitors were on the front foot early when Ronald Matarrita, a late addition to the first eleven after Heber was pulled, burst into the box and drilled home the opener. 

NYCFC was able to break Philly’s press with ease early on up the Union right, and in the 22nd minute, they pushed into the final third once again. The Union half-cleared the play before Ismael Tajouri-Shradi hit a hopeful shot from distance that deflected over Andre Blake’s head and into goal to double the lead. 

Jim Curtin tinkered with his side’s pressing, and the Union clawed their way back into the match. A 28th minute free kick from Haris Medunjanin — earned by a spectacular run through the center by Brenden Aaronson — was headed across goal by Jack Elliott. Andrew Wooten flew through to knock the ball down but his shot landed at Sean Johnson’s feet and was kept out. 

In the 39th minute, the Union were again nearly in, but after Aaronson set up Fafa Picault, the winger’s centering pass was cleared off the goalline. 

Next, Philly came down the right, with a cross for Jamiro Monteiro’s head barely cleared by desperate defending. 

The second half was all Union, and Brenden Aaronson was at the heart of many of the club’s best moves. After Picault put his shot over in the 50th minute, Aaronson began pushing higher and made a strong late run to meet Ilsinho’s cross in the 58th. He ballooned his shot, however, and Philly continued to hunt for their opener. Six minutes later, Marco Fabian and Haris Medunjanin combined to send Aaronson through, but once again the homegrown rookie couldn’t find the net. 

Matt Real entered the match as a winger and created havoc going forward. He drifted centrally to meet Kai Wagner’s 83rd minute cross but touched the ball wide of target. 

Sustained pressure finally paid off in the 87th minute when a handball in the box granted Fabian a chance from the spot. He took it well, and Philly continued to threaten until the final moments. 

In the last moments, Andre Blake pushed up for a corner kick. When the ball was cleared to Maxi Moralez, it looked like Philly would be down 3-1. But Ray Gaddis and Blake sprinted back and snuffed out the danger. 

The Union finish the MLS regular season in third place in the Eastern Conference and prepare to face New York Red Bulls in ROund One of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup playoffs.

 

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