When Sergio Santos wants something, you better not get in his way. Santos helped set up the Union's opener before notching two more onto his MLS Is Back belt in a 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City that sees Philly into the semifinals.
High-priced striker Alan Pulido pulled one back just before halftime but Andre Blake closed up shop in the second half and finished with six saves in a continuation of his tournament MVP-level play.
Jim Curtin kept the same eleven that knocked off New England on the pitch, though he lost Warren Creavalle, a key contributor throughout the tournament, to a minor hamstring tweak.
In the opening minutes of the match, both teams jostled for control as Kansas City sought to press Jack Elliott into long passes and the Union tried to contain Sporting's crossfield balls and press into Pulido's back.
Gianluca Busio nearly blocked one Elliott pass back into the net, but then Santos took over.
Alejandro Bedoya was, as usual, heavily involved. When Ray Gaddis found Santos in the middle, Bedoya sprinted through the lines and the Brazilian striker poked him the ball in space. Kacper Przybylko and Jamiro Monteiro crashed the far post and the latter tucked home the opener.
Minutes later, Santos handled everything himself in a breathtaking display of athleticism. Off a Sporting free kick that was half-cleared, he out-sprinted three defenders and two of his own players before bobbing the ball past Tim Melia with his right foot. It was a stunning show of speed and, for the second straight game, showed why any team that allows Santos behind their back line will be in trouble this season.
Rejuvenated after the hydration break, Santos went to work once more. In the 39th minute, Bedoya found Aaronson and the homegrown midfielder spun and played in Santos at the back post. in full glide, the Brazilian eased his finish past Melia to crush Kansas City.
But Pulido is too good to take a drubbing without a fight. In extra time of the first half, he darted in at the back post and met Johnny Russell's cross with a controlled header back across Blake's goal to set the halftime score at 3-1.
That was all Blake was willing to give. A free kick off the bar in the second half and a Russell goal rightly called back for offsides -- after Blake made a swift reaction save -- were the only times the Union goalie was troubled.
Now the Union are the first team into the MLS Is Back semifinals and await the winner of the August 1 match between NYCFC and Portland Timbers. The semis will take place on August 5 at 8:00 p.m. ET on FS1 and TUDN.