The boys in blue are back in the playoffs again, clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2016 with a convincing 5-1 win over Minnesota United FC Saturday night in Chester.
Coming off of a disappointing result in the U.S. Open Cup final against Houston, and a scoreless draw at Columbus Crew, the Philadelphia Union put in a near perfect version of the beautiful game against Minnesota with four goals in the first half thanks to a phenomenal effort from Keegan Rosenberry on both ends of the field, and well-rounded attacking games from Borek Dockal and Fafa Picault.
That’s how you win a game of football.
Sloppy touches and errant passes early on in the game could have cost the Union as quickly as the 2nd and 3rd minutes, but the team was able to hold it together. In the 5th minute Philly forward Cory Burke had an early chance on goal, but it was in the 8th minute when the Union’s No. 19 put Philadelphia up 1-0 on the night with a wonderful shot from the edge of the area. The assist on that goal came from Borek Dockal, with his 16th of the season to break a Philadelphia Union record previously held by Chaco Maidana.
The match went “quiet” briefly until the 17th minute when captain Alejandro Bedoya scored in front of the net (much to brand new Philadelphia Flyers mascot GRITTY’S delight!) with a sweetly placed deflection off a Keegan Rosenberry cross.
It didn’t take long for the Union to take advantage of their quick passing and possession again when in the 23rd minute recent USMNT call-up Fafa Picault found himself slipping behind Minnesota United’s defense. Chasing down a wonderfully placed through ball from Rosenberry, he shot and the ball took a deflection off United’s veteran goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
The match slowed down considerably around the 30th minute to Minnesota United’s liking, and they began to finally enjoy their first legitimate spells of possession. It led to almost nothing for them in the end, and in the 44th minutes Fafa Picault struck again. CJ Sapong sent in a perfectly weighted cross from the right side of the box to Picault who was moving into the left. Fafa took the ball down, realized he wasn’t going to be challenged by the Minnesota defender, picked a corner, and curved it beautifully into the righthand corner of the net right past Shuttleworth. It was a beautiful, almost casual finish from the in-form winger. The half would come to a close just moments later as head referee Allen Chapman chose not to add any extra time onto the end of the half.
“We still have work to do, we’re not done.” Fafa Picault would later state matter-of-factly in his post-game interview, and he clearly showed that today in the first half.
Things would remain relatively unexciting for both teams in the second half until defensive lapses would lead to a Minnesota goal in the 54th minute from Darwin Quintero, assisted by their forward Angelo Rodriguez. Just two minutes later, Bedoya would be cautioned in the Union’s final third with a yellow card. The match then began to get chippy around the 60th minute with both teams beginning to foul more and more, forcing Chapman to blow his whistle more than he had the entire match prior.
The 61st minute saw Ilsinho come on for Sapong and the Brazilian had an immediate impact, helping Philly get their momentum back in this match after allowing a little give to Minnesota United FC. His attack-minded passes and slick dribbling, again putting heavy pressure on United’s back line. Shortly after, a few errant passes from the defense and some bad touches led to Minnesota having (inconsequential) chances in Philadelphia’s final third around the 65th minute.
Not long after an “altercation” occurred between the Union’s Fafa Picault and Minnesota’s Alexis Gomez, when the Brooklyn boy Picault took issue with what he thought was a foul from Gomez. This led to them in each other’s faces, and some light head bumping which somehow caused Gomez to fall completely to the earth holding his entire face. Referee Allen Chapman handled the situation very well, issuing a yellow card caution to both players and speaking directly to them in an effort to calm the players down.
In the 77th minute Warren Creavalle replaced Dockal for the Union’s 2nd substitution of the night, capping off a wonderful club record-breaking night for Philly’s #10.
In the 80th, Talen Energy got LOUD when Ilsinho made the match 5-1 Philadelphia with an absolute screamer from 25 yards out that dipped into the bottom right corner of Minnesota's net to effectively and officially put an end to United’s hopes.
Jay Simpson would close out the game up front for Philadelphia after coming on for Burke in the 86th minute.
“We’re a brave team right now, I think that’s dangerous at this point in the year.” head coach Jim Curtin said in his post-game press conference. “You do have to celebrate the little moments, and 50 points in a season, clinching a playoff berth is a big moment.”
With the win and a Columbus loss, the Union have taken over fourth place and are now only three points behind third place New York City FC, which they close out the season against on October 28.