The headline was that Andre Blake stood on his head to preserve a clean sheet and three points after Alejandro Bedoya scored a 63rd minute goal. But it took more than the performances of two of the Union’s biggest stars to keep NYCFC scoreless on Thursday.
The spine of the defense with Mark McKenzie, Jack Elliott on the back line and Jose Andres Martinez at the bottom of the diamond was mostly sharp on the day while Jamiro Monteiro and Brenden Aaronson did a lot of work on both sides of the ball.
On paper, City had the statistical advantage in nearly every category but up until a couple of golden opportunities snuffed out by Blake late in the game, the Union was able to play their game even if it was slightly less frenzied in the Florida heat and humidity.
Injuries to Sergio Santos, Andrew Wooten and Michee Ngalina left Curtin with few options in the attack so it was already an odd start to the game with Ilsinho in the starting XI. Part of the problem with starting Ilsinho is he isn’t available to come off the bench and provide a spark against worn out opposing teams. Had he come in after the hour mark, he may have been able to leave more of an impression.
Anthony Fontana and Jack de Vries were the only attackers on the bench and Jim used both in the match while bunkering a bit by inserting Warren Creavalle and a third center back in Jakob Glesnes to see off the game.
Curtin deserves some credit for how well prepared the team looked even if some of the touches, the timing of runs and shot attempts showed some rust. Even with the game scoreless and NYCFC threatening, it never felt like the Union were in danger of falling behind. In the end, they just couldn’t be denied and showed that they have the mentality to handle the environment and unique circumstances in Orlando and be a legitimate contender in the competition.
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