As the final whistle blew in Orlando in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, it became official: the Philadelphia Union would be playing in the knockout stages of the MLS is Back Tournament.
The Union clinched the next round with a hard fought, yet resounding, victory over Inter Miami FC, which saw both teams locked into a match of see-saw dominance, with control of the match changing hands multiple times throughout the match.
The Union won with both the first and the last laughs, taking the early 1-0 lead with a goal from Kai Wagner in the 5th minute that deflected off Miami keeper Luis Robles and into the back of the net.
Miami responded at 36th minute with a string of passes in the box that left the Union line ball watching as the ball rolled past them to make the game 1-1, and as the teams left the pitch after the first 45, the game remained that way.
The score remained at 1-1 until a counter attack started by Ilsinho near his own end line, which, after a screen by Jamiro Monteiro, gave Brenden Aaronson the opportunity to, after another screen by Jamiro Montiero, feed the ball to Kacper Przybylko for the game winning goal.
After the match, Union head coach Jim Curtin expressed pride in his team, despite their play not being up to what he felt was par for the course. “To Miami, I thought they made it very difficult on us, the entire night,” he said. “The good news is we found a way to beat a good team, even not playing our best soccer so still a lot of things to work on and improve of is good to now get two wins in a row.”
Aaronson gave fans a show to remember against Miami, finishing with the game-winning assist while continuing to play an aggressive style and pressure his opponents.
“I think just to grind the result out and get that goal at the end really shows the confidence of our team,” Aaronson said.
The match also saw the return of forward Sergio Santos, who returned after missing the NYCFC game due to injury. Santos saw 45 minutes of action, and showed why he deserves to be back in the starting lineup. While Santos’ stats were not the most impressive, he made sure to make his presence known by consistently pushing up against the Miami backline and attacking the net at every chance that he got.
Norwegian defender Jakob Glesnes also earned a surprising start over Jack Elliott, something that Curtin attributed to a simple rotation in a solid backline. “It was just the time to have good time to rotate to get Jakob the game,” he said.
Both teams seemed potentially volatile at times, with Philadelphia and Miami combining for a total of 35 fouls throughout the course of the match, though Referee Silviu Petrescu gave out just four yellow cards, two of which went to Miami’s Andres Reyes, who earned his second yellow in the final minutes of the match. Union defensive midfielder Jose Martinez also saw yellow, making it his third of the season, though he isn’t in danger of suspension during the tournament.
The Union and Orlando City SC and are scheduled to face each other to decide the winner of Group A on Monday, July 20 at 8 p.m.