Dániel Gazdag scored a goal and assisted on the other to lead the Philadelphia Union to a commanding 2-0 win over FC Cincinnati on a Halloween night matchup that lacked the thrills and chills but was a treat of attacking Union soccer. The Union moved back into second place with 53 points, leading Nashville on the wins tie-breaker 14-12. The Union finished their home campaign with five straight wins, the last four shutouts, and an 11-3-3 record at Subaru Park.
The Union came out with their most recent 4-3-2-1 lineup with Paxton Aaronson replacing Jamiro Monteiro, who was ruled out with a minor knee injury. Jack McGlynn earned a start in midfield in place of Leon Flach, whose 2,500 minutes this season ranks fourth on the team. Andre Blake returned to the lineup after missing the trip to Toronto due to a death in his family. FC Cincinnati’s front pairing of Brenner and Brandon Vázquez had been playing well in recent games but were held in check by the formidable central back pairing of Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott. Brenner, the young Brazilian star from São Paulo, scored his eighth goal of the season Wednesday and is one shy of the club single-season record while Vázquez had scored in three straight games, but only Vázquez recorded one of Cincinnati’s two shots on goal.
The Union opened the scoring in the eleventh minute when Gazdag’s redirected header beat Cincinnati keeper Kenneth Vermeer. The Union had been applying pressure on the Cincinnati backline from the opening whistle and found success down the right side following a corner. Alejandro Bedoya gained possession on the end line and cut the ball back at the top of the box to Olivier Mbaizo, who side-footed it on target while Gazdag screened Vermeer in front of the net. The goal was Gazdag’s fourth of the season.
The Union played with a free-flowing attack in the final third and controlled the entire game. Aaronson and Gazdag had more freedom to float and McGlynn and Bedoya found plenty of space in support to create multiple opportunities. Gazdag missed the post by inches with a header in the twenty-first minute, Gazdag and McGlynn combined for another Gazdag shot minutes later, and Bedoya’s heel flick in the twenty-ninth minute was stopped by Vermeer. McGlynn also missed the far post by an inch in the thirty-eighth minute, almost bagging his first career goal.
After a half of dominance, the Union went into the break up a goal and came out in the second half looking to finish off the MLS bottom feeders. Aaronson provided the second Union goal eight minutes into the half from another combination between Gazdag and McGlynn. After forcing a turnover, Gazdag played a pass into McGlynn and continued his run, creating a lane for Aaronson to dribble into before unleashing a low left-footed strike that found the bottom corner.
The Union kept the pressure on with a comfortable run in the second half, creating more chances, but they were unable to find the net again. Kacper Przybylko missed a sitter over the bar in the fifty-seventh minute and Gazdag had a shot from close range in the sixtieth. José Martinez’s shot from distance in the sixty-eighth found the target but was not enough to reach the back of the net. In a subdued final twenty minutes, the Union welcomed Cory Burke back into the lineup after missing the past several weeks due to injury.
The Union will finish the regular season next Sunday against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium with the second seed and a first round playoff home game at stake. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30.
PHI: Gazdag 11’
PHI: Aaronson 53’
Union: Blake, Mbazio (Harriel 76’), Glesnes, Elliott, Wagner, Martinez, Bedoya (Bueno 90’), McGlynn (Flach 80’), Aaronson, Gazdag (Sullivan 90’), Przybylko (Burke 80’)
Unused subs: Freese, Findlay, Fontana, Davo
Vermeer, Bailey, Cameron, Blackett, Barreal (Harris 71’), Kubo (Scott 84’), Stanko, Medunjanin, Gyau (Duvall 46’), Vázquez, Brenner (Atanga 71’)
Unused subs: Tyton, Cruz, Mokotjo, Valot, Ordonez