The Philadelphia Union took down Nashville SC 2-1 in penalties after a deadlocked first 120 minutes to advance to the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday, Dec. 5. They await the winner of New England and New York City FC for a chance to reach their first-ever MLS Cup Final.
The key to the Union making this deep run through the Eastern Conference playoffs: Reggae Boyz goalkeeper Andre Blake. Dre absolutely stood on his head again and he’s the primary reason the boys from Chester still have a chance to hold up the Anschutz trophy when all is said and done.
He made two heroic saves in the penalty shootout that allowed just two converted Union penalties from Jack Elliott and Jack McGlynn to be enough to send the squad through to the last four.
Blake has been the Union’s hero for quite some time now and honestly, the Union should be grateful that a European team hasn’t snatched him up by now. He has been just as good as any goal minder in the world. He’s one of those guys that every now and then he makes you go “How the hell do we still have him?” The Union are beyond lucky to have him playing between the sticks at Subaru Park.
Another key player for the Union in the semifinal match: Hungarian midfielder Dániel Gazdag. He has been absolutely class as of late, and his goal in stoppage time of the first half kept the Union alive.
The goal wasn’t his most beautiful finish, as he hit a sort of strange bouncing volley that found its way through a crowd of Nashville defenders and into the back of the net. Regardless, Gazdag’s persistent hunger in front of the goal paid off. He has a knack for scoring and probably should have had a couple of other goal contributions in the match.
His beautiful ball in behind for Sergio Santos should have been the match winner — had Santos’ chip effort not been futile. Then, his goal in the 77th minute was waved off for a fairly soft foul call on Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis. Gazdag was dangerous all night and he was definitely one of the Union’s most important performers on the night.
Looking ahead to the Eastern Conference Final on the weekend, the Union will need a stronger showing from Sergio Santos and the rest of their attacking supporting cast if they want to advance to the MLS Cup Final.
Easy chances and sitters cannot be missed on the biggest stage. Otherwise, the 2021-22 Philadelphia Union will just be the latest talented Union squad to have all of the pieces and fall just short of their ultimate goal: MLS Cup glory.
Expect Blake, Gazdag, Santos and the Union to come out firing against the winner of New England and NYCFC. Their legs will be fresh after a couple of extra days rest to prepare for the biggest match in Union history. Come on Union, bring it home!