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Second half surge puts Union into the Champions League quarterfinals

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Union will face Atlanta United in two-leg quarterfinal

Morgan Tencza

Jamiro Monteiro had two goals and two assists in the second half to lead the Philadelphia Union to a 4-0 win over Deportivo Saprissa in the Round of 16 second leg Wednesday night at Subaru Park.

The Union finished the home and home series with a 5-0 advantage on aggregate and will now face Atlanta United in the first CCL quarterfinal in club history. The future meeting with Atlanta will also mark the first quarterfinal matchup between two MLS teams since 2011.

The 2019 U.S. Open Cup champs defeated Alajuelense 2-0 on aggregate to advance to the next round.

The Union put the game to rest early in the second half following a strong first half marked by a number of missed chances despite outplaying the visitors from Costa Rica. The Union came out and established the pace of the game with deep attacking runs behind Saprissa’s defense that caused the shorthanded back line problems.

Jakob Glesnes had the chance of the half when a sixth-minute corner fell to him at the top of the box. But his half-volley smashed the post and bounced away from danger. The other exciting play in the half came when public enemy number one, Ricardo Blanco, took an elbow from Kai Wagner, then fell victim to Wagner’s cut back, which delighted the fans who booed whenever he touched the ball.

The Philadelphia Union started the same lineup as the first leg in San José with Kacper Przybylko and Anthony Fontana up top. Olivier Mbaizo, who served the cross on the Union’s only goal in the first game, started at right back with Jack Elliott and Glesnes at center back. Wagner appeared fully fit with no limitations from Blanco’s late challenge at the end of the first leg. For Saprissa, Michael Barrantes and Daniel Colindres started in the attack with former MLSer Christian Bolaños in the midfield.

Saprissa took a major hit prior to the game when three players tested positive for Covid-19. Captain Mariano Torres, arguably their best player in the first leg, defender Aubrey David, and reserve Frederico Aléman all missed the match due to quarantine. Center back Kendall Waston, who recently traveled to Europe with the national team to play two friendlies against Bosnia Herzegovina and Austria, was unable to enter the U.S. due to quarantine rules. His absence was a massive blow to the defense.

Despite playing the three-time Concacaf Cup winners, the Union showed no hesitation and pushed the game for much of the first half. José Martinez had time and space in the center of midfield, Monteiro was active in the final third, and Fontana was busy stretching the back line. Przybylko had a few chances in the first half that could have put the tie out of reach. In the twenty-first minute, he broke through the left side of Saprissa’s defense but couldn’t get a shot off, then he had another chance late in the half in front of goal but was ruled offside.

Jedwin Lester brought the Concacaf feel to the game with a late studs-up challenge on Monteiro that drew a yellow and could have seen worse had the VAR system been in place, but the game’s edge calmed afterward as the home side valued the ball instead of revenge. The Union went into halftime with an advantage in possession and shots but nothing to show for their play.

The action came swift and furious in the second half. Jamiro Monteiro put the Union up 1-0 from the spot two minutes into the second half following a slicing run from Fontana in the box in which the 21-year-old striker split two defenders and was clipped at the hip for an obvious penalty. Monteiro stepped up and powered it down the middle to put the Union up 2-0 on aggregate. Przybylko doubled the lead five minutes later on a free header off Monteiro’s corner kick. Przybylko got on the end of the out-swinging cross and mashed it into the back of the net for his second head goal in two games.

Fontana scored the third three minutes later after he got on the end of a Monteiro through ball and tucked it inside the far post beyond Cruz. Stuart Findlay and Jack McGlynn made their Union debuts in the second half, and Sergio Santos replaced Przybylko with less than fifteen minutes remaining, nearly drawing another penalty with a dazzling roll over before his legs were swiped out from beneath him. Monteiro nearly added to his tally shortly after but his header was pushed aside by a strong hand save from Cruz.

The Union maintained possession to see out the final ten minutes of the game, and Jamiro Monteiro scored his second less than thirty seconds before the final whistle, earning Man of the Match honors with an outstanding performance on the evening.

Goals
PHI- Monteiro (PK) 47’
PHI- Przybylko 52’
PHI-Fontana 55’
PHI-Monteiro 90’

Yellow cards
SAP- Lester 35’
PHI- Martinez 48’

Lineups
Philadelphia Union: Blake, Mbaizo, Glesnes, Elliott (Collin 89’), Wagner, Martinez (Findlay 68’), Bedoya (Sullivan 76’), Flach (McGlynn 68’), Monteiro, Fontana, Przybylko (Santos 76’)

Unused Subs: Freese, Real

Saprissa: Cruz, Blanco, Evans, Espindola, Cortés (Tellerría 90’), Hernández, Guzmán (Roper 69’), Lester (Martinez 65’), C. Bolaños (Marín 65’), Barrantes, Colindres

Unused Subs: Sequeira, M. Bolaños, Gómez