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Kai Wagner saves the day with clearance, Union holds line in Saprissa shut out

Wagner’s heads up play kept Saprissa off the board and down a goal heading into the decisive second leg in Chester

Philadelphia Union

The Philadelphia Union have won their first ever Concacaf Champions League match, and it’s thanks in large part to Kai Wagner’s late game heroics.

In the 70th minute, the Union were holding onto a one-goal advantage and facing a dangerous Deportivo Saprissa corner. A ball whipped near post found its way out of the reach of Union goalkeeper Andre Blake but the sure goal was stolen from Saprissa, with Union left back Kai Wagner clearing the ball off the line.

“We did a great job on our restarts,” head coach Jim Curtin said post-game. “Everybody kept their assignments and limited their opportunities, and obviously Kai makes a great play off the line.”

The first half of action in San Jose, Costa Rica was mostly back and forth, the Union taking the advantage in the 34th minute. A great cross hammered in from right back Olivier Mbaizo found the head of striker Kacper Przybylko, who would not miss from close range to give the Union their first ever Concacaf Champions League goal.

The second half would see the Union defending a lot more, with the hosts gaining many opportunities to score from set pieces.

“We had to defend a lot of set pieces, which is something we wanted to avoid because they’re strong in the air,” Curtin said. “We had too many silly fouls around the box that were avoidable, and then conceded probably too many corner kicks that we maybe could’ve put out for throw ins rather than corners.”

“Those little plays can be the difference between advancing in this competition or going home, so we have to clean that up,” Curtin added.

Wagner’s heads up play puts the Union in the driver’s seat for the second leg in Chester next week up 1-0 instead of tied 1-1. They can play to a scoreless draw and still advance.

A historic night for the Philadelphia Union, they scored their first Concacaf Champions League goal, won their first match in the competition and kept a clean sheet ahead of the decisive second leg round of 16 match scheduled for April 14 at 8 p.m. ET.