The Philadelphia Union returned home from Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday evening to take on New York City FC in Subaru Park. After a decisive 3-0 Champions League victory over Atlanta United, the Union came home looking for their first MLS victory of the 2021 season.
From the jump, the Union was unable to exhibit control over the match. New York City forced Andre Blake to make his first save before sixty seconds had passed, and earned a goal in the first five minutes.
A drive down the right side towards Matt Real by Anton Tinnerholme gave NYCFC its first goal of the night, as he crossed the ball towards Jesus Medina. That goal set the tempo for the night, as the Union were unable to push back against New York City’s fiery opening tempo and found themselves floundering in the first few minutes.
After the Medina goal, NYCFC found themselves with another blessing, an early red card handed out to one of the Union’s key players: Jose Martinez.
Martinez earned a yellow card in the fifteenth minute for a play against NYCFC’s Valetin Castellanos, though a VAR review upgraded it to a red card quickly. Martinez was ejected for Violent Conduct and is expected to serve an additional suspension doled out by the MLS Disciplinary Committee. Martinez’s ejection set the Union’s defense back as it tried to push back against the pace of NYC and meant the Union would play without Martinez for essentially three straight matches if not more (Martinez is suspended for the CCL match on Tuesday, in addition to any suspension that will come with this red card).
However, even without Martinez in play, Philadelphia was able to hold its own for a while. By the end of the first half, the Union seemed to be trying to fight back and drive into the attacking third, though with little success. As the second half began, the Union looked to push back and created a solid drive after the substitutions of Kacper Przybylko, Kai Wagner, and Leon Flach in the 60th minute. Unfortunately for the Union, nothing was able to come of the attack, and NYCFC began an attack the other way.
With their attack headed the other direction, NYCFC was able to get the chance that they had been looking for: a flubbed ball by Andre Blake that left the net wide open for Castellanos to tap the ball in for the game-sealing shot.
After the Castellanos goal, homegrown Jack McGlynn subbed in to rest Captain Alejandro Bedoya, marking McGlynn’s second MLS appearance in his first year in the league (McGlynn also came in against Deportivo Saprissa in the Champions League).
After the McGlynn substitution and the Castellanos goal, the match died down significantly, and while both teams showed solid chances on net, neither team was able to finish, leaving the score at 2-0 for the remainder of play. For the most part, the Union looked to avoid pushing most of their senior players before their Tuesday match against Atlanta, while NYCFC was happy to hold their lead steady and earn another three points.
When the final whistle had been blown, the Union had clearly been outmatched by New York City. Philadelphia took only four shots to NYCFC’s twenty-three, with none on target for the Union; they only controlled 33.1% of possession, and only took one corner through all 90+ minutes of play.
NYCFC left with the most important stat line of all, two goals scored to none, and improved their record to 2-0-1, while the Union continued their winless streak in MLS competition and fell to 0-1-2.
The Union will remain at home for their CCL competition on Tuesday, where they will look to continue to contrast their MLS play against Atlanta United and proceed to the semifinals of the Champions League.