On a dreary, cold, and rainy Memorial Day weekend that will long be remembered for Christian Pulisic becoming the first American to win the Champion’s League and Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson playing 90 minutes for the U.S. national team against Switzerland, the Philadelphia Union kept the winning tradition going by stomping MLS Powerhouse Portland Timbers 3-0.
The Union scored three set-piece goals, two in the first half, one in the second half, and had another called back in one of their more dominant performances of the 2021 season. Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos, and Jack Elliott all scored for the Union, and Andre Blake secured his league-leading fifth shutout of the season as the Union moved to within three points of New England for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Union beat the Timbers for the first time since 2015. The Portland Timbers were without several key players from last season’s loss to the Timbers. Defender Larrys Mabiala and Diego Chara were out with acute injuries, and with Sebastián Blanco still recovering from ACL surgery, the Timbers midfield relied heavily on Diego Valeri and Eryk Williamson. Last week’s second-half hero Felipe Mora also started at striker in place of Andy Polo, who suffered a ruptured quad and torn meniscus from a horrific challenge from Derrick Williams against the LA Galaxy. The Timbers entered the match with a similar start to the MLS season playing in a congested schedule but have not been able to recover as the Union have. Portland lost to Club America, the Union’s semifinal opponent in the CCL quarterfinals 4-1 aggregate.
The Union started the same lineup from their 1-0 win over D.C. United, with Sergio Santos in place of Cory Burke at striker. Andre Blake and Jakob Glesnes, who were both named to the Team of the Week, anchored the backline along with Kai Wagner, Jack Eliott, and Olivier Mbazio, forming one of the league’s best partnerships.
The game had plenty of energy from the start with a larger Union home crowd urging on the home side. Portland and Philadelphia traded chances in the opening minutes. Diego Valeri’s free kick in the 3rd minute curled just inside the near post, but Andre Blake made a diving save.
The Union had a chance three minutes later that rolled across the goalmouth but couldn’t find a finisher. Both teams also had numerous attacks early on with springing balls to release the wings, which led to an open first fifteen minutes. Przybylko almost nicked home a header on Leon Flach’s shot in the 9th minute and Kai Wagner nearly blasted home a volley from the top of the box four minutes later. The Union handled the Timbers attack well, but their progress continued to be stunted by a lack of movement from the front three. But that all changed with the Union’s set pieces.
The game opened up when Kacper Przybylko scored in the 26 th minute. The Union won a free kick thirty yards out, and Kai Wagner curled a floater that Przybylko nodded home past Logan Ketterer. The goal was Przybylko’s 26 th MLS goal, moving him into sole possession of third on the Union all-time scoring list. He now has 8 goals in 12 games this season and 31 career Union goals in all competitions.
Sergio Santos added a second six minutes later when he redirected home a Przybylko header following a Wagner corner. Przybylko won a header at the front six and directed it toward goal, where Santos flicked it in with his heel. The goal was Santos’ first of the season. Leon Flach nearly added a third off another corner in the final minute of the first half but was ruled to have handled the ball before burying it into the net. The goal would have been Flach’s first for the Union but unfortunately, his goal-scoring celebrations will be delayed. The chance came from another front six target on the corner, which has been the Union’s most dangerous set-piece all season.
The second half opened with more of the Union controlling the midfield and generating more of the chances. The Union scored their third off another corner. Jack Elliott banged home a rebound after Cory Burke’s header was pushed aside by Ketterer but not out. Burke had a second chance that fell in front for Elliott, who scored his first of the season.
Portland pushed to get back in the game late. They’d scored almost fifty percent of their goals in the final thirty minutes, but the defense held strong and Andre Blake made several key saves for another clean sheet.
The Union have three weeks off and will be back home against Columbus on June 23 after visiting Atlanta United for a Father’s Day afternoon match.
PHI: Przybylko 26’
PHI: Santos 32’
PHI: Elliott 63’
PHI: Mbaizo 6’
POR: Zubaric 62’
POR: Bravo 72’
Union: Blake, Mbaizo, Glesnes, Elliott, Wagner, Martinez, Bedoya (Sullivan 90’), Flach (Aaronson 89’), Monteiro, Santos (Burke 60’), Przybylko (Fontana 90’)
Unused Subs: Freese, Real, Collin, Findlay, McGlynn
Timbers: Ketterer, Van Rankin (Bonilla 89’), Tuiloma, Zuparic, Bravo, Y. Chara, Williamson, Valeri (Zambrano 89’), Ebobisse, Mora (Asprilla 79’), Loría (McGraw 68’)
Unused Subs: Sulte, Bodily