Goals from a deflection in the first half and a penalty kick in the second put the Philadelphia Union in a 2-0 hole as they head home for the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League semifinal on September 15 at Subaru Park.
The Union nearly found an away goal in the opening minutes in Mexico City when Dániel Gazdag got into the box and played a ball to Kacper Pryzybylko, who did well to flick the ball played behind toward the goal, just missing at the far post.
Club América responded with an early chance of their own down the other end in the 11th minute, but Andre Blake was quick off his line to deny Richard Sánchez’s header off a well placed curling cross from Mauro Laínez. From there it was mostly América with nearly all of the possession — at one point in the first half they had 73 percent possession — until the Union started to find their footing before the break.
The opening goal would come in the 17th minute when Sebastián Córdova’s free kick hit the wall and Sánchez fired a quick shot off the rebound that deflected off Gazdag and left Blake, who rushed to cover the near post for the initial trajectory of the shot, hung out to dry.
Heading into the second half down just a goal, the Union continued to show fight even as the gap in talent between the Liga MX power and the reigning MLS Supporters’ Shield winners was evident.
Still, while the Union weren’t able to create many clear chances, they were able to disrupt the rhythm of América’s attack more in the second half and grow their belief that they could snag an equalizer — especially off set pieces with their height advantage as América started to slow and concede more fouls in their own final third.
The decisive and most controversial moment of the night came with 10 minutes left when Richard Sánchez went down in the box after José Andrés Martínez slid in and Sánchez went down. Referee Walter López Castellanos didn’t initially call the play a penalty but did award a spot kick after video review.
Emanuel Aguilera stepped up and was able to get Blake going the wrong way to make it 2-0.
Playing at altitude in front of a limited crowd of 20,000 fans at the famed Estadio Azteca, the Union fought through to stoppage time trying to find an away goal that nearly came on a challenge with Cory Burke in the box but Castellanos called it a goal kick and there was no ensuing video review.
The Union had another chance when Alvas Powell — who replaced Olivier Mbaizo in the 34th minute after he lost a tooth on a challenge that was somehow not even whistled for a foul — nearly connected with Bedoya but goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was able to cut down the chance and see out the game up 2-0 with 90 minutes left in the tie.