The Philadelphia Union came up short in their Concacaf Champions League match, dropping a 2-0 decision to Club América in Mexico City Thursday night but they haven’t lost hope in finding a way through to the final.
The Union looked out of sorts all night at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on Thursday, struggling to maintain any sort of possession against América’s pressure. The Union only managed 33 percent of possession, a stat aided by a much better and controlled second half.
Club América on the flipside looked very controlled and mature.
They had a game plan that they were not going to let the Union counter attack them and score, and they played out their plan to perfection. The Union resorted a lot of the game to trying long balls over the top, unable to really solve a Club América team that was defending with 11 players. The Union did have chances though, chances that they will need to finish if they want to complete a comeback at Subaru Park on September 15.
“We made it uncomfortable for them,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said post-game. “Obviously, considering the first half was disappointing, but at the same time I thought at one zero we were fairly comfortable, came into the game pretty good, obviously made a mistake to concede the second goal.”
Despite being outplayed for most of the match, the goals conceded weren’t from open play. The first goal in the 17th minute appeared to be a wonder strike from outside of the box from Richard Sánchez. Upon further inspection, a Dániel Gazdag deflection made it nearly an impossible save for even Andre Blake. The second goal in the 80th minute came off a controversial penalty call, where after video review it was ruled that defensive midfielder Jose Martinez’s trailing leg clipped Sánchez in the box.
“I’ve seen the replays on the penalty, he doesn’t call it on the field, there needs to be something really clear and obvious to overturn it I don’t know if there is,” Curtin said.
There was also a possible penalty against the hosts on a challenge between Emanuel Aguilera and Cory Burke in the box in second half stoppage time but the referee opted not to go to video review on it.
“I think the Cory one is a penalty,” Curtin said.
The Union have a mountain to climb in the home leg, but it certainly isn’t insurmountable. Again, despite being vastly outplayed, Club América’s goals weren’t really a result of good play. Those plays easily could’ve gone the other way, and the tone postgame is much different.
“We had some quality chances today, and that gives us belief and confidence that we can turn this around,” captain Alejandro Bedoya said post-game. “I believe in every single player on this team, and it’s halftime. It’s not over.”
Although against a much different opponent, the Union has shown that they can put up big points in the Concacaf Champions League. This is the same team that traveled to Atlanta and put three past an Atlanta United side that hadn’t been scored on at home in the Champions League. The Union has the chance to make the comeback on September 15 in Chester.
“I’m proud of the team for their effort,” Curtin said. “But obviously when you don’t win you’re not satisfied, keeping it at one zero would’ve been key, that would have been almost a perfect result. But obviously, we have a little more work to do.”