Captain Alejandro Bedoya got free on the back post to head home a right-footed cross from Kai Wagner in the 67th minute and deliver the game winner in a critical 1-0 win for the Philadelphia Union over Eastern Conference rivals New York City FC on Wednesday night.
Coming in six games unbeaten, the visitors controlled possession and threatened to open the scoring in the first half. But the Union stayed organized and got a big performance from a seemingly everywhere José Andrés Martínez to avenge a 2-0 loss earlier in the season when he was sent off in the 16th minute.
The Union came out looking a lot more dangerous after the break but were doing as much to limit NYCFC’s effectiveness going forward as they were creating chances of their own until head coach Jim Curtin went to his bench. Inserting Jamiro Monteiro and Cory Burke for Daniel Gazdag and Kacper Przybylko, who both struggled to find their footing attacking an NYCFC defense with four clean sheets in their previous six matches, paid quick dividends.
Pinning NYCFC for a good run of possession, the Union attack was able to create a couple chances leading up to the goal, one where Sean Johnson had to come way off his line to intervene with a punch that led to a cross back into the box that was cleared out for a throw-in. Kai Wagner took the throw and off the return pass from Monteiro whipped in a right-footed cross with Bedoya making a diagonal run to finish it off with his head.
The assist was Wagner’s fourth of the season to tie him for the team lead with Monteiro, who made his return to the team after sitting out the last three league matches amidst ongoing transfer talks.
Bedoya’s goal was his first of the season and couldn’t have come at a bigger moment against the second place team in the conference. The win moved the Union up two spots in the standings to third place with an 8-5-7 record and evened them on points with NYCFC with 31. The win also improved the Union’s home unbeaten streak to eight dating back to their loss to NYCFC on May 1.
With Olivier Mbaizo serving a yellow card suspension, Alvas Powell stepped in and had a strong game and the rest of the back line was able to match NYCFC’s dangerous attack at every turn to secure what was possibly the most important regular season win for the Union this year as they head into their final 14 games with very little separation between teams on the top half of the conference table.