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Philadelphia Union advance to Eastern Conference final with win over FC Cincinnati

The Union recorded its first win over Cincinnati when it mattered most as the team moves onto the Eastern Conference Finals.

Carl Gulbish

CHESTER, Pa. — The top seeded Philadelphia Union took down FC Cincinnati on Thursday night, keeping the team’s hope of an MLS Cup run alive.

A lone goal from Leon Flach gave Philadelphia the win, as Jim Curtin defeated his former assistant Pat Noonan in front of a crowd of 19,289 at Subaru Park.

Both sides opened playing typical conservative playoff soccer. Neither side pressed each other, and both Andre Blake and Roman Celentano played heavy roles in distributing balls and starting attacks.

After 15 minutes, the Union began to open the match up. Julian Carranza took the lead on taking the ball and moving his attack up the field, and generated some of the matches first real chances.

Both teams went back and forth, and it didn’t take too long for teams with friends on both sides of the pitch to become feisty. Cincinnati’s key mid-season signing, Matt Miazga, began to scrap with Carranza, while Obinna Nwobodo’s trimmed Kai Wagner with his studs, which resulted in a full-field sprint from Blake — wearing the armband in Bedoya’s absence — to an argument in front of the referee.

Neither side broke the ice in the first 45, but Cincinnati remained aggressive into the second half.

Miazga received the match’s second yellow card just under 15 minutes into the second half after striking Jose Martinez in the face during a dead ball. It didn’t take long for Philadelphia to retaliate.

After not recording a single regular season goal, Leon Flach stepped up to be the Union’s hero. A first time shot turned into a beautiful curler that just escaped Celentano’s reach, and Philadelphia was up 1-0 at home.

It wasn’t too long before another scuffle broke out. This time, Olivier Mbaizo cleared a ball into Luciano Acosta after Acosta drew a foul from Jack McGlynn. Mbaizo claimed innocence, but received a caution nonetheless.

Both sides bumped the intensity in the final 20 minutes of regulation, as did the Union’s home support, yelling “go back to Ohio” as the fans grew more and more confident.

As the clock slowly ticked toward 90 minutes, it appeared that those fans were justified. Philadelphia took control of the ball and the match’s pace. Successive fouls and corners aided the Union’s time wasting, as well as late-match substitutions by both sides.

Despite six minutes of added time, Philadelphia took the victory. As Subaru Park erupted, the top seed in the Eastern Conference continued onto the next round.

The Union will play the winner of New York City FC and CF Montreal at home on October 30. NYCFC and Montreal will play in Montreal on Sunday, October 23 at 1 p.m.