The Philadelphia Union continued the best start in franchise history while also enacting revenge for a Eastern Conference Final loss with a 2-0 win over New York City FC Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. The win, the first at NYCFC in eight games (1W-5L-2D), represented a complete team effort against a weary opponent without DP Mikael Uhre, who was ruled out again with a thigh injury.
Coming off a midweek loss to Communicaciones in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals, NYCFC instilled their possession and movement in the game’s early minutes, forcing two Union blocks from distance. Talles Magno nearly put the hosts up five minutes in after a combination with Maxi Moralzez and Taty Castellanos, but the Brazilian striker couldn’t get his first touch out of his feet and squabbled a dribbler that Andre Blake stopped with ease. Slowly, the Union asserted pressure of their own. The first chance came from Nathan Harriel’s long throw in when Daniel Gazdag’s header was cleared off the goal line after a scramble. Sergio Santos snuck in behind Alexander Callens from a Jakob Glesnes long ball but couldn’t get the final touch right, and NYCFC keeper Sean Johnson corralled his weak shot.
Captain Alejandro Bedoya gave the Union the lead in the 12th minute. After a foul on Leon Flach, Kai Wagner curled a free kick behind the NYCFC defense, and Julian Carranza nudged the ball across the penalty spot to Bedoya, who slotted it beyond Jonson at the far post for his second goal of the season.
The Union’s fortunes almost diminished at the half-hour mark when Santiago Rodríguez took a looping ball over the top, dribbled around Blake, and absorbed a foul by Jack Elliott, who received a red card for denying a goal-scoring opportunity. Referee Ted Unkel, asserting himself from the start with multiple soft yellows, rescinded Elliott’s card after video evidence showed Rodríguez controlled the ball with his arm.
Masters of reversal this early season, the Union turned the game around five minutes later when Gazdag tapped home Harriel’s cross for a 2-0 lead. Harriel, overlapping Bedoya down the right side, drove a ball behind the New York line and across the goalmouth to Gazdag at the back post, and the Hungarian international made no mistake from two yards away. Gazdag now has three goals on the season and scored his second in two games.
New York crawled back in the first half’s closing minutes, but Andres Jasson hit the side netting and Keaton Parks headed a Malte Amundsen cross over the bar before missing a Castellanos layoff by inches in stoppage time. Santos almost put the Union up 3-0 in the closing seconds off a Union corner but was ruled offside by his shoelaces. Despite the disallowed goal and a disproportionate amount of possession, the Union went into the breakup two goals after its best first half performance in many games.
With the Union staying put defensively, NYCFC dictated the pace of the game in the second half, opening several opportunities for Union counters with Santos finding more space on the breaks. Castellanos had the best chance to get the home side back in the game twenty minutes in when his header off a corner beat Blake but not Harriel, whose header steered it off the goal line.
Tempers flared with twenty minutes remaining when Wagner took action for multiple late challenge by Castellanos on Blake, spurring a shoving match between several players, with José Martinez in the mix. Once the pushing and shoving ceased, and a missed headbutt by Castellanos on Wagner missed, only Castellanos and Wagner came away with yellows. Following several chippy fouls from both sides, the Union were able to close out the game in the final minutes and preserve the shutout, jumping to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
The Union will be back in action after the international break when they host expansion Charlotte on April 2nd.
PHI: Bedoya 12’
PHI: Gazdag 33’
NYC: Jasson 11’
PHI: Carranza 14’
NYC: Rodríguez 52’
PHI: Gazdag 67’
NYC: Castellanos 74’
PHI: Wagner 73’
PHI: Burke 74’
NYC: Talles Magno 85’
Union: Blake, Harriel, Glesnes, Elliott, Wagner, Martinez, Bedoya, Flach, Gazdag, Carranza (Burke 64’), Santos (Sullivan 78’)
Unused subs: Freese, Mbaizo, Real, Craig, Bueno, McGlynn, Aaronson
NYCFC: Johnson, Jasson (Héber 46’), Martins, Callens, Amundsen (Gloster 78’), Morales, Parks (Acevedo 46’), Talles Magno, Rodríguez (Thiago Andrade 78’), Moralez, Castellanos
Unused subs: Barraza, Chanot, Zelalem, Haak, O’Toole