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Gazdag, Elliott shine as Union thrash Orlando, stay unbeaten at home

Another night, another lopsided win at Subaru Park

MLS: Orlando City SC at Philadelphia Union Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Union came into their matchup with Orlando City on Saturday night having won four straight matches, outscoring their opponents 18 to 1 in that stretch. The wins came over D.C. United, Colorado Rapids, Atlanta United, and New York Red Bulls. And while New York is universally seen as a threat in the Eastern Conference, the rest of those wins came over teams positioned in the bottom half of the table, and fans around the league may have wondered if the Union were benefiting from lesser opponents and if their lopsided score lines were simply a result of that.

Well, the Union’s 5-1 victory over an Orlando FC team sitting in fifth in the East (with a four-match winning streak of their own entering the contest) surely silenced those critics. And while the Union came out of the gates slow against Orlando, it quickly became evident that they were the better side. After an Olivier Mbaizo cross took a massive Orlando deflection and found its way into the back of the net in the 39th minute, the floodgates were open. Just four minutes later, a swift counter attack resulted in a second Union goal when Daniel Gazdag slipped a ball into the feet of Mikael Uhre, who gave the Union a 2-0 lead just before the break.

The Union didn’t look back in the second half, as Uhre was taken down by Orlando goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar in the box in the 53rd minute, giving Philadelphia a penalty kick. Gazdag stepped up to the spot and slotted home his 19th goal of the season to put the Union in front 3-0. The goal also made it five straight matches that the Hungarian maestro has scored; he seems to be making history every week at this point.

Eight minutes later, a Kai Wagner cross found the head of Union captain Alejandro Bedoya to extend the lead to four goals. However, Bedoya suffered what appeared to be a groin injury on the play. After the match, coach Jim Curtin seemed to be anxious yet hopeful about Bedoya’s status.

“[Bedoya] described it as ‘it just felt weird,’ which makes me nervous for sure… I think he’ll be okay,” said Curtin.

Bedoya’s injury status will be something to watch as the Union compete for the top seed in the East and the Supporters’ Shield in the final few weeks of the MLS regular season.

Orlando did eventually strike back and prevent the Union from getting their fourth clean sheet in the last five games, as an Andrés Perea strike cut the Union lead to 4-1 in the 75th minute. The goal came from a long throw that was headed to the feet of Perea before he unleashed a right-footed strike into the back of the net.

However, Orlando’s hopes of a miraculous comeback were short-lived, as Union center back Jack Elliott put the final touches on a masterful performance when he delivered a thunderous header from a Kai Wagner corner to restore the Union’s four goal lead in the 87th minute. Elliott’s goal punctuated the win and was an incredibly apt way for the match to come to a close, considering the stoutness of the Union defense throughout the 90 minutes. Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Wagner, Mbaizo, and of course goalkeeper Andre Blake were superb yet again. Coach Curtin has to be ecstatic about his defensive unit.

In a post-match interview, Glesnes spoke about the growth of his partnership with Elliott, as well as the togetherness of the entire squad.

“The partnership has been amazing the whole year… It’s fantastic to play on this team because we are working so hard for each other. That’s the reason for where we are in the table.”

The match ended 5-1 and the Union’s perfect record at home was extended to 11-0-5. With just one home match left, the Union could secure a perfect home record for the year in their final regular season match against Toronto FC.

The Union now shift their focus to a matchup with Atlanta United in Mercedes-Benz Stadium next Saturday. And with an LAFC loss to FC Dallas on Saturday night, the Union have poked their noses in front in the Supporters’ Shield race. A lot to play for not only next week, but also for the rest of the regular season as the Philadelphia Union look to secure the East’s number one seed and another piece of hardware.