If you have been bored without your baseball and classic NBA and NHL playoffs in the previous months, I recommend giving your local MLS team a look.
The Union finished their group play last night against Orlando City, drawing 1-1 and keeping their unbeaten run in tournament play with a record of 2-0-1. They finished tied with Orlando in points with seven, but Orlando’s better goal differential grabbed them first place. These group play matches also count towards regular season points, so the Union really helped themselves out in the Eastern Conference race yet to resume.
Throughout the first ten minutes of the match, the Union looked like they were actively trying to find youngster Brendan Aaronson and facilitate the offense through him. Aaronson was continually active off-ball and had a few good runs to the corner, with captain Alejandro Bedoya and Ray Gaddis getting involved as well.
Aaronson has been garnering more national attention throughout the beginning of the tournament, even being mentioned by former USMNT player DaMarcus Beasley after their last match:
Around the 11th minute of action, the Union had their first threatening look with a good give-and-go worked by Kacper Przybylko and Bedoya down the right side of the field. Orlando found themselves with two great chances of their own shortly after but were thwarted.
Orlando City’s Junior Urso left the game with an injury before the 20th minute while the Union saw Aaronson struggle to shake the effects of a challenge he received around the same time. He did not sub off, but really did not affect the match until after the halftime.
The Union had a great chance to snag the lead right before halftime through great hustle from striker Sergio Santos, but Aaronson’s one-time shot missed wide. If there is a knock on the 19-year-old Aaronson, it is his finishing.
The second half opened with a dangerous Orlando opportunity in the 49th minute. Union goalkeeper Andre Blake came up with a huge double save, recovering quickly and smothering the attempt of a red-hot Chris Mueller.
Santos received an apparent hamstring injury around the 52nd minute, which teased the entrance of Ilsinho into the match, but Santos stuck it out until the 58th min.
Orlando City maintained possession for around the next 10 minutes as Nani and others started to break down the Union defense resulting in multiple good looks. Momentum suddenly shifted after an unbelievable punch save by Blake off of the crossbar on a strong ORL header. Two minutes later, Philadelphia found themselves outside of Orlando’s 18-yard box. Bedoya found the fresh Ilsinho open on the outside, and Ilsinho took one touch and slotted a strong shot into the low far corner to grab the Union the lead.
Sadly, the Union could not stave off Orlando City any longer and they quickly equalized in the 69th minute. Orlando’s danger man Nani whipped in a cross that found a wide-open teammate, with Philly’s Mark McKenzie flat footed and out of position.
Throughout the rest of the match, it appeared as Philadelphia was kind of losing their legs and Orlando began to dominate possession. Their last notable opportunity came in the 84th minute with Jamiro Monteiro taking a long curling shot, which was saved by Orlando’s goalkeeper.
The game ended in a 1-1 draw but saw some last second drama. A possible handball by Orlando in their own 18 could have resulted in a penalty kick for the Union, but was not even reviewed by the head referee or VAR. In real time, it did look like a handball and it is hard to believe it was not looked at.
You be the judge:
The man of the match in this one has to be Andre Blake, who has been one of the Union’s best players so far in the MLS is Back tournament. His save on the header before Ilsinho’s goal is a perfect example of why he has been suiting up for the Jamaican national team for years.
I also thought the play of Warren Creavalle was of note. He was caught out of position a few times in the first half, but his anticipation and reaching his legs into the passing lanes is something we have not seen as much with the more physical Martinez.
The Union’s next match has not been announced yet with group play still going on. If you are new to the Union, I highly recommend checking out the first two games of the tournament or the game against LAFC prior to the season being suspended.