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Union Win and moves on to the Conference Finals

By JJ Pavlick 10/20/22

The Union takes on FCC in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals of the MLS playoffs. The crowd outside is building waiting to get in, the game is near capacity. The Union enters the match as the number 1 seed in the east and the favorite to win the championship this season. Cincinnati comes in looking to pull off its 2nd upset in a row during this playoff run in it hope to bring the championship trophy to Ohio.

The 1st half is getting underway here in Philadelphia, the crowd is stirring, and the pregame stunt is about to start. The crowd is on its feet and the Sons of Ben are loud, getting the arena ready to go along with the Union players. FCC wastes no time attacking the Union and earns a corner kick, a foul in the box ends the corner opportunity for FCC. In the 3’ FCC pushes the Union back again and the center referee blocks a through ball, drop ball restart, and Cincinnati quickly plays the ball into the box, the Union turns it away and starts the counter. In the 5’ minute Uhre breaks in on the goal for the Union, but his shot is denied by Celentano from 3 yards out. The Union earn a corner kick in the 8’, the ball was played long by Wagner and tracked down by Mbaizo who finds Uhre in front of the goal, but his header goes wide. After a feverous match start, the team settled in and felt each other out. Philadelphia commits back-to-back fouls giving FCC a free kick from the 40-yard mark, Barreal plays it too long and it goes out for a goal kick. Now the Union in the 14’ has a free kick from the 40 yard-mark. Ball sails right to Celentano who settles things down. The Union earns a corner kick in the 16’, Wagner will take the corner kick, shoots directly on goal, is punched out by Celentano, Elliot plays it back into the box, shot by Uhre blocked, and out for a throw-in. FCC’s Powell dances around a few Union midfielders then retreats to his center back. The ball is knocked out for a Union throw in the 20’ of action. Powell creates a turnover and finds Vazquez who fires a shot on the goal, diving save by Blake to keep the score level at 0-0. A few minutes later FCC earns a corner kick, Brenner takes the corner, Acosta finds Vazquez, and the shot is blocked out for a throw-in. The referee shows FCC #4 Hagglund a yellow card. In the 27’ shot by Unions Gazdag was saved easily by Celentano. In the 30’ shot from distance by Nwobodo goes just wide of the far post and out for a goal kick. The Union responds right back with a shot by McGlynn saved by Celentano. We stayed scoreless after Acosta shot just wide of the goal in the 33’. A player for FCC goes down on the far sideline, trainers are called on by the center referee in the 35’ of play. Play resumes in the 36’ with both teams turning the pressure up in the midfield. The Union can’t capitalize on their shot from 20 yards out, it sails wide of the far post and goes out for a goal kick. FCC plays it quickly and goes in on goal, Elliot breaks up the attack and clears the ball to midfield, 44’ we remain scoreless, and the intensity is picking up between the two sides. In the 45’, the Union tries to break in on goal but the through ball is played out by Hagglund at the last second. The fourth official announces a minimum of 3 additional minutes added to the 1st half. 45’+2 Gazdag goes offside ending the threat on goal by the Union. The center blows the whistle to end the first half of play, the score at half is 0-0.

The first half started action-packed at both ends, with both teams’ strikers peppering the ‘keepers and back line. The game settled down midway through the half before the rough play started between the two sides and made for an interesting end to the half. Both teams missed that final pass on goal on numerous occasions. Look for both teams to come out strong and try to score the opening goal quickly.

The second half, is underway no changes are made by either team to start the half, Union starts the half off with the kickoff. FCC quickly counters and Vazquez sends a laser just wide of the far post sending Blake diving. Union gets the goal kick, but Cincinnati creates a turnover at midfield and pressure Philadelphia backward. In the 48’ Blake comes charging off his line to grab the ball played into the box, ball is taken away by Acosta who is troubling the Union midfield and back line. Elliot breaks it up and starts a quick counterattack up the left side of the pitch, FCC stalls it and creates their counter, FCC’s Moreno takes the shot from 20 yards out and it required every inch of a diving Andre Blake to keep it out of the goal. Corner kick for FCC, the ball finds Acosta in the box, but he hits it too hard sending it into the stands. In the 53’ we remain tied at 0, however, FCC is trying hard to change that fast this half. Blake has kept the Union in the match and showed why the fans view him as the MVP. Martinez was shaken up on the play and came off under his own power, the center waves him back on quickly after the play restarted. Now Wagner pulls up after tweaking something in his lower leg, will have to keep an eye on it. Acosta takes a shot, blocked by Elliot out for a corner kick, Acosta takes the corner but before the kick, Martinez goes down and the center referee issues a yellow card to #21 Miazga, the kick is now taken, and it is flicked on goal by Barreal in the 57’. The goal by Union Flach sent the building into a frenzy. Union goes up 1-0 in the 59’, the arena is rocking. FCC tries to answer right back and earn a corner kick, the ball is played out of danger by the Union. 63’ Uhre takes a shot from distance saved by Celentano. The center referee issues a yellow card to the goal scorer Flach in the 63’. FCC gets a free kick from about 40 yards out saved by Blake. The Union counter but a diving stop by Barrell ends the threat. In the 68’ Mbaizo rifles a shot at a downed FCC player sending the players rushing in along with Jim Curtin to save his guy. The center and his assistant referee are talking it over, he is lucky to only be shown a yellow card on the play. The atmosphere is changing inside the arena, a diving save by Blake to keep it 1-0 Union off the shot attempt by Brenner. The Union had 3 shots on the net in 10 seconds but couldn’t get the last touch to go into the back of the net. We remain 1-0 Union in the 74’, the Sons of Ben is trying to get the crowd and Union players back into the match. FCC earns another corner a few minutes later, which Flach sends 20 rows up into the sideline seats. Two players go down for the Union and FCC pushes up the field quickly, shot blocked out for a corner at the last second. The corner is taken and saved by the fingertips of Blake for another corner, Vazquez’s header is blocked by Elliot, and a foul 35 yards from the goal is called on the Union. The fans go into an uproar, FCC has 3 players lined up over the ball, a yellow card is issued to Gazdag in the 81’, and Blake huge save on Vazquez 3 yards from the goal to keep us at 1-0 Union. Wagner and Barreal get into it at the goal line, and the center quickly breaks it up. 84’ Blake takes his time to play the goal kick, FCC wins it and draws a foul 40 yards out, Blake jumps to keep the ball in and prevent another corner for FCC in the 86’. The game is getting chippy again and should be an interesting 3 plus minutes of play between these two teams. Who says soccer is not fun and action-packed? The Union is killing as much time as they can to secure the victory tonight, Sons of Ben starting a Union chant to try and get the crowd back into the match. Wagner takes the corner kick in the 90’, the shot is deflected by 2 players in front of the goal and the ball goes inches wide. The fourth shows a minimum of 6 minutes will be added to the second half. Burke picks the pocket of Moreno and sends a laser just wide of the upper 90. Goal kick for FCC in the 90’+2, they apply pressure to the Union backline, but they don’t break and clear the ball to midfield. FCC is making a big push to try and tie the match; the Union sends them back to their own goal. The fans are on their feet, the building is shaking, and the white rally towels are flying. The center is eyeing his watch, FCC pushes forward, That’s the match, Philadelphia is headed to the Conference Finals!!!! The arena erupts in celebration of the hard-fought win, now they sit and wait to see who wins the match on October 23rd between NYCFC and Montreal. The winner will travel to Philadelphia.

What a match and semifinal game, both teams laid it all on the line and refused to give an inch. The Union took advantage of the one mistake made by FCC’s back line in the 2nd half and that stayed the difference in the match. The Union almost went down a man in the 68’ when Mbaizo kicked a ball into the chest of a downed Cincinnati player. The game changed at that point and FCC came out fired up but the Union players hung strong and didn’t break. Blake was 100 percent the MVP tonight, Cincinnati could’ve easily won this match with any other ‘keeper in the net for the Union. Blake showed why he is a national team ‘keeper for Jamaica and one of the best keepers in the world.

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