On Thursday night, the Philadelphia Union defeated FC Cincinnati 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals behind a rowdy sellout crowd at Subaru Park. With the win, the Union remained undefeated at home this season, an incredible feat. Midfielder Leon Flach scored the lone goal of the game and his first goal of the season to lift the team over Cincinnati in the match. This was arguably the Union’s toughest matchup in the playoffs considering Cincinnati manager Pat Noonan was previously on the Union’s coaching staff as an assistant. Furthermore, Noonan’s familiarity with the Union’s schemes and playstyle led to a 3-1 Cincinnati win over the Union in the regular season.

Throughout the majority of the first half, the Union struggled to generate chances; when they did, the final touch was lacking. A few chances that come to mind include forward Julian Carranza‘s shot inside the box that went directly toward goalkeeper Roman Celentano and Daniel Gázdag‘s header inside the box that went just wide. Both of these opportunities came within the first 10 minutes of the match but the Union could not capitalize and the game remained scoreless.

On the other side, Cincinnati controlled most of the possession and generated some half-chances but nothing came to fruition. With that being said, defenders Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes were winning every 50/50 ball in the air and thwarted away any offensive chances for Cincy. This was a scrappy contest from the opening whistle and it became evident after each side continued to commit fouls in a sloppy first half. The referee also did a poor job of keeping the game under control and as a result, made some atrocious foul calls that went against the Union.

In the second half, goalkeeper Andre Blake was tested early and often and was called upon in the 50th minute to make a big save on midfielder Junior Moreno to keep the game scoreless. Just minutes later in the 59th minute, the Union countered, and after a scramble inside the box, Mikael Uhre found Leon Flach with a nice touch pass, and Flach perfectly connected on a half-volley shot to put the ball into the back of the net. This goal sent Subaru Park into a frenzy and it gave the Union enough of a cushion to hold onto the lead and never looked back.

Blake was tested again in the 71st minute on a low-driven shot from Acosta but as usual, he answered the call and parried it aside with a diving save to preserve the lead. The MLS Goalkeeper of the Year made one last save in the 80th minute when he tipped a corner kick onto the crossbar with an outstretched hand to keep it out of the net. On the final shot of the game, it was fitting when Union hero Leon Flach blocked a shot from midfielder Álvaro Barreal to give the Boys in Blue a hard-fought victory. When all is said and done, the first playoff game is always the toughest one and the Union did just enough to defeat Cincinnati and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive season.


"Featured Image: @PhilaUnion/Twitter"
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