Neither disallowed goal, nor VAR, nor lightning delay keeps this squad from taking all three points. pic.twitter.com/aKEvZWsdDz— PhilaUnion🛡 (@PhilaUnion) July 18, 2021
By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
The Union’s game against DC United had a little bit of everything—questionable officiating, a plethora of yellow cards, a long weather delay, and a third-choice goalkeeper not completely blowing the game for the Union. Buckle up, because this game was wild.
The home side didn’t start off the game strongly, looking incredibly discombobulated in midfield and turning over the ball to United multiple times. Although the visitors had some dangerous chances in the box, the Union’s back four were on point, and goalie Joe Bendik rarely saw the ball in the first half of play.
The Union were able to turn the flow of the game in their favor as the clock ticked on, with Olivier Mbaizo and Kai Wagner having ironclad control over the right and left flanks of the field. Although losing Jamiro Monteiro to yellow card accumulation for this game should have been a major blow, both Alejandro Bedoya and Leon Flach made up for his absence by creating chances through the center.
Sergio Santos was able to convert one of these chances into a goal in the 11th minute, allowing Union fans to breathe a little easier after a stretch of play that had seen United come close to getting on the scoresheet.
The game was extremely emotional, however, as both sides played recklessly in a half that saw four yellow cards. Jose Martinez, who has already had to serve a multi-game suspension this season, got into a particularly heated verbal altercation with the referee and a couple of D.C. players after being shown a yellow. This got so heated, in fact, that both Bedoya and Santos had to angrily shove Martinez out of the fray of the fight, with Bedoya also yelling at Martinez to calm down.
Despite an exhausting first half, the Boys In Blue went into halftime up 1-0, and while not the most comfortable lead, things were looking to finally be going the Union’s way.
That is, until they weren’t.
Despite the visitors having Russell Canouse, Adrian Perez, and Steve Birnbaum all leave the match due to injury, they still managed to draw level with the Union shortly after the second half kicked off.
Referee Alex Chilowicz awarded D.C. a penalty after Santos made contact with Yamil Asad, who would send Bendik the wrong way, and gave hope to traveling fans that D.C. might be able to scrounge up their first point in Chester since 2014.
While it was apparent that many fans in attendance believed the penalty on Asad to be soft, Chilowicz awarded the Union a penalty after Flach was tripped up just moments later, but after checking VAR, the penalty was withdrawn and play resumed as normal.
Despite the clear frustration shown by both sides in the second half, Santos came in clutch yet again and scored his second goal of the night off of a header assist from Kacper Przybyłko. The Union’s hopes were quickly dashed yet again, as Chilowicz called for a review of the goal, and it was eventually disallowed due to Santos being offside.
It was shaping up to be another draw for Philadelphia...until Przybylko gave the Union their official second goal (fittingly assisted by Santos), putting them in the lead in the 83rd minute.
Just a few minutes later, the match was temporarily suspended due to lightning (unfortunately, the Union were not wearing their lightning-themed uniforms for this game), resulting in a two hour weather delay with just four minutes remaining in the game. Play did eventually resume, and the Union finished out the game with a 2-1 victory.
Man of the Match: Santos found the back of the net twice (even though his second goal wasn’t counted), along with assisting the game-winning goal that ended Przybylko’s increasingly worrying goal drought. He’s had a slow start to the season, but this game has truly proven that nobody can count him out.
- Honorable mentions go to Flach and Daniel Gazdag for adeptly controlling the flow of the Union’s attack the entire game, and to Jim Curtin for not going absolutely ballistic at the controversial officiating.
The Main Takeaway: The Union needed three points, and they got them. However, the discipline was virtually nonexistent everywhere but the defense. Passing was sloppy in a lot of areas, tempers flared entirely too easily, and with players injured or on international duty, the Union simply can’t afford to lose any men because they couldn’t keep their anger in check. They’re only one point ahead of their next opponent, Orlando City, and four points off of the top spot in the East. They need to move forward with a tighter formation and much, much cooler heads.