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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
The Union are finally back to winning ways after captain Alejandro Bedoya recorded his first goal of 2021 to put the Union level on points with their opponent, NYCFC.
It truly turned out to be a match between the league’s best defensive sides, as each team only recorded one shot on goal in the first half, leading to a scoreless tie at halftime. NYCFC’s Valentin Castellanos almost got a goal for the visiting side in the eighth minute, but the ball bounced off the post, and was then called offside by the linesman. Santiago Rodriguez recorded the only shot on goal of the half for New York, but fired his shot directly at Andre Blake, who caught it with ease.
The midfield made quick work of putting together counterattacks, utilizing pinball passes and speed on the wings to move the ball forward. Kai Wagner was able to cross the ball to a waiting Kacper Przybyłko, but a perfectly-timed header from the NYCFC defense cleared the shot away.
The Union’s best scoring chance of the half came in the 24th minute, when Daniel Gazdag was able to steal the ball away after Jose Martinez made a clean tackle on the opposition. After nutmegging two New York players, Gazdag moved the ball to where Bedoya was making a run up the right side. Bedoya was able to give it away to Sergio Santos, but a diving save from Sean Johnson kept the Union off the board.
The home side were able to put even more pressure on New York in the second half, when a piece of good defense from Jack Elliott led to a Bedoya cutback, and subsequently earned a Union free kick. While nothing came from the set piece, the Union were looking increasingly more dangerous in New York’s half.
After an extended absence from the gameday squad, Jamiro Monteiro was subbed on in the 66th minute. Earlier in the week, sporting director Ernst Tanner confirmed that, despite interest from other clubs, Monteiro would be staying with the Union for the time being and reintegrating back into the team.
Monteiro was able to provide some fresh legs, and provided Wagner with a sweet pass on the left wing. Wagner drifted a cross over to Bedoya, who’s sprinting full-force header made it into the back of the net with plenty of power.
Although there were some smaller scoring threats from the visitors, the Union defense was able to hold on to their shutout, tying them for most shutouts in the league this season.
Man of the Match: Naturally, it’s Bedoya. He’s an exemplary captain, and has performed consistently well in all of his games this season. He’s fought off accusations that he’s tired, too old, too lazy to handle holding down the center of the Union’s midfield at 34 years old, but he has graciously let his playing do the talking. His header made a statement—he’s still got it, and the Union haven’t lost their touch either.
The Main Takeaway: This was a game where nothing less than a win would do. It was a great team victory, with standout performances from the defense especially, but still not a super convincing one. Only one goal in a side that has a wide selection of offensive talent just won’t cut it in today’s MLS landscape. There needs to be insurance goals and more of the intensity that the attack showed in this game—not just praying that the defense will be able to hold off the other team.