By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
Playing in Canada for the first time since 2019, the Union nearly grabbed all three points against CF Montreal, but were forced to split the points after a dramatic stoppage time goal by the home team.
The first half of the match largely saw a push-and-pull between the midfielders on both sides, with neither the Union or Montreal able to progress very far into each others’ halves. Montreal heavily relied on their wingers to try and break through the Union’s defense, but Kai Wagner and Olivier Mbaizo shut down any attacks by the Canadian side.
Wagner got a scoring opportunity about 14 minutes in, but it was Montreal who would open up the scoring in the 33rd minute. The home team enjoyed a plethora of set pieces, and were eventually able to capitalize off of a combination between playmakers Djordje Mihailovic and Matko Miljevic to go ahead 1-0.
In the second half, Jim Curtin rearranged his formation to more resemble a 4-2-3-1 that put Paxten Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan take on wider midfield positions. This formation shift allowed Alejandro Bedoya to push forward and try to find Kacper Przybyłko in the box, but no one materialized on the other end of Bedoya’s cross.
The second half also saw a lot more Union control of the game, and consequently, their equalizing goal. Jamiro Monteiro stood over a free kick from far out, and Jakob Glesnes made a perfectly-timed run near the goal. The ball found its way through the defensive wall on the edge of the 18-yard box and glanced off the foot of Montreal goalkeeper James Pantemis into the goal, officially credited as an own goal.
This didn’t deter Montreal from trying to find their go-ahead goal, but Homegrown goalie Matt Freese did a spectacular job of knocking the ball out of danger for the Union’s defense. In a save worthy of the great Andre Blake, Freese held up a 67th minute counterattack by expertly following the ball, getting his hands on it, and safely falling on the ball to stop another scoring chance.
A go-ahead goal would be scored shortly after, courtesy of a beautiful Wagner free kick. The left-back stood over the set piece from a tight angle on the right side of the box, and was able to send a streaking shot directly into the opposite side of the net to put the Boys In Blue ahead 2-1.
All seemed to be going well for the away team, and as the game ran into stoppage time, it was looking pretty certain that they would come away with all three points. However, their hopes would be dashed by Sunusi Ibrahim, who beat out Wagner to find space on a shot that Freese had no chance of saving to bring the final scoreline even at 2-2.
Man of the Match: Wagner did what he does best and largely controlled the left side of the field, which helped immensely to take the pressure off of the young and relatively inexperienced Freese. His free kick would’ve (and, frankly, should’ve) been the game-winning goal, which only further proves his invaluable abilities as an equally talented defender and attacker.
The Main Takeaway: A point on the road isn’t terrible, but it’s frustrating that the match slipped out of the Union’s hands in the dying moments of the game. However, the performance overall was solid. Homegrowns Freese, Aaronson, and Sullivan continued to show the league that the Union academy is still churning out convincing young talents. Union players that were returning from international break integrated seamlessly back into the team. It’s a disappointing result, but it’s good that this team isn’t satisfied with a mere point and a positive performance. Every point matters, every game is a must-win, and that mentality showed in this game, which will only fortify the Union as they finish out the rest of their road trip.