Week 31 Recap: First is the Worst, Second is the Best

By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

They might have had to give up the Supporters’ Shield this week, but the Union were able hold a clean sheet against Nashville SC and move up into second place.

Jim Curtin slightly shifted his formation against Nashville, employing two players—Jamiro Monteiro and Daniel Gazdag— in the No. 10 position. Besides, the side was relatively unchanged from the matchup against Minnesota United.

The strategic attacking combination first showed their prowess in the 10th minute, with Kai Wagner gaining possession of the ball before passing it off to Monteiro. Monteiro then unselfishly threaded the ball through to Gazdag, who, unable to find space for himself against the Nashville defense, headed the ball to Kacper Przybylko, who had his tap-in denied.

A 17th minute free kick gave the Union another scoring opportunity, with Wagner and Monteiro both standing over the set piece. Monteiro ultimately ended up taking the free kick, sending the ball near the goalpost. A goal wouldn’t come from the kick itself, but a handball off of Nashville’s Taylor Washington handed the Boys In Blue a penalty kick.

Przybylko would be chosen to take the PK, and calmly sent a laser directly past the goalkeeper to put the Union up 1-0.

The Union didn’t sit back after taking the lead, with Leon Flach nearly assisting a second goal in the first half. Flach intercepted a ball in the midfield circle, kicking off a Union counterattack. Utilizing a lethal combination of pace and a powerful left foot, Flach’s cross nearly found Gazdag before a sudden block cut off the scoring chance.

It was largely a defensive game after that, with both sides not allowing each other to carry the ball too far into their opposing halves. Curtin attempted to bolster his offensive by swapping Gazdag for Paxten Aaronson, but the home side would have to be satisfied with the final 1-0 result.

This win saw the Union move above Nashville into second place, along with being Andre Blake’s 11th shutout of the season (a career high).

Man of the Match: Przybylko scored the goal, so credit has to be given there, but Gazdag deserves an honorable mention for putting in another dazzling offensive shift. His abilities have been questioned for nearly the entire season, but his recent displays have proven just how capable and valuable he is to this team. He seems to have finally settled into MLS, and is showing his doubters that he isn’t the “waste of money” he was being coined as.

The Main Takeaway: At this point, it’s not a question of whether or not the Union will make it to the postseason, but who they will face when they get there. While the focus should absolutely still be on the remaining regular season games, significant thought needs to start being given to how the Union can break their curse of not being able to make it past the first round of the playoffs.