Playoff Recap: Jakob Glesnes For President!

By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

Playoffs are already an exciting event as it is, but the Union decided to really kick off the postseason in quite literally the most dramatic way possible. There was extra time. There was a game-winning goal that rocketed off the foot of a center back in the 123rd minute of play. And, once again, the Union beat their bitterest rival to advance into the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Let’s recap.

Even before kickoff, the energy in Subaru Park was both tense and hopeful. The Sons of Ben filled out the River End, chanting expletive-filled messages to drown out the prominent opposition fans that occupied the section right next to them. Every touch of the ball garnered an emphatic reaction from the crowd, as blood pressures rose to touch the planes flying overhead, the incessant pounding of drums echoed the hammering of fans’ hearts, and even the biggest non-believer sent silent prayers upwards that their team would come out of this game victorious.

The Red Bulls tested the Union early on, easily controlling the opening minutes of the game. The visitors almost exclusively held possession, and didn’t allow breathing room for any Union player that managed to get a hold of the ball. Despite the offensive pressure, the backline of Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, and Alvas Powell (replacing Olivier Mbaizo, who was out for medical reasons), along with Andre Blake, kept the Red Bulls scoreless.

Powell would have the first scoring opportunity for the Union, catching a header from Kacper Przybylko and firing it at the goal, but Red Bulls’ goalie Carlos Coronel was able to make the save.

As the game progressed and neither side being able to break the scoreless deadlock, things naturally began getting physical. Powell and Omir Fernandez found themselves going at it more than once, and, of course, Jose Martinez got in the middle of a couple of altercations of his own. Somewhat controversially, only Red Bulls midfielder Dru Yearwood received a booking, having been shown a yellow card for a high elbowing of Paxten Aaronson.

Speaking of Aaronson, who took over the No. 10 role for Jamiro Monteiro (also unavailable for medical reasons), the Homegrown once again showed his creativity and maturity in midfield. After Alejandro Bedoya sparked a counterattack, Aaronson found himself with a scoring chance that went just wide of the net.

He wasn’t done, however, as he employed some of his signature clever footwork to maneuver out of a tight space and send a laser of a pass to a waiting Daniel Gazdag, who couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

Time ticked away, and both sides were becoming noticeably more tired and frustrated with the lack of goals. Not even substituting on Sergio Santos, Cory Burke, and Jack McGlynn seemed to inspire the Union’s offense, as chance after ideal chance missed the net. At the end of the standard 90 minutes, the scoreboard still showed goose eggs for both teams, meaning that extra time was upon them.

In the first half of extra time, both teams seemed to mirror each other in terms of attacking styles, which only made for a continuation of the stalemate. The tired legs were evident for the Union, as Santos, Burke, and Gazdag all put pressure on to find a goal, but nothing came to fruition.

As the second half of extra time commenced, Burke and Santos linked up once again, but Coronel stopped the shot. Burke once again came close in the 117th minute, but the ball was taken off of him by a Red Bulls defender.

There were mere seconds left in extra time, and a dreaded penalty shootout was looking inevitable when an unlikely hero stepped up to score a goal. Glesnes was standing outside the box when the ball came right to him, and in a move of perfect control and calmness, he chested the ball down to his foot and sent a trademark rocket past Coronel.

It was a reaction that nobody can articulate, as it’s nearly impossible to capture the relief, the disbelief, the excitement, and the stunned realization that the Union were moving on unless you were there. Surely the fans could be heard all the way in Center City as Coronel jumped to save the ball just a second too late, and every Union player faced the crowd, passionately yelling and gesturing for them to get louder, rowider, crazier. Even Jim Curtin couldn’t keep his cool, as he sprinted from his technical to celebrate with his players. And honestly…who can blame him?

Man of the Match: Jakob Glesnes, surprisingly enough. Scoring the latest goal in MLS history and getting Subaru Park rocking the way he did is a pretty solid case to get MOTM.

The Main Takeaway: It was an exciting win, but it was far from the Union’s best performance. Against a Red Bulls side that squeaked into the playoffs, as opposed to the Union getting in only behind the New England Revolution, they simply needed to be more assertive, have better communication with each other, and play more cohesively. One of the biggest reasons the Union were able to get seeded so highly is because they have an almost telepathic connection when it comes to passing, spotting runs, and setting up goals. Maybe it was nerves or pressure or the cold temperatures, but the Union weren’t on their game. If they want to advance past the Eastern Conference Semifinals, they’ll need to beat either NYCFC or Atlanta United, neither of which will be as forgiving as the Red Bulls.

Go to top button