Week 33 Recap: Union Homegrowns > Every Other Player in MLS

By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

The Union employed a 4-3-2-1 formation at the start of this game, and the high press style of play quickly put FC Cincinnati in a spot of trouble. The visitors made it clear that their strategy was to try and work the right side of the field, but the Union snuffed that candle. Olivier Mbaizo easily found a counterpress on the right side, lifting a pass to homegrown Jack McGlynn, who showed the fearlessness and drive of a much older player when he forced an early save from Cincinnati goalie Kenneth Vermeer.

Mbaizo found himself at the center of the attack again, after Alejandro Bedoya collected a ball from a deflected Union corner kick and passed it back to Mbaizo. The right back made his shot on goal, which Daniel Gazdag headed in for good measure to put the Union up 1-0.

The Union attack didn’t stop there, with Gazdag nearly getting himself a brace just ten minutes after his first goal. Paxten Aaronson shot a beautifully weighted pass towards the Hungarian midfielder, who sent it just wide of the net. Gazdag then almost bagged an assist as he set up McGlynn for a heart-stopping shot on goal.

McGlynn and Gazdag showed off their chemistry once again in the last minutes of the first half, with Gazdag making a run in central midfield to pull the defense away from marking McGlynn. This allowed space for the homegrown to get his second shot on goal, which bounced off the post.

Despite not having a shot on goal in the first half of play, and their offense didn’t look all that threatening in the second either. Brandon Vazquez and Alvaro Barreal tried to create options in the Union’s box, but Andre Blake wasn’t fazed in the slightest.

Aaronson commanded the midfield yet again, beating out former Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin to put on a stunning display of footwork in the opposition’s box. Some truly genius back-and-forth from Gazdag and McGlynn set him Aaronson up for an absolute screamer of a goal, one in which the set up play and pure creative ability cannot be overstated.

The Union continued controlling possession as the clock ticked on, with Kacper Przybylko moving in on the action as well. (It’s a shame he didn’t end up scoring—the amount of Halloween puns that could be made with his name if he had gotten a goal would’ve been hilarious.) Gazdag and McGlynn continued banging in shots on goal, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

Jim Curtin made some typical late-game subs, one of which saw Cory Burke see some playing time after struggling with an injury for the most recent slate of games.

Thankfully, the game would finish with a 2-0 result, putting the Boys In Blue back in second place, along with securing an astounding 12th clean sheet for Blake.

Man of the Match: Paxten. Aaronson. At this point, referring to him as a “kid” or a “youngster” just doesn’t cut it anymore. He routinely displays skill, talent, and a soccer IQ that infinitely exceeds his 18 years of age. His performance in midfield, although against one of the weaker defenses in the league, wasn’t reminiscent of his brother’s outings for the Union—it was so much better.

The Main Takeaway: It’s too easy to make a “the kids are alright” joke, so it’ll just be said that the Union as a whole look better than alright headed into Decision Day against NYCFC. This was a dazzling team performance, and proves that while they struggled a bit with formation changes and players switching positions in the past, they can handle just about any change Curtin throws their way now. They’ve made it to the playoffs five out of the last six seasons, but 2021 is different. This time, they look undoubtedly like a playoff (and even championship-winning) team.

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