For the second successive home match, a sold out Talen Energy Stadium found their side losing through two early goals. So at the time it seemed likely that the Philadelphia Union were on the cusp of returning to the “that’s so Union” period, but were they actually?
The Union, this time around, got a first half goal, and while conceding a third just before half-time, it still felt different. Down just 3-1, this match was different. This wasn’t the regular season, this was the Union’s first play-off home match in nearly a decade. They were having their best ever season, the Philadelphia Union couldn’t let it end here.
At half-time, Jim Curtin said he had told his players that they had been here before, against this same team, in this same stadium [they had won that match]. That seemed to have resonated with them, and in the second half they came out firing. Scoring an early goal through Jack Elliot, and their third through the substitute Fafa Piacult (in the 78th minute). And while the similarities to the fixture played back in July were obvious, the Union were still tied with the Red Bulls in this one. So the Union had to finish it out in extra time. Something they were able to do when another substitute, Marco Fabian, scored the fourth and final goal of the match in its first half.
After the final whistle Talen Energy Stadium exploded. All of it’s 18,530 fans yelled with a pure euphoria that no soccer fan would have expected from a fan base in Chester, Pennsylvania. Signifying this was a win that was not only earned by the players and it’s organization, but also the fans here in stadium and at home watching.
At the end of Sunday night everyone knew that they had experienced the single greatest moment in Union history; but, the question now, was can the Union ensure that Sunday night is replaced quickly by an even greater experience Thursday at Atlanta United FC?
WHAT WE LEARNED
Five things that we learned from the Union’s 4-3 win against the Red Bulls:
1. Sons of Ben, and Talen Energy Stadium as a whole, drove the Union to an ultimately successful night.
On Sunday, the Philadelphia Union played one of their worse matches of the season. This is especially true when considering the fact that they gave up three goals in the first half. Curtin says that their play wasn’t good enough in the first half, and that it was the fans that woke his side up. He says that he can’t quite quote what was said, by the fans, as it was inappropriate; but, that it made them realize that their play wasn’t good enough (and that it had to change).
2. The Union need better play from Andre Blake.
Blake had the worst game of his Union career on Sunday, he needs to be better on Thursday if the Philadelphia Union want to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
3. Fabian, and substitutes, show their worth.
The substitutions were astute. Curtin mentions in his presser that he can only pick who to bring on, but they have to be able to affect the match once they are on the pitch. If the Union are able to get play like they did from their second half substitutes from the off, they will cause a weakened Atlanta side trouble – it must also be noted that the substitutes are good enough to play in the Union Starting-Eleven, and that both Fabian and Picault could easily start on Thursday (if Curtin chooses to revert to his preferred 4-2-3-1).
4. Kacper Przybylko being injured could be a huge miss for the Union on Thursday Night.
While Sergio Santos and Andrew Wooten have proven in the past, as well as on Sunday, that they are quality players, they do seem to lack the goal-scoring touch that has seen Przybylko register 15 goals this season. His mobility and hold-up play were also something the Union seemed to have been missing in the first-half on Sunday, as they were under pressure early and often.
5. Union find their shooting boots at just the right time.
The Union throughout the season had only really seen Przybylko consistently scoring goals, with Fabian second in goals tallied; meaning, that his injury was starting to become a real concern. That was until Sunday, when in their 4-3 win they saw goals scored by four different players. This is especially exciting for the Union when considering the seriousness of the two injuries suffered by Atlanta, as Miles Robinson and Michael Parkhurst are now unavailable – which will only increase the number of goal-scoring opportunities for the Union, as both players are starting center-backs for Atlanta.