In weather more befitting an Eagles-Giants game, the Union beat the rival Red Bulls in overtime for their first playoff win in franchise history.
Union first XI: Andre Blake; Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Mark McKenzie, Raymon Gaddis; Brenden Aaronson, Jamiro Monteiro, Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Andrew Wooten, Sergio Santos
RBNY first XI: Luis Robles; Aaron Long, Rece Buckmaster, Kemar Lawrence, Josh Sims; Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Daniel Royer, Marc Rzatkowski, Cristian Casseres Jr; Tom Barlow
Pregame: I won’t lie to you. I had serious concerns about my sanity when I said I wanted to cover this match in person. Consider that I was there for the Open Cup final against the Sounders, and then again against Kansas City. And now this, what might be the third most-important match in Union history comes up, and I’m here again. I truly hope this won’t be another gut-wrenching loss, but regardless, I’m here to cover it, running diary style!
2:58: There’s a healthy contingent of Red Bulls supporters in the away section and they are already making noise, so the Sons of Ben will have to be on their game today.
3:09: The Red Bulls are being announced. The “sucks!” after every player is coming from much more than just the River End. This crowd might be here to bring it, rain or not.
3:11: The Sons are in full throat. They are ready for this.
3:14: Angry guy on the video board would like to remind us it’s Philly or nothing. So basically, it’s like any other day in the Fighting City.
3:16: With Przybylko not able to go, Wooten will have to pick up the slack. No pressure there, just the team’s leading goal scorer to replace.
3:18: I will never, ever tire of listening to Ashli Rice singing the National Anthem.
3:20: The Union are in dark blue, with Blake in a yellow kit. The Red Bulls are in red, with Robles in a sky blue kit. The Union will attack Chester End to start.
3:22: Away we go!
1′: Early pressure by RBNY, and the Union finally clear. A call at the top of the Red Bulls box goes their way and relieves the pressure going the other way as Santos is hauled down twice, but the call goes against him.
2′: Andre Blake gets a save on a low, hard shot that was right at him. The wet grass will make handling the ball a bit more difficult today.
5′: A ticky tack foul by Aaronson gives the Red Bulls a free kick from 40 yards out, but it’s quietly cleared out of the box.
6′: A Ray Gaddis throw in and subsequent defensive turnover in the Union end gives the Red Bulls a shot at the top of the box and Josh Sims buries it low and hard to the right. Just like that, the boys in Blue are down 1-0 in the sixth minute. I’ve seen this movie before.
11′: Andrew Wooten gets mugged and pushed out of bounds with the ball in the Red Bull end and it’s a Red Bull throw in.
13′: And now a Union corner. Aaronson takes it but Santos can’t stuff it home far post. A corner on the other side results in a mad scramble in the box and ultimately a clear.
15′: More Union pressure, already their third corner. A Santos header skies over the bar off the kick.
16′: Monteiro gets crushed from behind in the midfield. No foul given.
17′: Santos beats his man down the left and sends a cross in but no one is there.
20′: Both teams have settled in. The next ten minutes could be big for momentum.
21′: Jack Elliott saves it from being 2-0 by dispossessing Tom Barlow in the box alone on Blake.
22′: Mark McKenzie blocks a Barlow rocket on Blake.
23′: Josh Sims takes approximately five years to get over and take a corner. It’s way too early to start timewasting there, buddy.
24′: Blake comes out to get a subsequent corner, can’t get it as it goes over him. Tim Parker gets a head onto it and it rolls ever so gently into the net. The Union are in a heap of trouble now, down 2-0.
25′: Blake and Sims collide going for an aerial ball played into the box. Blake is up, but Sims is not. As an aside, the Union have not dealt effectively with the Red Bull press and the turnovers in their own end are killing them.
29′: Sims is finally up. There are some boos coming from the crowd, perhaps for assumed time-wasting. Alex Muyl will come on for Sims however as he cannot continue.
30′: THE PRESS BOX IS SHAKING. It feels like there’s an earthquake here. Bedoya pounds a ball from Medunjanin home from mid-range on the right and suddenly the Union have life, down 2-1 now. The captain beat Robles hard and low to the far side, giving him no chance.
33′: Talen Energy Stadium is alive. The fans are back into it. Monteiro gets great service and puts a hard, low header on Robles who JUST manages to keep it out.
36′: Monteiro and Muyl tangle at the top of the Red Bulls box. Monteiro sees yellow for his troubles. The officiating has been… uneven. A hearty “ref you suck” chant rises from the Chester faithful.
38′: Red Bull corner. It’s too bad we can’t defend these. Fortunately, the ball is flubbed out of bounds for a goal kick.
39′: DANGER. A Red Bulls shot by goes off the corner of the woodwork and certainly had Blake beat high. The Union are fortunate.
40′: A Union corner poses no threat as Robles collects it.
41′: The Red Bulls have break after break on the counter. It may only be a matter of time before they score on another one of these.
42′: Aaronson goes down in the box but referee Chris Penso is not interested and says play on.
44′: On this, the twentieth day of the tenth month in the year of Our Lord two thousand and nineteen, Ray Gaddis did complete a positive pass in the offensive third.
45′: Three Union shots are blocked in rapid succession in the Red Bulls box. And now an announcement that there will be four minutes of stoppage.
45’+1: Chris Penso will not be receiving invitations to any holiday parties in the Delaware Valley.
45+: A Union corner connects with Mark McKenzie but the header squirts wide of the far post.
45+: If Jamiro Monteiro finishes this match on the pitch I will be shocked. He’s being whistled for absolutely everything and he’s already on a yellow.
45+: Andre Blake mishandles a Marc Rzatkowski outswinger from about 40 yards out and the ball is coolly collected and slotted home by Tom Barlow. 3-1 to the Red Bulls, as Penso immediately blows the whistle after the midfield kickoff. What a nightmare half.
HT: I expect Ilsinho to come on immediately. Wooten has been largely invisible so I think he has to be in the running to come off. Not having Przybylko is not an excuse for losing this match. Also consider: your biggest acquisition in Marco Fabian couldn’t crack the first eleven in a knockout match. That’s not a good look for the front office.
46′: No changes for either side. Can someone check to see if coach Curtin is awake?
48′: Hustle from Aaronson wins a Union corner. The inswinger doesn’t connect and a kick is awarded to Robles.
50′: McKenzie attempts to shield a ball out that doesn’t have the steam and gets beaten to it, and a shot comes from the top of the Union box but is wide. The Union’s constant mistakes have them playing catch up. And now there’s a handball near the RBNY corner that will result in what amounts to a short corner.
52′: DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP! Jack Elliott collects a loose ball off of the corner and heads it low to the far post and beats Robles. Despite absolutely everything, the Union are yet again back in this.
53′: More Union pressure as Bedoya puts a hard cross into the box which is nearly headed home by Aaronson, but Robles just keeps it out.
55′: Kai Wagner is limping badly on the left flank. That would be devastating to lose him.
56′: Santos wins another ball down the left and pounds a cross in that just misses Wooten.
57′: The Union are humming. Another shot in the box gets blocked. Bedoya will see yellow and Kemar Lawrence is down and receiving attention.
60′: The Sons of Ben are attempting to summon Ilsinho.
61′: Professional foul by the youngster Aaronson there to stop a break down the left.
62′: Here it is: Ilsinho for Andrew Wooten. It’s magic time.
63′: Santos wins another ball with pure hustle and it leads to a Union shot just trickling outside the post. It would have had Robles beat.
65′: Santos is flying all over the pitch making stuff happen. He gets called for a foul there, but he’s been a huge positive for the Chester side today.
67′: Kaku is down.
69′: Kaku is still down. Sean Davis will come on for him.
72′: Fafa Picault will come on for Brenden Aaronson. More speed on the pitch now for the Union.
74′: A Red Bull long ball into the box troubles Blake as he tries to collect it and nearly coughs it up to a Red Bull with an open net. This match will not be on Blake’s personal highlight reel.
75′: Cries for a handball in the box off of a Santos shot. And now Aaron Long physically rolls over Ilsinho, but there’s no call. Free kick to Robles, who promptly shanks it out of bounds.
77′: Aaron Long has a handful of Ilsinho’s shirt as he rides him out of bounds. Throw to New York.
79′: DOOOOOOOOOOOOOP AND WE ARE EVEN! Fafa Picault heads home a ball in the box and THIS PLACE IS ROCKING!!!!
80′: Remember the Sounders Open Cup final when they brought on Oba and it was obvious the Union had no answer for his speed? It feels like that right now with Santos and Picault on for the U.
82′: The Union do not want to go to added time. They want to end this RIGHT NOW.
83′: Bradley Wright-Phillips, Union killer, is subbed on for the Red Bulls. Tom Barlow comes off.
84′: A Sergio Santos bicycle kick at midfield sets up a Fafa Picault run, which ends in Bedoya missing a chip on Robles from distance.
86′: Union corner off of a Ray Gaddis run into the box. It’s all happening now.
87′: Another corner as the ball ping pongs around in the box and misses the target.
87′: Nothing doing as Gaddis takes a shot at the top of the box that got redirected by Santos but went wide.
89′: Bedoya misses a header from a Medunjanin cross that could have won it, but he couldn’t get it on target.
90′: Daniel Royer goes down behind the play and Penso sees fit to stop a Union counter. You can’t make this stuff up.
90′: There will be five minutes of stoppage. Seems low.
90’+: Ray Gaddis hits a gorgeous ball to the far side of the Union box and it results in a corner.
90’+: Another Union corner. Santos attempts a backheel but nothing doing. Picault’s shot is deflected out. Another corner.
90’+: The corner misses a flying Picault and goes out for a goal kick.
90’+: And now a Red Bull corner on a counter.
90’+: Santos breaks it up and he’s off to the races. Some slick passing ends up in a deflected shot and a couple bodies on the ground in the box and the ball in Robles’ hands. 90 minutes is not enough to decide this one.
91′: The Union immediately earn a corner off of the kickoff. A play off of the training pitch with a hard ball to the top of the box and a Wagner shot that Robles barely stops, and no Union man can gather the rebound.
92′: The Union official to the left of me looks at me and remarks how stoic I am during this whole thing. Buddy I am feeling this entire thing from head to toe, it just doesn’t show.
93′: Ilsinho has four guys in red shirts chasing him around. Picault gets taken down in the box, and the Sons chant for VAR, but it’s not coming. Penso is perfect, didn’t you know that?
96′: Haris Medunjanin has a go from 30 yards, and why not? Brian White will come on for Daniel Royer for New York.
99′: Extended pressure here by the Red Bulls, their first real pressure in a long time, but it comes to nothing.
100′: McKenzie snuffs out a would-be cross. Red Bulls are starting to look dangerous again. Tonight’s attendance is a sellout, the ninth on the season.
101′: Blake collects a ball cleanly. I feel that tonight, this needs to be celebrated.
102′: Aaron Long is down. He is having drinks and a fresh towel delivered to him. And now he is mysteriously revived and ready to go.
103′: Marco Fabian on for Sergio Santos. Santos put in a ton of work today and is easily one of the reasons the Union still have life.
105′: Free kick for the U from about 30 yards out on the left. Medunjanin takes it and Elliott cannot get on the end of it. Two minutes of stoppage for the first overtime half.
105′: WHAT IN CREATION JUST HAPPENED.
105′: Somehow, Marco Fabian hit a ball with no angle to the left of the goal, it deflected off of a Red Bull defender and gently glanced off of the top of the far post and into the top corner of the net. And that’s the end of the first half of overtime. The Union are up 4-3. And now this place is DEAFENING.
106′: Hold onto your butts. Everything Union and all of the bad things we have been through over the last ten years, some of it can be dispatched off in the next fifteen minutes. The Red Bulls are now in full attack mode and the Union are looking to counter.
107′: Tim Parker sees yellow for flattening a Union player near the sideline.
108′: Marco Fabian megs two Red Bulls in ten seconds.
108′: Ilsinho sees yellow for a challenge in stopping a breakaway.
109′: Wright-Phillips and Mark McKenzie get tangled up. There are some tired legs out there now and guys are a beat slower to get up. Meanwhile, Bedoya is down and getting his leg stretched out. Not good.
110′: Andre Blake will take his sweet time with everything now. Bedoya is down again. This doesn’t look good. They are working on his right leg. I can read his lips and he is definitely not happy about whatever happened to him.
111′: The captain is being helped off. He can’t walk hardly. Warren Creavalle will come in for him.
112′: Buckmaster limping around the field now.
114′: Marco Fabian finds a streaking Fafa Picault but nothing comes of it.
114′: Casseras will see yellow for physically tackling Fabian into the ground.
115′: Fafa Picault flying around doing Fafa Picault things. Wins a ball and takes it across the field then plays it back.
116′: Picault almost puts the whole thing on ice but Robles comes up with a kicksave on him.
117′: Blake collects a ball into the box cleanly. There’s not much left in this.
118′: Medunjanin down, appears like he got clipped in the face. And now he’s up.
119′: Jack Elliott clears a ball out of the box and springs Medunjanin, who finds Picault down the right. Union retain possession and can work the clock deep in Red Bulls territory.
120′: There will be three minutes of stoppage.
120′: Casserres Jr starts a counter up the field and his leg gives out on him and he collapses. Let’s hope it’s just a cramp.
120’+: Blake collects a ball in the box. The Union cough the ball up with an offsides and Robles is near midfield to take the free kick.
120’+: Blake collects a lofted ball into the box and starts a counter. The Union score on the counter, but it is offsides.
120’+: Red Bull free kick. How much more is there?
120’+: A Red Bull shot JUST misses wide. BLOW THE WHISTLE PENSO!
120’+: THERE IT IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Union will go on to face Atlanta in the next round of the playoffs. Enjoy this, Union fans, you deserve it!!!! WE deserve it!