Yankee Stadium curse continues as Union lose to NYCFC 4-2

Despite two first-half goals, the Philadelphia Union lost 4-2 to New York City FC at Yankee Stadium Saturday night.

Union starting XI: Freese; Wagner, Trusty, Elliott, Gaddis; Medunjanin, Bedoya; Picault (Fabian 73′), Montiero, Ilsinho (Santos 45+3′); Przybylko

NYCFC starting XI: Stuver; Tinnerholm, Chanot, Ibeagha, Sweat; Ring, Parks; Tajouri-Shradri (Ofori 83′), Moralez, Mitrita (Bedoya 90+3′); Castellanos (Torres 90+4′)

Head coach Jim Curtin shook things up a little bit going into this match, switching from the 4-4-2 diamond they’ve typically been playing to a 4-2-3-1 formation. To implement this, Brenden Aaronson stayed on the bench, with Jamiro Monteiro playing the number 10 role, Ilsinho taking the right wing spot, and Fafa Picault slotted into the left wing role.

NYCFC was missing some players due to injury and international duty, including defenders Alexander Callens and Ronald Matarrita, and goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The Union had yet to win at Yankee Stadium going into this match, but this seemed like a good opportunity to bring home three points from the Bronx for the first time.

But it was not to be. The boys in blue basically disappeared in the second half, and NYCFC took advantage for a 4-2 win.

It started out good for the Union. Picault scored a beautiful goal in the seventh minute. Monteiro chipped it into the 18-yard box, where Fafa brought it down with his chest, turned around and put into the left corner of the goal to give the Union an early lead.

Although the Union continued to play well, they couldn’t keep the lead. In the 22nd minute, Taty Castellanos was on a breakaway, and was brought down by Trusty in the box, resulting in a penalty kick. Maxi Moralez took the kick. Union goalkeeper Matt Freese dove right but Moralez shot the ball in the center of the goal to tie the game.

The Union took the lead back in the 30th minute. Ilsinho passed the ball back into the 18-yard box from the back touchline, where Monteiro got a foot on it and deflected it to Kacper Przybylko at the top of the box, who launched a cannon shot into the right side of the goal.

Ilsinho needed to come out of the game in first half stoppage time when he ran into Maxime Chanot and got himself knocked in the head. According to Curtin at halftime, Ilsinho suffered a head laceration and they wanted to be cautious with him. Sergio Santos took his place.

The Union took the 2-1 lead into halftime. The U didn’t dominate, but it was a good half for them.

The Union came out looking strong in the second half but got bit by the penalty bug again when Alejandro Bedoya supposedly took down Castellanos in the box with his elbow.

It may have been weak call, but it set up another penalty kick. Moralez once again took the shot. Freese got his hand on it, but he couldn’t stop the ball and the game was tied once again.

After that, the wind went out of the Union’s sails. They seemed unable to stay engaged in the match, and NYCFC took over the run of play. The Cityzens finally pulled ahead in the 71st minute when Castellanos received a soft pass within the penalty arc and one-timed into the goal.

The goal didn’t wake the Union up though. They brought Marco Fabian into the match right after the goal, but the boys in blue continued their sleep walking ways. NYCFC put the game away in the 78th minute with another Castellanos goal as he ran past the ball-watching Union D and chipped it over Freese.

The Union never really threatened for the rest of the match. They have been a second half team this season, but they weren’t in this match.

It would be easy to blame this loss on the ridiculously narrow pitch that is squeezed into the baseball field in Yankee Stadium. It certainly didn’t benefit the Union, but they just didn’t seem to be into the match after the second penalty kick. It might be time for Curtin to throw some chairs around in the locker room to wake these guys up.

Final thoughts:

  • Jack Elliott had a great first half, including a goal-saving clearance when Freese couldn’t hold onto the ball after a save.
  • Monteiro is a beast. It would be great if the Union could find a way to keep him on the squad once the season is over.
  • Freese wasn’t perfect, but he did come up big in a few instances, as he did here in the 64th minute:

 

Even with the loss, the Union remain in first place in the Eastern Conference, thanks to the Montreal Impact losing to Atlanta United, and DC United drawing with Toronto FC. The Union will hopefully have awakened before the kickoff of their next match at Orlando City Wednesday night.

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