The Philadelphia Union booked their passage to the Eastern Conference semi-finals with a dramatic 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Though the opening 20 minutes would be best described as frantic, they were very low on quality. Alvas Powell’s rebound effort from the edge of the box was the best look at goal for either side, but was easily dealt with by Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel.
That theme continued throughout the first half, with both sides pressing hard but failing to show any real quality or composure on the ball. Omir Fernandez shanked a free header well wide for the Red Bulls, while Kacper Przybylko saw an effort deflected over the bar for the Union.
Things improved a little after the break, with both teams seeming to calm themselves in possession. But clear-cut chances remained at a premium aside from Przybylko blazing an effort over the bar from inside the box after great work from Sergio Santos in the 82nd minute.
The introduction of Patryk Klimala made the Red Bulls more dangerous and the Polish forward got behind the Union defense on a couple of occasions in extra-time, but was wasteful with his finishing. In that sense, he will have been particularly relieved to see Coronel deny Sergio Santos from close range in the 107th minute.
It looked for all the world like we were in for a penalty shootout. but that was until Jakob Glesnes lined up a clearance 25 yards from the Red Bulls goal and smashed the ball into the back of the net (the center-back has a habit of scoring stunning goals like this). Cue pandemonium in the Subaru Park stands.
So, how did the players rate in the first MLS Cup Playoffs clash of 2021?
Andre Blake (GK) – 8/10 – Didn’t have much to do in the way of shot-stopping until extra-time when he denied Klimala, but commanded his box well, cleaning up all the crosses that came near him.
Alvas Powell (RB) – 6/10 – Provided a decent attacking outlet on the right and forced an early save out of Coronel. Lacked composure with his final ball.
Jakob Glesnes (CB) – 9/10 – Excellent defensive performance. Brave, dominant, and measured – put everything on the line for his side. Came up big with another superb goal just as it looked like penalties were on the cards.
Jack Elliott (CB) – 7/10 – Looked strong next to Glesnes, as usual. Strong in the air and safe on the floor. Was beat to the ball by Klimala too easily in extra-time.
Kai Wagner (LB) – 7/10 – Delivered some dangerous set-pieces into the Red Bulls box and kept Duncan and Edwards honest with his aggressively high positioning.
Alejandro Bedoya (CM) – 7/10 – Showed incredible energy for a 34-year-old, covering every blade of grass and making a team-high five tackles. Wasn’t quite as effective on the other side of the ball but had his moments.
Jose Martinez (CM) – 5/10 – Energetic but wasteful in possession. Fell foul of the Red Bulls press twice in the opening stages and was lucky not to be punished.
Leon Flach (CM) – 6/10 – Put a lot into his 86 minutes on the pitch, winning the ball in dangerous areas. Started to run out of steam towards the end.
Daniel Gazdag (AM) – 5/10 – A couple of dangerous moments but all too often lacked composure around the Red Bulls box.
Paxten Aaronson (AM) – 7/10 – Didn’t have the final ball, but asked more questions than most of the Red Bulls backline. Looked dangerous on the dribble and always looked to commit Red Bull defenders.
Kacper Przybylko (ST) – 3/10 – Had a couple of creative moments but fluffed a great chance over the bar in the last 10 minutes, having already wasted a counter-attacking chance by not lifting his head up and passing to Powell.
Sergio Santos (61 mins, for Paxten Aaronson) – 5/10 – Undoubtedly energized the Union attack with his pace and incisive running, but cannot be forgiven for that miss in extra-time. Bailed out by Glesnes.
Cory Burke (for Kacper Przybylko, 86 mins) – 7/10 – Added tons of energy to the Union attack and really unsettled the Red Bulls.
Jack McGlynn (for Leon Flach, 86 mins) – 5/10 – A couple of decent deliveries but never really got up to speed.
Jesus Bueno (for Alejandro Bedoya, 110 mins) – N/A – Had little effect on the game but will have enjoyed celebrating that late Glesnes winner.
Carlos Coronel (GK) – 8/10 – Made a good save early on to deny Powell and was safe and secure with crosses entering his box. His big moment came in the 107th minute when he flew out to stop a close-range Santos effort. Could do nothing about the winning goal.
Kyle Duncan (RWB) – 6/10 – Was dangerous in the final third and had a great battle with Wagner on that flank. Was relieved to see Przybylko fire over the bar after being dispossessed in his own half by Flach toward the end of normal time. Terribly unlucky to hit the post late in extra-time with everybody of a Red Bulls persuasion ready to break out in celebration.
Thomas Edwards (CB) – 7/10 – Picked up a stupid yellow card for kicking the ball away, but came up with some big defensive moments.
Sean Nealis (CB) – 8/10 – Made a monumental 11 clearances during normal time alone and always found himself in the right place at the right time to stop the Union. A continuation of his great form to end the season.
Andres Reyes (CB) – 7/10 – Positioned himself well to cover Gutman’s driving runs forward.
Andrew Gutman (LWB) – 7/10 – Tried to provide an attacking outlet down the left for the Red Bulls and looked dangerous. Had to rely on Reyes defensively a little too much as a result. Was beaten too easily by Burke in the lead-up to Santos’ chance in extra-time, but redeemed himself with a huge tackle to stop Burke at the death. Can’t be blamed too much for the Glesnes goal, despite his clearance ending up with the defender.
Dru Yearwood (CM) – 7/10 – Looked dangerous with a few surging runs through midfield. Like so many here, Yearwood just lacked the final pass.
Sean Davis (CM) – 6/10 – His usual, industrious self. Showed remarkable fitness, especially considering he covered more ground than any other player in MLS during the regular season.
Cristian Casseres Jr (AM) – 6/10 – Was robust and strong defensively, but far more wasteful in possession than we’re used to seeing. Did create a decent chance for Klimala in extra-time though.
Omir Fernandez (AM) – 6/10 – Tidy on the ball and tried to take the game to Philadelphia, but didn’t see enough action in the final third. Completely miscued a free header in the 22nd minute.
Fabio (ST) – 5/10 – Tried his best to hold the ball up but far too isolated. Had to work off scraps, only attempting a couple of speculative shots.
Patryk Klimala (for Fabio, 58 mins) – 5/10 – Like Santos for Philly, made the Red Bulls more dangerous, but was wasteful in front of goal.
Caden Clark (for Omir Fernandez, 73 mins) – 4/10 – Completely failed to affect the game and was replaced by Royer late on with penalties looming.
John Tolkin (for Andres Reyes, 90 mins) – 6/10 – Added energy to the New York left and put in a couple of dangerous crosses.
Youba Diarra (for Dru Yearwood, 115 mins) – N/A – No time to change the game.
Daniel Royer (for Caden Clark, 115 mins) – N/A – Brought on for a penalty shootout that never happened.