Union draws Alianza F.C. in opening leg of Concacaf Champions League
The Philadelphia Union drew Alianza F.C. on Tuesday night, 0-0 in San Salvador. The match was the first of two legs of the first round of the Concacaf Champions League.
The game was characterized by play that was often sloppy, hindered by the state of the field in El Salvador. Long balls were difficult for players to control, and even short passes bounced en route to their targets. Neither team was able to challenge well at goal either, combining for just three shots on goal through all 90 minutes and stoppage time.
Jim Curtin rotated the Union’s lineup heavily against Alianza from the group’s previous MLS matches; the starting XI against Alianza included just three starters from the prior matchups.
⚽Takin' the Philly party to San Salvador tonight⚡️
📝 https://t.co/0dMYHUAAzc#DOOP | #SCCL23 | @TheChampions | @MLS pic.twitter.com/PHkWCEl93q
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) March 8, 2023
The Union put together strong chances to begin the match, but failed to convert in front of the net, either by route of difficult bounces or by attempting to draw foul calls they would not get.
Andre Blake was called into action several times throughout the first half, though he was not forced into many saves; most of Blake’s duties involved clearing the ball as both sides struggled to put shots on net.
Philadelphia came out strong in the second half. Quinn Sullivan had a chance in the first eight minutes to give his side the lead, but skied his chance after being challenged by Alianza keeper Mario Gonzalez.
Moments later, the Union forced Gonzalez into an impressive diving save. Joaquin Torres’ header towards the far side of the goal forced a finger-tip save from the Alianza keeper to keep the scoreline even.
Curtin used his first substitutions in the 63rd minute, bringing on Daniel Gazdag, Julian Carranza and Jose Martinez. The three bumped up the Union’s intensity and the intensity of the match as a whole.
The highlight of the match came after 70 minutes, when a dog entered the pitch. Moments later, a brief fight between Kai Wagner, Martinez and several Alianza players broke out. Concacaf continued to Concacaf in San Salvador.
Curtin brought Leon Flach and Alejandro Bedoya on the pitch in the dying moments of the game, as it slowly became more clear the match would end in a draw.
After four minutes of stoppage time, the match ended with a 0-0 score. The Union held a shutout on the road, a solid result for a team that started its bench on the road in a Champions League match.
While several players had strong performances for Philadelphia, Andrés Perea stood out. In his first start for the club, Perea demonstrated poise in the midfield and showed that if Bedoya plays fewer minutes this year than in year’s past, the team will be in good hands.
The Union will next be in action at 7:30 p.m. at home on Saturday, March 11 against Chicago Fire F.C. The club will play the second leg of its Champions League matchup with Alianza at Subaru Park at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14.