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Union suffer heartbreaking, confusing loss in Canada



Photo by Eric Bolte - USA TODAY Sports

What a strange, strange night at the Stade Olympique. 

The Philadelphia Union entered Saturday night’s match against Montreal CF unbeaten in their last three matches in all competitions, including a 4-0 second leg win over Alianza FC in the Round of 16 in the Concacaf Champions League. They were starting to gather momentum. Meanwhile, Montreal came into the match having not scored in their first three MLS matches of 2023, losing all three. 

However, watching Saturday’s match, you wouldn’t be able to tell which side was in form and which was goalless on the year. 

Straight from the opening whistle, Montreal gave the Union problems on the break. In just the 2nd minute, a Mathieu Choiniere shot glanced the outstretched hand of Jakob Glesnes and the referee pointed to the spot for a Montreal penalty. Montreal’s top scorer from a year ago, Romell Quioto, stepped up to the spot and smashed home the opening goal of the match. 1-0 Montreal. 

Montreal continued to give the Union backline problems and maintain their control of the match for the next 5-10 minutes, before the Union finally began to grow into the game. A thunderous Glesnes free kick in the 19th minute that sailed just over the bar gave the Union their first chance of the match. 

However, a couple of Montreal counter attacks kept the Union on their heels every time they pressed higher up the pitch or made a progressive move with the ball. Quioto and Choiniere linked up for a couple of helter skelter moments for the Union defense, including one instance that required a last ditch clearance from Glesnes after Quioto rounded Joe Bendik and had a clear sight of an empty net. 

After the Union escaped several dangerous moments, they began to apply pressure on the other end again. In the 45th minute, Mikael Uhre had a golden opportunity to equalize from a corner but his effort from inside the six-yard box was thwarted by a miraculous (and lucky) leg save from Montreal goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois. Just after the chance, the whistle blew and the Union went into the half down 1-0. 

The second half began with a bang for the men from Philadelphia. In the 46th minute, the Montreal midfield carelessly turned the ball over in their own defensive third and passed the ball directly to Leon Flach, who laid the ball off to Daniel Gazdag, who set up Uhre for the equalizer. 

Just 14 minutes later, on a swift counter attack, Gazdag popped a delightful looping ball over the Montreal backline and into the path of a streaking Uhre for a breakaway. The Dane coolly slotted the ball home to push the Union in front. The Union were beginning to look a bit like the 2022 Union, and seemed to be the more poised, experienced and classy side. 

Then things got weird.

In the 69th minute, after Julian Carranza missed a pair of half-chances on the edge of the Montreal box, he put in a studs up challenge on Montreal’s Joel Waterman and received his second yellow card of the evening, resulting in him being sent off. 

What ensued was utter pandemonium.

The Union successfully denied Montreal’s frontline from leveling the match for about 20 minutes, but a rebound header from Montreal’s Chinonso Offor appeared to be the equalizing goal in the 90th minute. However, after Montreal celebrated, the match referee was sent word from his headset to go to VAR. After waiting for what was an agonizing couple of minutes, the referee returned to the field and announced that the goal had been disallowed for offsides. 

So no goal, right? The Union are still in front? Well, not so fast. 

After making the initial offsides decision, the referee appeared to receive more information from the video booth, and he went back to the VAR screen to take a second look. Football fans’ worst nightmare suddenly became a reality: DOUBLE VAR!?!

After he took a good look at the play again, he trotted back out to the pitch and announced that the goal should have actually been allowed. Match tied 2-2. But that wasn’t all.

What seemed like a devastating last second draw for the Union only became worse when a 97th minute cross from Choiniere found the head of Quioto to win it for Montreal. As the side from Canada ran behind the goal and celebrated in front of their supporters, it became clear that the Union were going to leave with 0 points. Brutal.

In Jim Curtin’s post game press conference, he put the match into perspective:

“The word shitshow comes to mind.”

A shitshow indeed, Jim. A shitshow indeed. On to Orlando. 

Hunter is a writer/contributor for Philadelphia Soccer Now/Brotherly Game covering Union post-game analysis, MLS league-wide news and other stories from the world of footy. He has been covering the Union since 2021.

Copyright © 2024 Philadelphia Soccer Now and Brotherly Game

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