It was fun while it lasted. It was a dominant stretch. The Philadelphia Union’s MLS regular season home unbeaten streak of 24 games covered a stretch of 568 days. 568 days since the Philadelphia Union lost a MLS regular season home match. Philadelphia was the only team to go unbeaten at home in 2022, with a 12-0-5 record in MLS regular season action.
It was the first home regular season lost since September 3, 2021. Which feels like five years ago at this point. But now that streak is over.
And since one impressive streak is not enough for the Jim Curtin led squad, an 11-game regular season home win streak was also on the line Saturday night in Chester.
Philadelphia were without eight first team players – 6 due to international duty (starters Jose Martinez, Daniel Gazdag along with back-ups Brandan Craig, Quinn Sullivan, Jack McGlynn, and Damion Lowe), 1 due to injury (starting goalkeeper Andre Blake), and 1 due to red card suspension (starting forward Julian Carranza).
The absence of key starters like central attacking midfielder Gazdag and defensive midfielder Martinez were especially noticeable.
Orlando City exploited that weakness and wreaked havoc on the shorthanded Union squad from the opening whistle. Martin Ojeda opened the scoring early, with a crowd silencing 2nd minute goal. Ojeda managed to dash past center back Jack Elliott and latch onto a perfectly lofted pass up and over Philadelphia’s backline from Mauricio Pereyra before slotting home the match’s opening goal. Some positional errors from Leon Flach and Elliott could be attributed to the Orlando chance which allowed Pereyra to gather an aerial ball at his feet before looking up to find a running Ojeda for the chance.
Just seven minutes later, the home crowd was stunned once again when Ojeda combined with Ivan Angulo for Orlando’s second goal. A lack of urgency from Philadelphia when tracking back allowed plenty of space for Orlando when transitioning on the counter attack. Ojeda slipped a delicate pass in behind for Angulo and he laced a hard low shot past back-up Union keeper Joe Bendik. Bendik, age 33 and turning 34 next month, re-signed in December to solidify his role as number 2 on the keeper chart behind Blake. Bendik was a bit slow to react to Angulo’s shot, perhaps due to an issue with his footing when attempting to make the save. Nonetheless, the chance was too dangerous for Philadelphia to allow and Orlando capitalized.
Philadelphia managed to bounce back with a 17th minute goal from former Orlando midfielder Andres Perea. Perea received his own rebound after a headed attempt clanked off the post. After calmly collecting the loose ball, Perea banged home the Union’s first goal as a solid bounce-back moment to regain some footing in the match.
No goals would follow before the halftime whistle despite a 37th minute chance from Elliott’s right footed blast from outside the box. Orlando’s back-up keeper Mason Stajduhar was up to the task making one of his five saves on the play.
The second half was a frustrating one for Philadelphia. They forced three saves from Stajduhar. One key save occurred in the 75th minute when captain Ale Bedoya was denied a headed effort toward goal. Stajduhar managed to save the W essentially for Orlando in that moment and Philadelphia would not have a better chance the remainder of the match.
Perea would come close in the 91st minute after attempting a left footed shot on goal thanks to a pass from left back Kai Wagner. But Stajduhar once again was up to the task.
Orlando’s back up keeper proved more effective in this clash. However, without key players like Daniel Gazdag and Jose Martinez in the heart of the pitch, Philadelphia looked a bit lost on both sides of the ball.
It is most definitely a sour end to two impressive streaks, especially considering the roster depletion that Curtin and his staff were facing. But we can all be happy it happened for the moment and get ready to go streaking again when the squad returns to full strength (minus Blake for now) Saturday April 1 at home against Sporting Kansas City.