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Philadelphia Union shares a point with Chicago Fire after wild ending on opening night



Photo by Carl Gulbish

The 2024 MLS Season is finally underway! Though it is laughably short compared to the other major American sports leagues, the MLS offseason always somehow feels like an eternity until BOOM, the season is here. For Philadelphia fans, that offseason period seemed even longer with the lack of activity over the winter by the club in the transfer market. Maybe it was for the better that this offseason served as a bit of a break for the fans because last year ended on a really down note.

Struggling with form at the end of the 2023 season, the Philadelphia Union will be looking to be the team they know they can be this season. Over the past few years, Philadelphia has played a very distinctive style of soccer, happy to do things their own way. That Union way has resulted in recent success, a Supporters’ Shield-winning campaign in 2020 and an MLS Cup Final appearance in 2022.

Looking to finally win a big one, the Union’s 2024 campaign began at home against Chicago. The Chicago Fire were looking to start their season off on the right foot, looking for a much better campaign than their 13th-placed finish from last year. The game started a bit slow, as you’d expect for the season opener until Chicago struck first in the 39th minute. It was a fantastic goal by Brian Gutierrez, cutting through the Union half from the left before rocketing a shot past debuting keeper Oliver Semmle. It was a fantastic strike, one of the reasons why you watch the MLS. Chicago would head into the half with a 1-0 lead.

Philadelphia thought they drew level straight out of the half, courtesy of Daniel Gazdag. Unfortunately, VAR ruled that Gazdag was offside. Quinn Sullivan, who looked dangerous throughout, nearly scored in the 49th minute. He would set up the equalizer though, assisting Mikael Uhre for his first goal of the season in the 55th minute. It was a great team goal down the right-hand side, Sullivan finding Nathan Harriel, Harriel then connecting with Gazdag in the middle of the field. Gazdag played it to a streaking Sullivan in the box, who then squared it to Uhre for the goal. That’s more of what you want to see from Philadelphia.

What you didn’t want to see from Philadelphia came in the 82nd minute. Fabian Herbers gave Chicago the lead, because of course he did. Did you really expect the former Union player not to kill them?

Get this, Philadelphia had another equalizer taken away from them in the 85th minute. We thought that Nathan Harriel scored, with his foot no less, but upon further inspection Damion Lowe was egregiously offside. There’s no arguing that one. All would be redeemed though in the 93rd minute, Daniel Gazdag leveling it at two apiece. No it wasn’t from the penalty spot this time, Gazdag scoring off of a Jose Martinez assist.

Are you not entertained yet? Well buckle up, because this game went full MLS-mode at the end of added time. Philadelphia came as close as you can to scoring a goal without actually changing the score in the 95th minute. Off of a corner kick, the ball bounced to Uhre at point blank range, and he would proceed to smack one off the woodwork. Nobody could believe it, neither the fans in the stands or those watching via the MLS Season Pass. The Union faithful were not afforded a chance to process the near-miss, because now Tom Barlow is streaking in free on goal! The forward somehow got past the Union defense after the Uhre miss, out of the reach of Damion Lowe attempting to bring Barlow down from behind to try and save a goal.

One on one with the debuting goalkeeper filling in for Andre Blake, and Oliver Semmle made the save. He stopped Barlow to prevent a soul-crushing goal. The Union had a few more chances at a goal, but it would end up a 2-2 draw, both teams taking home a point.

It wasn’t the dominant victory fans would have hoped for, but it’s a good point for the Union squad. Their offside luck still remains from last year, but some of the energetic play that was missing last season was there in the second. Jim Curtin will surely want to see more of that second-half team this season.

The Union will be in action again on Tuesday night, back at Subaru Park, for another Concacaf Champions Cup battle against Saprissa. They will travel to Kansas City on Saturday, looking for their first victory of the season.

Copyright © 2024 Philadelphia Soccer Now and Brotherly Game

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