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On to Pachuca: Union somehow advance to CCC Round of 16



Photo by Don Robson

Let me paint a picture for you: A lone commentator tells Jada Pinkett Smith jokes as he calls a match with seemingly endless VAR checks, 36 total shots, 52 total fouls, six total goals, five total yellow cards and one red card. If that isn’t Concacaf enough for you, I don’t know what is. 

The drama started early on Tuesday night, with the Union conceding a penalty just 14 minutes into the match when Jakob Glesnes was called for a foul on Deportivo Saprissa’s Javon East in the area. It looked like East put his body between himself and the ball, forcing the official into a difficult decision when Glesnes’s leg went through East in his attempt to clear the ball away. The official consulted with the video review booth for what felt like an eternity, scampered over to the video monitor, and eventually decided to give the penalty. Luis Paradela, Saprissa’s captain, stepped up to the spot and buried the spot kick to put his Costa Rican side ahead 1-0 on the night, and to level the aggregate score of the tie at 3-3. However, the Union still held all the cards due to their 3 away goals in the first leg. 

Just three minutes later, Quinn Sullivan found a bit of space out on the right wing and delivered a peach of a ball into the box where Julian Carranza picked up where he left off in the first leg and sent a glancing header into the back of the net to level the match at 1-1 and extend the Union aggregate lead to 4-3. 

Sullivan then accentuated his recent run of good form in the 26th minute when he finished off a rebound from Markus Anderson and Daniel Gazdag’s efforts to put the Union ahead 2-1 in the match and 5-3 on aggregate. At this point, all signs pointed to the Union cruising to a Round of 16 birth without a sweat.

Then, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how sadistic you are), Concacaf happened. 

In the 28th minute, just two minutes after Sullivan’s goal, Saprissa’s Warren Madrigal latched onto a loose ball in the box, without a single Union defender intervening, and tied the match 2-2. With the aggregate score at 5-4, things began to get even more nervy for the Union. 

In the 62nd minute, things took a turn for the nightmarish. Horror scenes of Concacaf Champions Cups past began to flutter through Union fans’ heads as a Mariano Torres belter of a free kick found its way past Andre Blake’s understudy, 25 year-old German goalkeeper Oliver Semmle, to put Saprissa ahead 3-2 on the night, and to completely level the aggregate score at 5-5, canceling out the Union’s away goal advantage. 

But that wasn’t all. In the 93rd minute, Jack Elliott put in a studs up challenge on Saprissa’s Javon East with no apparent attempt to get the ball, and was given a straight red. As the official’s whistle signaled the end of the first 90 minutes, the Union were faced with the challenge of holding off a Saprissa side that had already scored 5 goals in two matches for 30 minutes… with just 10 men. 

Luckily for the Union, Mikael Uhre had a magic moment left in him. Four minutes into extra time, a Jack McGlynn corner somehow slithered through a crowded Saprissa penalty area and found its way to an unmarked Uhre, who was lurking at the back post waiting to smash the ball into the back of the net. The Dane’s goal tied the match at 3-3 and put the Union back in front 6-5 on aggregate. 

The remainder of the match was filled with scary moments for the Union. 

In the 108th minute, Semmle made an Andre Blake-esque save to stop a chipped effort from Saprissa’s Kendall Waston to keep the Union in the driver’s seat. And then in the 119th minute, the Union escaped an absolute onslaught of chances from Saprissa, as two efforts hit the crossbar and one rolled just wide of the target. 

But after everyone caught their breath, the final whistle blew and the Union had somehow advanced to the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16. Coming off a 3-2 win in Costa Rica in the first leg, the Union just had to… well… not completely fall apart in the return fixture at Subaru Park. And 120 minutes after the opening whistle, they just barely managed to accomplish that. But, as Malcolm X once said, “By any means necessary.” The means, in this instance, just weren’t very easy on the eye. See you next Tuesday for the Union’s Round of 16 matchup with C.F. Pachuca of Liga MX. 

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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