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Slow start, elusive raccoon too much to overcome as Union drop fourth straight at home



Photo by Carl Gulbish

The Philadelphia Union made history on Wednesday night at Subaru Park. For the first time in club history, a wild raccoon snuck onto the pitch and ran riot. Leaving security guards in its wake, the Procyonidaen beast effortlessly maneuvered the pitch untouched. That was, until a member of the staff eventually placed the mammal in a pair of trash cans. 

And well, there was one other less funny and insanely Philadelphian thing… the four straight home losses. After their 2-1 loss to NYCFC, the Union lost their fourth straight match at home and have not won any game home or away since April 6 against Nashville. 

The horror movie started early for the Union. In the 2nd minute, on a counter attack sprung by ex-Union midfielder Andres Perea, NYCFC struck first. Alonso Martinez got on the end of a precise and inviting ball that slid across the penalty area from Santiago Rodriguez and buried it past Union stand-in goalkeeper Oliver Semmle. However, as impressive as the counter was from NYCFC, the defending from the Union was equally poor. As they have several other times this season, they got caught too far up the pitch, stretched and beaten to the spot. 

But the Union didn’t stay on the backfoot for long. After drawing a corner in the 4th minute, the Union found a chance when the ball pinballed around the box and found the feet of Mikael Uhre whose effort was blocked by the NYCFC backline. Then, in the 8th minute, Daniel Gazdag laid the ball off deftly to Jack McGlynn on the edge of the box but the young midfielder’s effort sailed over the bar. Just one minute later, Julian Carranza found a bit of space in the box after an acrobatic and graceful first touch to get a decent look at the target from about 10 yards out, but his shot was saved by ex-Union and Union II goalkeeper Matt Freese. The Union were constantly threatening, but couldn’t find an end product. And they paid for it, as the tide and momentum of the match began to swing back the other way. 

For the next 20 minutes, Oliver Semmle was forced to stand on his head as he made save after save to keep the Union in the match. Without his efforts in the first half, the match would have been much more lopsided. 

In the 36th minute, Kai Wagner had the Union’s best chance of the first half as he snuck into a patch of open grass at the back post, but his effort on target was miraculously saved by the outstretched foot of Matt Freese. 

In first half stoppage time, Kai Wagner made a rash challenge on Santiago Rodriguez out by the corner flag, setting NYCFC up for a dangerous set piece opportunity. On the ensuing free kick, Austrian midfielder Hannes Wolf hit an absolute belter that kissed off the far post and rippled the back of the net to put the New Yorkers ahead 2-0. And despite the Union’s 14 shots in the opening 45 minutes, they found themselves with a massive 2-goal hill to climb when the halftime whistle blew. 

The good news was, the Union came out of the locker room fired up. And after drawing a free kick on the edge of the penalty area in the 47th minute, Carranza received a lay off from McGlynn and hit an absolute screamer into the top right bin to halve the Pigeons lead. All of a sudden, the Union were right back in the match. Then, in the 52nd minute, Carranza looked like he was going to double his tally when he cut inside and hit a curler that strayed just wide. Six minutes later, the Union and their talisman had another chance when Wagner played a beautifully weighted ball right into the path of a largely unmarked Carranza, but his header sailed wide. 

In the 73rd minute, Nathan Harriel lost his marker at the back post on a Wagner corner, but (you guessed it) his header sailed over the bar. Noticing a trend here?

A few moments later, Semmle was forced back into action when Malachi Jones broke free on the left wing and ripped a shot on goal that was saved by the young German keeper. 

Gazdag had his chance to equalize in the 80th minute when he took a crack at a bouncing ball that forced a decent save out of Freese at the near post. 

Then, at the death, the Union thought they had their equalizer. In the 94th and final minute, Alejandro Bedoya hit a ball in the box that Gazdag got onto and backheeled to Jack Elliott who buried his effort into the back of the net for what briefly looked like a last gasp bit of heroics. However, the celebrations were short-lived, as the linesmen raised his flag for offsides. Gazdag was behind the New York backline when Bedoya hit the ball. Moments later, the head referee blew his whistle and the Union had lost their fourth straight home match. 

While the defending was often putrid, the story of the night was poor finishing. In a match where the Union managed 26 shots, only 5 of which hit the target. That just won’t do it. 

The Union will go again Saturday against New England at Gillette Stadium. They will have to be much more efficient in front of goal and organized defending their own if they want to get points from their trip up north.

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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