Union Clobber Kansas City, Advance to ‘MLS is Back’ Tournament Semifinals

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

This ain’t your grandmother’s Philadelphia Union.

They went in as a +250 underdog and ragdolled Sporting Kansas City last night, scoring three first half goals and then playing LOCK DOWN second half defense en route to a 3-1 win. Again they conceded possession and allowed more shots to the opposing team, but their decision making in both boxes was elite, with purposeful attacking play resulting in two very pretty goals, first on a delayed Alejandro Bedoya run that resulted in an easy square pass and tap-in:

I did a Twitter breakdown for this goal, if you wanna check it out.

Basically they had a veteran player, Ray Gaddis, in an atypical advanced position, and he just sat on the ball for a moment and read a miscommunication on the Kansas City backline. Instead of playing into a 2v3, he just went  “square” (sideways) for Sergio Santos instead, who found Bedoya on the late run, which resulted in a pinpoint-accurate line-breaking pass and then a tap-in for Jamiro Monteiro.

They scored on a ridiculous counterattack shortly after, with Sporting KC getting caught with numbers forward, then added this third goal on a wonderful bit of individual play from Brenden Aaronson:

We talked about this a lot on the It’s Always Soccer in Philadelphia podcast, the idea that Brenden’s feet were sometimes unable to match his brain.

In other words, he always knows what he wants to do, but sometimes his body is not processing what his mind is telling him to do, a natural speed of play adjustment for teenagers. In this case, he feels the pressure, takes his first touch laterally, and then picks his head up to find a perfect through-ball for the third goal.

They really looked fantastic out there last night, looked more like Juventus if we’re being honest. They don’t have any superstars but they play hard, play like a team, and defend collectively, with urgency. They punish opponent mistakes and get out quickly in transitional opportunities. The “blue collar/lunch pail” thing is typically just cliche bullshit, but this group really does have that Philadelphia grinder type of mindset, plus a great goalkeeper between the posts.

They’re off to the semifinals of the ‘MLS is Back’ tournament, and will play the Portland/NYC winner next Wednesday. Two more victories and the Union lift their first trophy in franchise history.

Happy Friday morning.

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