Match Report

Match report: Philadelphia Union 2 – 0 FC Cincinnati

Photo by David S. Pumpkins (Paul Rudderow)

A road-weary Philadelphia Union finished the home portion of their regular season with a convincing 2-0 victory against visiting FC Cincinnati.

First Half

It was Christmas for Halloween in Chester, with the Boys in Blue again in their holiday best 4-3-2-1 in front of a sparse home crowd.

A recycled ball off a Union corner kick in the 11th minute was the first real moment in the game – and resulted in the game’s first goal. After Alejandro Bedoya’s cross was deflected out, Olivier Mbiazo smacked the rebound with the inside of his right boot. The ball nestled in the far corner of the net and, just like they were the last time out and the last time at home, the good guys were ahead. It looked initially like the right back’s first career Union goal, but was actually redirected by Daniel Gazdag to continue his strong run of form.

A counter attack in the 21st minute saw Gazdag put a Paxten Aaronson cross just wide, the homegrown doing exceptional work to receive the ball and get a pass off in the first place. The Union were heavily on the front foot, and minutes later a scrumptious give and go between Jack McGlynn and Gazdag nearly resulted in a second – but the Hungarian’s shot was directly at Vermeer.

Another cross, again from the right, found the captain’s preferred foot. His heel flick was audacious, but also hit directly at the Cincy keeper. The Union were toying with the Wooden Spoon winners, forming triangles and linking lines, but still only one ahead – Jakob Glesnes’s left foot was high and wide in the 35th minute and McGlynn’s just wide in the 38th.

Cincinnati finally got a chance in the 40th minute after the Union couldn’t clear their lines. Kubo found the ball at the top of the box but his left-footed volley skipped harmlessly past Andre Blake’s near post. Minutes later, Joe Gyau put his forearm into the Union goal-scorer’s throat but, as is the norm in Major League Soccer, no card was given and the half ended.

Second Half

The Union started as they finished, pressuring the Ohioans and scything toward goal. Their guests however were suddenly eager to match the Union’s energy, starting much higher up the pitch and making the hosts work for their possession. In the 51st minute, a Cincy counter found Barreal’s right foot in the middle of the box, but he couldn’t put the bouncing ball on frame – it was a golden chance, the visitors weren’t going down without a fight.

A quick restart after a foul in the middle of the field was the platter upon which the Union served up a much-needed second goal. Gazdag was the aggressor, McGlynn the provider, and Aaronson the deliverer, putting a left-footed rocket past a diving Vermeer. A composed goal full of crisp passes, right down the opponent’s spine? Something Union fans have been begging for in 2021.

Perhaps the best passing sequence of the season ended with an Alejandro Bedoya cross to an open Kacper Przybylko 6 yards from goal. Somehow, the Muffin put the chance over the bar – his chorus of critics singing in unison: “He has to finish that!” A minute later and the striker got another look, this one less ideal but also wide. Cincinnati had conceded 15 goals in their last 3 matches and the Union wanted some of that action, but their talisman couldn’t quite write his name. The Union kept going anyway, passing and poised on every blade of manicured grass, creating chance after chance.

Mbaizo to Gazdag? Off Vermeer’s knee.

McGlynn off the deflection? Just outside the post again.

Aaronson on the end line? Kick-saved into the sky.

Even Jose Martinez’s predictable 40-yard attempt was on frame, though saved – things were clicking and the Good Guys weren’t easing up (his second 40-yarder sailed through the uprights, as is more often the case). The passing was creative and on-point and, if the viewer squinted, the Union looked for moments like team that used to flow in a 4-2-3-1 to the delight of the league – though playing against the worst side available will do that.

In the 80th minute, Gazdag pummeled the net again – just the backside this time, as his dipping ball flew inches over the bar. Moments later and after two substitutions, the Union conceded a dangerous free kick from about 30 yards away, directly in front of goal. The ensuing shot was hit squarely at Andre Blake, and it was the only meaningful action before the 90+2′ were over.

The Union did the job, took the points, and reasserted their spot in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference with only a trip to the Bronx between them and an astonishingly successful encore campaign to their 2020 Shield success.


Philadelphia Union – Blake, Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Mbaizo (Harriell, 76′), McGlynn (Flach, 80′), Martinez, Bedoya (Bueno, 90′), Aaronson, Gazdag (Sullivan, 90′), Pryzbylko (Burke, 80′) – Freese, Findlay, Fontana, Davo

FC Cincinnati – Vermeer, Gyau (Duvall), Cameron, Blackett, Bailey, Kubo (Scott), Stanko, Medunjanin, Barreal (Harris), Vazquer, Brenner (Atanga) – Cruz, Mokotjo, Ordonez, Tyton, Valot

Scoring Summary

PHI – Daniel Gazdag, 11′

PHI – Paxten Aaronson, 53′

Discipline Summary



  1. McGlynn can be a metronome. His style is unlike any of our other midfielders but having him on the field really lets us try different looks.

    Aaronson is already farther ahead in the final third than Brenden maybe ever was with us.

    We won, but Pryzbylko had a bad game. He must enjoy playing midfield too much because he has completely forgotten how to be effective in the final third.

    This season has been so up and down and course the year after a trophy, makes it feel like a down year or even a “bad” year. But really, going into the last game of the year in second place, and also doing so while getting most all of our homegrown real minutes and watching them grow, really has us in a good place.

    Make a real upgrade at striker and I’d be feeling pretty great about next year.

  2. In Tanner We Trust says:

    Let’s keep in mind that Cincy is bad, but so was Toronto. LOTS to feel good about with this win. The big one is next Sunday. I think we all expected 2-0 Union or something similar, but did anyone expect a stress free game with complete dominance and maybe their most crisp passing they’ve featured all year? You could just tell they were enjoying themselves.
    P.S. if Kacper starts 30 games next year I don’t see any chance at doing anything noteworthy. Maybe we just need a complete reset at the position cuz all of them are flawed. Too bad Sergio can’t stay healthy, so much potential.

    • 30 games for Kacper?! I don’t even want him on the team! Let’s invest in a talented striker for once, and I think that will give us a chance at MLS Cup.

      • John O'Donnell says:

        I’m fine with Kacper if we get a talented stiker. Unlike the other two he’s at least playing almost every game and 90 minutes. If he’s the second striker up top maybe he scores more with less attention paid to him. Watching him in CCL with another healthy striker he played much better.

      • The frequency of games this year had been brutal.
        They started late and will have played the full 34.

      • 40 if you include CCL (and none were friendlies or early Open Cup games using a bunch of back ups).

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        My point was moreso if he’s given a high priority again. I’d prefer to get rid of him but fans show the same unreasonableness with the Simmons trade. Who wants him? Ben tanked his trade value and hasn’t done anything to show he’s a superstar and yet people think Portland will give up Lillard for him. Dropping Kacper and his team friendly contract seems incorrect, and no one is dumb enough to trade for him right now.

      • Yet Kacper has the CCL golden boot and 11 goals. The MLS golden boot leader is only 7 higher. He’s not elite. For sure, but double digits every year is not terrible.

        I think the frustration is his consistency. (Orlando have the same problem with Nani.) Anyone wonder what would happen if we hired a ‘strike coach’? Like, someone who specializes in training strikers? I’m not sure that is Jim’s forte.

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    Well done boys. Solid ‘easy’ win which is what some of the others shoulda been but weren’t.
    Remarkable how much more enjoyable the team is to watch when Aaronson and McGlyn are on the field. Light years. Ideas. Creativity. Beautiful.
    Keep this roster and let them go up to NY… steak a point or 3 there. Do not need Martinez Bedoya and Flach on the field for that match.

  4. Nice to see the kids play and do well. Would like to see better finishing especially since goal differential against Atlanta could still come into play to determine 4th and 5th. Were also lucky that Cincy couldn’t finish a couple of counterattacks.
    Nice to hear Haris cheered before the game.
    A win next week means 2nd. A draw means 2nd or 3rd. A loss 3rd, 4th, or 5th.

    • In the recap on the MLS website the writer says that only Atlanta can knock the Union out of a home game in the playoffs. And that to do so three things must happen.
      1. Atlanta must win both their remaining games, the Union must lose, and in the process Atlanta must make up six goals of goal difference.
      Atlanta play away to New York Red Bull’s and away to Cincinnati. They should beat Cincy in Cincy. But beating Red Bull in Harrison is an iffier proposition. And victory margins are important.
      Union will lose in Yankee stadium as they always do, but they need to keep it close. Which they likely can manage. They should manage that home game and are much better at home than they are away..
      They won’t win the cup. But they should get a home playoff game and they might win it.

      • And even if all that happens they can still finish 4th if Nashville loses at home to the team from Harrison. All of a sudden I’m starting to (temporarily) root for that team from Northern New Jersey.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        Yeah Andy, a RB-ATL draw then a RB win over Nashville would definitely take care of things for us. But gotta believe we have a chance against NYC. Start some kids who have the sandbox creativity and no knowledge of our tough history there.

  5. Since some of the above comments thinking about next year, I’m wondering about a starting diamond next year of Aaronson, McGlynn-Gazdag, and Flach as base dmid. Then plow our meager resources into a complete overhaul of the striker corps. Is that diamond too young/inexperienced/unreliable to go into a season with? Still would have Bedoya on the bench for vet savvy. Can McGlynn play the 8 in a diamond or is he better further back as the 2nd of 2 dmids? Oh well, should probably be more concerned with what happens next weekend before worrying about next year, haha.

    • Yeah this is an interesting topic. I think we have some options, including if you assume some outward transfers – Martinez, maybe Monteiro? I’ll say one thing for sure, spending money on a real quality striker next year would make it a lot easier for these HGs to grow into starting roles.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        Yeah seeing as we don’t really have any elite strikers coming up from the academy right now, that’s the position we have to prioritize. Will be interesting to see if Wagner and Mbaizo gather offers from Europe, may have to replace one of them soon.

    • The last few games, Gazdag has looked better and better. He was man of the match for me yesterday. He was everywhere, multiple chances on goal. Got one apparently, but I can tell you, from my seat in 125, I would swear up and down that was Mbaizo’s.

      Either way, looking forward to Gazdag being the elite provider next year that we all hoped to see when they got him. It’s starting to look like he could be.

    • On the MLS website Tom Bogert and Matt Doyle both have series evaluating the year for every eliminated team. Read the evaluations for FC Cincinnati.
      There are some quotes from Chris Albright, talking about how his new club has spent a lot of money on transfers.
      He says that simply would not have happened where he was before.
      Union fams need to understand – there will never be a big money player. You cannot sell on a big money player at a significant profit.

  6. Gruncle Bob says:

    The U could really use the (very likely) 2 points from the blown Bradley pk call. That is either a really poorly written rule or a terrible interpretation. MLS needs to evaluate its VAR setup.

  7. An expected win properly week makes the big difference.
    . . .
    If we take second then we get home field advantage through the East playoffs except for NE and avoid them until the last round, and that’s if NE doesn’t falter like we did last year. It increases our odds for hosting the final depending on how the West playoffs go with upsets.
    . . .
    Given our historic problems playing in Yankee Stadium and playing a solid team seeking those same playoff advantages, what are the best courses of action to secure a win if you were in Jim’s shoes?

  8. The “Christmas Tree” seemed to help Paxten the same way it helps Gazdag. Allowing them to only need to press half of the field, giving them options for the pass. If Jamiro is gone in the off season, I don’t know that we are going back to the diamond next year. (Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, since I don’t know how many #10s out there have the engine and skill to press like Brendan did / does.)

    Has anyone seen if NYCFC has a bigger pitch in the Bronx since the baseball season is well in the past ?

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