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The Philadelphia Union and Nashville SC battled it out in a top-of-the-table clash that will surely shape the MLS Playoff Picture.
The Union came into the game following a heart-wrenching 3-2 loss against Minnesota in which the Union controlled the majority of the game, however defensive mistakes ultimately cost them. The loss put the Union at 46 points on the season, only 3 points behind Nashville.
On the other side of the pitch, Nashville is fresh off of a 1-1 draw against the Columbus Crew, their fifth draw in a row, one shy of an all-time MLS record. Nashville, who have the least amount of losses in all of MLS were without their star player, Hany Mukhar, for their match against the Union. Mukhtar was forced to miss the game due to a yellow card suspension.
This game was perhaps the most meaningful game of the whole regular season for both sides. With the New England Revolution out of reach for any team in the Eastern Conference to catch up to, the second-place spot was the highest any team could get. The winner of the Union vs Nashville match was a surefire for the second place seed in the tournament.
BATTLE FOR SECOND:
The first 9 minutes and 59 seconds of the game saw little to no action other than Monteiro being knocked in the face by Daniel Rios.
Then, once the clock struck 10, a golden opportunity opened up for Kacper Pryzbbylko on a half volley six yards away from the net. Pryzbbylko mishit the ball and the shot went wide left, but it was the start of Union’s flow up top.
16 minutes in an opportunity arose for the Union, after a handball in the box off of a Montiero freekick, the Union was awarded a penalty shot that the German tank rocketed right down the middle.
Nashville suddenly had their backs turned against the wall. After all, Nashville had yet to record a win away from home when going down first.
As the first half progressed, the battle for a second-place became the war for second place. Yellow cards were flying out left and right for both sides and the game got chippy.
Nashville’s attack was not efficient enough to get by the Union defense, and the first half was filled with many failed counterattacks.
Meanwhile, their counterparts were wheeling and dealing up top, with many good opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net. However, the Union’s attacks were either saved or fizzled out by the strong back 5 of Nashville.
Any 1-0 lead going into halftime is dangerous, but it’s especially dangerous when you’re facing the king of draws and a team that will play until the final whistle.
The second half saw both teams settle into the game. Walker Zimmerman came on to start the half and his amazing vision was seen early on in the half.
Nashville seemed to have more bodies up top and their attacking play was much more fluent, however, this led to a Union counterattack in which Daniel Gazdag had an amazing opportunity but the Nashville defense managed to shut him down.
Following the failed counterattack, where Gazdag had a man wide open to the right, 18-year-old Paxten Aaronson was subbed on. Aaronson, a hometown favorite, is one of the most exciting young talents in all of MLS, with two goals on the season, Paxten has been finding his foot in the professional game and is showing how he is much more than ‘Brenden Aaronson’s little brother’.
As the half went on, the game got more and more evened out, leading to a stalemate where neither team could find the back of the net. The Union had their chances, but couldn’t capitalize.
Both sides were doing everything they could for the three points, and this led to a scrap between the two number eights, Jose Martinez and Randell Leal.
Nashville had little to no offense in the second half, the absence of Hany Mukhtar was well felt for Nashville.
The Union had a chance to put the game to rest in the 86th minute, but a bold save Joe Willis prevented the Union from scoring another.
Despite Willis’ late heroics, his team was unable to rally and fell to 3rd in the Eastern Conference after losing away at the hands of the Union.
Nashville are on shaky form now, only picking up 5 points in their last 6 fixtures. Meanwhile, the Union are catching fire at the right time.
The MLS Playoffs have always come with great excitement and games to remember, including the Union’s 4-3 win over the New York Red Bulls in an instant classic in 2019.
Philadelphia is looking to bring the city of brotherly love its first trophy since the Eagles triumph over Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2018 as Nashville will try to get back to its winning ways in their next fixture against FC Cincinnati.
image via https://cdn.vox-cdn.com
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All Editorials written by Chris Dailey