Andre Blake is the Hero as the Union Defeat Nashville
I've sat here for a couple minutes just trying to think of how to speak on the absolute insanity of this game. In my game preview I said that I thought this would be a great, high paced game with lots of goals and it wildly exceeded that.
The Philadelphia Union defeated Nashville SC on penalties 2-0 after the score being 1-1 in regulation and extra time. This means that the Union have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals and will await the result of NYCFC(5) and New England(1) to see if they will be hosting the match. It is scheduled for December 5th at 3 PM.
I think in this game more than ever, there was an emphasis on scoring the first goal. Obviously every game you want to open the scoring, but this game especially, since Nashville's defense is so solid and would probably sit deeper if they went into the second half up 1-0. The Union clearly got this message, since they absolutely dominated the first 20 minutes of the half. Not only did they have two really close chances in the first minute of the half, but they continued to pressure and somehow did not put one in the net. Not to toot my own horn too much, but in my preview article I said that the Union could not make any stupid defense mistakes because Hany Mukhtar would pounce on it. Well, that is exactly what happened. Alvas Powell just completely failed marking him on a long cross from Eric Miller(who received an absurd amount of hate from the fans near me by the way) and Mukhtar easily finished it.
It was looking like the Union would be heading to a defecit at halftime, a crushing blow to their chances at winning. But alas, Daniel Gazdag came to the rescue after a corner that was legitimately the last kick of the half. Gazdag's first shot was blocked, but he made a terrific effort to shoot again and catch everyone on Nashville off guard. 1-1 heading into the break.
Obviously no goals came from this half, but the real story for me was how many chances Sergio Santos could not finish. He was always in the right position to make a play, but would miss the shot. I couldn't find the clip on twitter, but I remember soon after he was subbed on he had a chance right in front of the keeper where he had all the time in the world to shoot, but still missed. We'll get to this, but he also missed his penalty as well. I knew that this game needed Sergio Santos, just in terms of pace, but he really ended up having a poor game. Speaking of pace, the second half was filled with ups and downs. I thought this was going to be a high paced game from start to finish, but the 2nd half was mostly 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off(from both sides). Both defenses are just so solid, and that is really the reason this game stayed at 1-1 for so long. I know Mukhtar scored the goal, but I really didn't see much from him the rest of the game. Maybe I'm wrong, but it definitely felt like both teams were playing for ET towards the end of the half.
This is basically going to be the Jack McGlynn section, because what a shift this kid put in during extra time. He came in for the final 15 minutes for Jamiro Monteiro and absolutely balled. This kid is 18 years old, has never played in a playoff game and came in setting the tone more than any other veterans on the field. There were a couple times where McGlynn completely set up the Union for a goal, but the offense didn't complete the attack. I don't think McGlynn has earned a starting spot yet, but if you are Jim Curtin, you have to consider playing him more minutes off the bench. Overall though, both teams had chances but the Union definitely were the better team heading into penalties. I really think the Union could have ended this game before the PKs, but you know, sometimes Jakob Glesnes cannot score a golazo in the 123rd minute.
This team didn't deserve to have the season come down to some penalty kicks, but one thing I can say is that when push came to shove, the Union put the game on the shoulders of their best player-Andre Blake. Sure, Nashville completely missed the goal on two of their PKs, but Blake came up huge after really not having much action the entire game. Blake saved the first PK from Mukhtar and the second from Goody before the next two were missed. Blake has always been the guy who through thick and thin is always consistent, and the Union are just so lucky they have this dude.
On the Union's side, a lot of things stayed the same. Although I was pretty shocked to see Jack Elliott as the first PK taker, he slotted it away tidily. I was even more surprised to see Santos, after all his mishaps to be the taker for the second PK. Obviously it doesn't matter in the end, but Santos missed and it luckily didn't have any cost in the end. Then up comes the 18 year old Jack McGlynn, who scored his penalty with some insane poise. I've already mentioned the kid enough in this article, but I just can't get over how impressive he was. Ice in his veins. Union win the game and the shootout 2-0.
If you aren't a huge Union fan and are still having a tough time buying into this whole MLS thing, just watch all the fan reactions from this game. The last two playoff games have had late drama, incredible goals and an unreal atmosphere from a team who never gives up. This team is fun, and they embody everything a team with Philadelphia attached to their name should.
The Union are riding unlimited momentum heading into the next round. As I said, we are going to be huge NYCFC fans on Tuesday. If they win, that would mean the Union would host them in the next round of the playoffs on Sunday. If NYCFC lose, the Union will head to New England to play them at the same time and date. If you want to look a bit farther down the line, we are also big Real Salt Lake fans, since if they won and we won, the Philadelphia Union would host the MLS Cup against RSL on December 11th. We obviously will go again and should be prepared no matter what happens, but just wanted to run through some scenarios. I'll go through them again when it comes time for the preview for next week's game.
I'll just leave you guys with this clip, which is just one of my favorite sports clips I have ever seen. What a moment.