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Union reach first MLS Cup with dominant second half vs. NYCFC


CHESTER — The Philadelphia Union needed a strong second-half performance to book its first-ever MLS Cup berth, but after being hit in the mouth by New York City FC, Jim Curtin’s squad answered in style by scoring three unanswered goals.

Julian Carranza and Daniel Gazdag scored two minutes apart for the Union before Cory Burke sealed a 3-1 victory by adding an insurance goal off the bench. Maxi Moralez’s third playoff goal propelled NYCFC into a lead early in the second half, but the Union eventually found their groove to win its first Eastern Conference title.

Both teams held their own periods of possession in the first half, but had little to show for it in the final third. Sean Johnson made two saves for Nick Cushing’s squad, but the Union left plenty of chances on the table and lacked the cutting edge to make the most of their early possession.

NYCFC cut through the Union’s defense to deliver the breakthrough goal in the 59th minute thanks to great team passing and a deft finish from Maxi Moralez. Anton Tinnerholm and Santiago Rodriguez connected at the top of the Union box before Moralez’s one-time blast found the bottom-left corner.

It was Moralez’s third goal of the playoffs and Rodriguez’s 17th assist of the league season.

However, the Union didn’t have to wait long to tie things up or take their first lead of the match as Julian Carranza’s low strike made it 1-1 in the 66th minute. Jakob Glesnes’ pass upfield on a Union free kick allowed Carranza to take the pass in stride and drill a low shot past Sean Johnson.

The Union kept the pressure on and found a go-ahead goal in the 68th minute through Daniel Gazdag’s top-shelf finish. Carranza’s header cross the box and allowed Gazdag the opportunity to score his 23rd goal this season.

As NYCFC tried to fight for an equalizer, the Union eventually put the match out of reach through substitute Cory Burke. Burke raced upfield in possession and despite NYCFC’s best efforts to clear the ball out of their box, the Jamaican international roofed his shot into the top of the net.

The Union hung on to clinch their first-ever Eastern Conference Championship and set up an MLS Cup showdown with Los Angeles FC. It makes the first MLS Cup with two No. 1 seeds since 2003.


  1. I’m sorry, I just can’t get past the players having the word Bimbo on their shirts.
    How’s it going with that broad US audience you were trying to attract, MLS?
    I mean, really. This from a league that’s desperate for people to take them seriously.
    I guess naming teams “Real Salt Lake” and “Sporting Kansas City” didn’t drive enough people away. You need 11 “Bimbos” on the field. Yeah, I know this is not new, and I’m a meathead. But so are all of the American sports fans who don’t watch soccer. And they never will if you keep doing stuff like this. #ussoccerselfimmolation

    • I think, showing the MLS match at the same time as the Monday night football game, had more effect on viewership than what’s on a team’s jersey. Speaking for myself, I was flipping back n forth at the start of both. Josh Allen v Aaron Rodgers is an interesting match up. I saw the 1st half of the MLS, once the NFL game was a blow out, then turned back in time to see all the goals. Outside of being a cheesehead or part of BillsMafia, I don’t think I was the only one, who watched it that way, tho, I can appreciate your passion Dave P.

  2. LAFC FTW.

    Do we have some potential future USMNT head coaches in this final? Too early for Dolo as a coach, but if he wins in his first season… given his success as a player… and his Mayorship in Hannover… Just throwing it out there. Also, Curtin is good.

    • I had had the same thought. In particular you figure there’s a whole lot of eyes on Cherundolo, especially if he wins the Cup.

      Curtin’s less man-manager and more tactician, IMHO, and I’m not really sure how that translates to the USMNT, especially since he seems kind of slow to integrate younger players sometimes. ‘Dolo, though…you have to wonder if he’s quickly moving up the list of frontrunners for the job. Truth, I’d have vastly more confidence in him coaching the squad in Qatar than Berhalter.

      • I can see your sentiment overall in your post. I’m confused, about one sentence in your post -Quozzel?! “…since he seems kind of slow to integrate younger players, sometimes.” Sometimes? Is it a problem, or not?! Now, if you’ve forgotten, a friendly reminder, Curtin started Andre Blake @ 24 years old, along with Raymond Gaddis ‘14. Mark McKenzie started at 18 & Auston Trusty was 19 ‘17. BA got playing time once he finished his USL stint, after the 2 CBs had a year of starting together, ‘18-‘19. Also, Anthony Fontana, who’s at Ascoli, Serie B, Italy, got bit minutes, along with Matthew Real. Curtin also brought Leon Flach in from St Pauli, ‘20. Now, if it’s about the current U20 players not playing? Then it has to be 2 other possibilities. Either, they don’t fit in 4-4-2 diamond (system), or they are not good enough. You can’t put that on Jim Curtin, because he’s proven he’s willing to play young players -academy, college draft picks, and young transfers, since ‘14, when he was the interim. Between Sounders coach & Curtin, I wouldn’t be disappointed if either were the USMNT manager. (Tab Ramos is my unequivocal number 1, and it’s not even close for me.) Jim Curtin & the Union just need to close the deal.

    • If you are listing Dolo and Curtin, you probably should include Wolff, his team finished with the 3rd best record overall and advanced to the semifinals in only its 2nd year. When Marsch figures out how to get his Leeds team to win against mid-table teams, he will be in the mix as well. I think this year, Wolff probably did the best coaching job compared to the others because I think he had less talent to work with.

      Wolff, Marsch and Dolo all played for Bradley, Wolff at Chicago, when he was MLS player of the year, Marsch at DC, Chicago, and Chivas, and Dolo with the USMNT. I don’t believe Curtin ever played for Bradley. Both Dolo and Marsch were assistant coaches for Bradley (but Dolo was strictly speaking coaching the LAFC’s USL team, not assisting Bob). Those who still want to hate on Bradley will probably go with Curtin as their favorite.

      • Wolff will be associated with Berhalter that will hurt him more with certain fans than Bradley. All three’s tactical style would be fairly similar to Berhalter. What I like about all 3s teams is they are very quick to transition offense to defense. Is that coaching or is that the players their GMs have purchased I’m not sure.

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