The Philadelphia Union ended a respectable Concacaf Champions League run with a 0-2 loss to Club América at Subaru Park Wednesday evening. The loss rounds out a two leg semi-final run which the Union conceded to Club América 0-4 on aggregate. Club América will go on to face the winners of tonight’s match between Liga MX sides Cruz Azul and Monterrey.
Philadelphia Union Were Last MLS Team Standing
The Philadelphia Union were the last MLS team standing in this year’s competition. They were outmatched underdogs from the start. That didn’t break their belief, though, and didn’t impede their chances or overall performance either. The pair of losses does no justice to the broader story of how the Union played across these semi-finals; putting up a respectable fight against the most successful club of all time in Concacaf Champions League play.
Subaru Park Has Away Crowd at Home as Club America Fans Fill Philadelphia
Club América fans descended upon Subaru Park from all across the country. Texan flags flew across stands more yellow than blue. Fans drove from New York and flew from California. Philadelphia Union fans found themselves in the unusual predicament of being outnumbered in their home stands.
The River End, though, home to the Sons of Ben supporters group, was near-unanimous blue. They threw a rocking and crowded prematch tailgate by the river. They marched into the stadium ready to propel forward their team. They unfurled impressive tifo in Union snake design. And the River End made sure their “Union!” decibels kept pace and fought back against a crowd far outnumbering their ranks.
— PhilaUnion🛡 (@PhilaUnion) September 16, 2021
Philadelphia Union Hold Club América to a Tie in First Half
The Philadelphia Union came out ready to fight their way out of the deficit earned at Azteca. It was a gritty, scrappy half, full of yellow cards, fouls and hustle. They looked like the team capable of putting Club América out. But they tragically failed to put away any of their chances.
There were 24 fouls and 5 yellows in the first half alone. And although it remained a draw at halftime, the Union had no less than three incredibly close encounters in the waning minutes of the first half, any one of which would have put them up first and send them into the second half with momentum.
Memo Ochoa, man of the match and goalkeeper of Concacaf legend and fame, snuffed out the chances that came his way.
Man, myth, legend. Ochoa. Respect. pic.twitter.com/fmQSZX3i9j
— Meg Swanick (@Meg_Swanick) September 16, 2021
Philadelphia Miss Big Chances and Give Up Two to Concede in Second Half
Down a two-goal deficit in aggregate from leg one in Mexico City, the Union needed to score at least twice — and fast — to progress to the final match. In the 50th minute it looked like they’d get goal one. A penalty called in the box (on an arguable red card) set Jamiro Monteiro before Concacaf legend Memo Ochoa for the chance to send Philadelphia up one.
Memo read Monteiro’s intended direction with ease, saving the shot which then bounced off the goalpost only to save the rebound attempt from Cory Burke before clearing it in a frenzied, disappointing pair of attempts.
— Meg Swanick (@Meg_Swanick) September 16, 2021
The Union pressed on heartily through the second half holding the Liga MX legends to a draw until nearly the 80th minute. They looked like the better team and continued to manufacture quality chances. It was a fast-paced chippy affair and the Union looked ready to prove the victor. They couldn’t finish. A perpetual struggle to put away offensive opportunities — and Memo Ochoa — stood in their way.
Instead, in the 79th minute, the first of two went the way of Club América. The first goal came on the foot of Nicolas Benedetti. The Union didn’t give up and pushed on. They needed three goals in 10 minutes now to survive to fight an overtime. Their chances didn’t complete. A defensive mistake in extra time conceded one last goal on the foot of Henry Martin to seal the deal.
The Philadelphia Union Lose with Respect
The aggregate semi-final loss to Club América, which ended 0-4 across the two matches, doesn’t reflect the effort and performance of the last MLS team standing in this year’s competition. For much of the match the Union looked like the better team, and they came up with better attempts and chances. The Union held most of the possession, completed more passes and with better accuracy, progressed the ball forward, created more chances, created better chances, took an equal number of shots and yet walked away with the loss.
The Union fell short of becoming the fifth-ever MLS team to make the finals berth. But they depart with respect emboldened from fans in Philadelphia as well as non-fans across the MLS. Their desire, tenacity and effort was all you could have asked for. And they move on toward the end of their season with loss they can be proud of, and only upwards to climb.