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Philadelphia Union reach first-ever MLS Conference Final in dramatic shootout

The Philadelphia Union reached their first-ever MLS Conference Final after a dramatic shootout, and some heroics from Andre Blake, against Nashville SC.
Philadelphia Union Andre Blake MLS

Philadelphia Union reached first ever MLS Conference Final in a dramatic shootout victory against Nashville SC. In a match of grit over beauty, Philadelphia proved the victor in an evenly set matchup between the Eastern Conference’s second and third placed teams.

With the quarterfinal win, the Union will go on to face the winner of New England Revolution vs. NYCFC taking place this Tuesday in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The MLS Eastern Conference Final will be played at the home location of the higher ranked team on Sunday.

Conference Semi-Final Progressed to Overtime and Penalties after Finishing 1-1 in first 90

The conference semi-final at Subaru Park progressed to overtime and then penalties after finishing 1-1 in the first 90 minutes of play. Both goals in the gridlocked game came late in the first half.

Nashville was first to score. Sending a shock wave of dread through a raucous, sold out crowd in Chester, PA, the goal came in the 38th minute mark off the head of Hany Mukhtar. Eric Miller found Mukhtar well positioned and unmarked in the box. Mukhtar’s header found the far corner of the net. With the goal, the German international has accrued 29 goals and assists in 2021 and three goals in the MLS Playoffs this year.

Philadelphia Equalize in the Final Minute of the First Half

In an equalizer to reset the match and mitigate Mukhtar’s impact, Philadelphia found the back of the net off a corner in stoppage time. The Union had accrued an abundance of set pieces in the first half, including eight corners, failing to convert until the final minute off Gazdag’s foot.

Gazdag’s goal is his first in the postseason.

Philadelphia Had More Shots and Chances- Including a Goal Called Back- But None Convert

Philadelphia dominated possession in the opening minutes but were held to a 50/50 ball possession by the close of play. Despite the parity on pitch in possession, Philadelphia had higher xG, shots, and chances created. They took 24 shots to Nashville’s 13, for example. They finished the match with an xG of 1.94 to Nashville’s 0.86.

An opportunity of note came — once again — off a set piece corner in the second half. Gazdag found the back of the net once more off a corner, but the goal was called back. The Union were charged with obstructing the goalie off the corner.

Despite the disparity of shots and opportunities, the Union failed to convert in the second half and extra time, sending the match into penalties with a 1-1 score.

Andre Blake Comes Up Big While Nashville Flounders on Penalties

To say that Philadelphia won on penalties simply because of Blake — a legend to Philadelphians already ahead of this match — would capture only half the story of last evening’s shoot-out. Blake did in fact set the tone for the proceeding, coming up with two huge saves out of the gate, deflecting the first two of Nashville’s attempts.

Yet in a remarkable performance of fumbled penalties, Nashville failed to convert a single one. In addition to the two shots blocked, they also threw two away that weren’t even on target. The final attempt to keep Nashville in contention came from United States men’s national team player and sometimes captain, Walker Zimmerman, who sent the ball so wide of net it may have landed in the Delaware River.

To the uproarious approval of the sold out Subaru, Philadelphia clinched its first ever MLS Eastern Conference Final with Blake’s reliable shot stopping and Nashville’s complete penalty collapse.



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