In a battle between the two favorites of Group A at the MLS is Back Tournament, the Philadelphia Union edged past NYCFC 1-0 on Thursday morning to take a big step towards making their way to the knockout stage.
Alejandro Bedoya got the game's opening goal, a tidy finish from a tight angle. Sean Johnson got a hand to it but not enough to guide it wide. A few minutes later, Kacper Przybylko found the back of the net but the finish was correctly ruled offside.
Then it was time for Andre Blake to come up big. In the 86th minute, the Union keeper made a sprawling save to deny Heber a late equalizer from close range and help preserve all three points for the Union before making another in the 95th minute as Gary Mackay-Steven was one-v-one with the Jamaican. NYCFC are still searching for their first win of the 2020 MLS season as well as their first league goal after three matches.
The Union defense held strong against NYCFC, limiting service to talisman Heber and stifling their opponent's ability to make use of their possession advantage. Philly held just 40% of the ball.
NYCFC winger Alexandru Mitrita missed out due to a knock picked up in training, ditto for Union forwards Andrew Wooten and Sergio Santos. Meanwhile, Union Homegrown attacker Jack de Vries came off the bench to make his MLS debut.
- 63' – PHI – Alejandro Bedoya | WATCH
Man of the Match presented by Heineken
Big players come through in key moments.
The former MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and SuperDraft No. 1 pick, Blake stood tallest in the final 30 minutes to preserve all three points for the Union. He made a stellar fingertip save on Heber then denied Mackay-Steven in the game's final minute.
SAVE: Andre Blake dramatically tips away a point-blank shot from Heber
- THE BIG PICTURE: One of the most anticipated matchups of the group stage, as well as the first 9 am kickoff, there was plenty of intrigue around this match. Some moments of the match were slower than others — by the 55th minute, the real feel temperature was 99 degrees — but all in all, the game didn't look all that much different than a typical evening start. Early morning MLS!
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Say Their Names. The Union revealed a powerful message in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Instead of the players' names on the back of their jersey, the kits each read the name of a different member of the Black community who have been victims of police brutality.
- YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Without piped in crowd noise and more microphones around the pitch, the broadcasts at the tournament can immerse fans even more. That was on great display in this one. One moment that stood out for its entertainment value: The Union bench pleaded for Martinez not to foul in a duel vs. Maxi Moralez. A few seconds later, Martinez was walking away from Moralez on the ground, the referee showing him a yellow card and his bench displaying their disappointment.
- NYC: Tuesday, July 14 vs. Orlando City SC (8 pm ET | TUDN in US, TSN in Canada)
- PHI: Tuesday, July 14 vs. Inter Miami CF (10:30 pm ET | TUDN in US, TSN in Canada)