Philadelphia Union rebound with Champions Cup berth: "We looked like ourselves"


The disappointment was still there, the wound from not hosting the Leagues Cup Final at Subaru Park because of a subpar outing in a semifinal defeat to Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF.

But the motivation was simple for the Philadelphia Union – a win would clinch a spot back in the Concacaf Champions Cup. The hosts did exactly that via a 3-0 victory against a rotated CF Monterrey, and did so by looking like the Union.

“Good performance, we're happy about it,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said postgame Saturday. “Great to get a Champions [Cup] berth, a real professional performance from the group where it's not easy to get up for this type of a game, but I thought they did really well.”

CF Monterrey didn’t have the same motivation, having already clinched their berth in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup via their Liga MX performance.

As such, Rayados fielded a talented, but young squad, a rotated group from the one Curtin said “played the best in this whole competition in terms of the most attractive attacking soccer, the most dangerous team.”

That could have further complicated things for the Union, especially after changing tactics in Tuesday's 4-1 home loss to Inter Miami.

“Tonight was let's get back to the 4-4-2 diamond, let's run, let's fight, let’s be together,” Curtin said. “If we make a mistake, we pick up the guy and help them out. We bail them out with some dirty running and recovery runs, so I think we looked like ourselves and that was important.”

Philadelphia benefitted from a hot start – Jesús Bueno opened the scoring inside the first minute – and took a two-goal advantage into the locker room on Mikael Uhre’s strike in first-half stoppage time.

And then Alejandro Bedoya came off the bench to put the match away with a 69th-minute goal, an important moment for the captain, who is returning from injury, and the rest of the Union.

“He's an incredible player, incredible person and to get him back now for the most important part of the season where we have now 11 games in the league – six at home, five away against some good teams for sure – but we need him at his max,” Curtin said. “It’s a great time to get him back going into the playoffs.”

It’s a quick turnaround for the Union from a third-place finish in a competition with 47 teams to the MLS regular season, where they'll head to Audi Field to take on D.C United next Saturday.

When the regular season paused for the first-of-its-kind World Cup-style club competition, Philadelphia are third in the Eastern Conference with 40 points from 23 matches.

“I think a performance like tonight gives us confidence. I think we were ourselves. We wanted the ball, everybody passed and moved together,” Curtin said. “Do we still make mistakes? Absolutely. But we had good responses to those mistakes. We weren't throwing our hands up at each other. We were together. And we bailed each other out when the errors were made.”

And while the disappointment of not lifting a trophy at the end of it will be there for Curtin and the Union, Leagues Cup was an “incredible success” according to the Philadelphia head coach.

“Obviously what Messi has done has boosted that, there's no question about it,” Curtin said. “But overall, if you look at the talent of the top Mexican Liga MX teams, the top teams in MLS, I think there's some really positive rivalries that are starting to form.”