The Philadelphia Union are through to the Eastern Conference Final of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in their history, prevailing in penalty kicks against Nashville SC at Subaru Park on Sunday after the contest finished 1-1 following regulation and extra time.

The sides swapped goals in the first half of their Eastern Conference Semifinal, with Hany Mukhtar finding the opener for Nashville and Daniel Gazdag leveling for the Union just before intermission. Those stood as the only goals through 120 minutes, with Philadelphia prevailing in the subsequent penalty kick shootout 2-0 after Nashville improbably missed all four of their looks from the spot, two of which were saved by Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The Union were on the front foot for much of the first half, but Nashville opened the scoring against the run of play on 38 minutes. Mukhtar found the breakthrough, racing onto the end of a pinpoint cross from Eric Miller and nodding past Blake.

Philadelphia struck back, however, finding the equalizer just on the stroke of halftime. Alistair Johnston blocked Gazdag's initial shot after a corner kick from Jamiro Monteiro popped free in front of goal, but the Hungarian midfielder tracked down his own rebound and slotted home a turning finish past Nashville backstop Joe Willis.

The Union had two good opportunities to pull ahead during the second half, first in the 62nd minute from substitute Sergio Santos, who found himself all alone behind Nashville's backline on the left side only to see his close-range chip float wide. Gazdag also thought he scored his second in the 77th minute, but his converted volley off a corner kick was disallowed for a foul just before the shot.

The 1-1 scoreline stood through regulation and two periods of extra time, with neither side creating a winner despite some half-chances both ways.

That set the stage for Blake's heroics during the ensuing penalty-kick shootout, as the standout Union backstop saved each of the first two shots from Mukhtar and Anibal Godoy. Santos also had his effort saved by Willis, but Alex Muyl and Walker Zimmerman each skied their attempts wide, allowing Philadelphia's converted shots by Jack Elliott and Jack McGlynn to send them through.

Goals

  • 38' - NSH - Hany Mukhtar | WATCH
  • 45'+2' - PHI - Daniel Gazdag | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: Penalties can be a cruel beast, and Nashville SC certainly found that out the hard way. It's a heartbreaking way for Gary Smith's group to see their season end, but there's plenty of reason for optimism about the future in Nashville. It's all jubilation on Philadelphia's side, as the Union are now one step closer to adding an elusive MLS Cup to their trophy case after taking their first-ever Supporters' Shield last year.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Nashville were still alive in the shootout until Zimmerman's fateful final kick, which went well wide of the target and sent Subaru Park into bedlam.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: Andre Blake came up huge during the shootout, as one would expect. Philadelphia needed their best players to show out, and the Jamaican international provided exactly that.

Next Up

  • PHI: Sunday, Dec. 5 vs. NE or NYCFC | 3 pm ET on ABC & ESPN Deportes (Eastern Conference Final); higher seed will host
  • NSH: End of 2021 season