Chester, PA – I thought I would’ve been writing this article in a hotel room in Boston but instead, I am back in Philadelphia. That’s right, I am back in Philly as the Philadelphia Union and NYCFC faceoff in Subaru Park for the 2021 MLS Eastern Conference Final. The Union from the city of brotherly love, the city of Benjamin Franklin look to make history for a city filled with it. Their opponents play in the house that Ruth built, trying to bring a championship to a place that knows all about champions.
How we got here
Looking back at the Union’s path to the ECF, they defeated the Red Bulls in the 120th minute with a goal from Jakob Glesnes. This allowed them to face Nashville SC who pushed them to penalties which proved why Andre Blake is a star. Blake saved two of the penalties which resulted in Nashville missing the last two giving the Union the victory.
For NYCFC it was a home game at Yankee Stadium welcoming in Atlanta United which saw United’s Alan Franco receive a red card along with the 2-0 loss. Valentin Castellanos and Alexander Callens found themselves on the goal sheet for City. They pulled the major upset traveling to Gillette Stadium and defeating the number one seed New England Revolution on penalties to advance to the ECF. Castellanos received a late red card which would see him miss the ECF.
I gave the edge to the Union in this ECF matchup because of NYCFC missing Castellanos. That is, until I heard the news Saturday morning that Philadelphia would have 11 players miss the match due to COVID-19, which included captain Alejandro Bedoya and goalkeeper Andre Blake. I switched my pick to NYCFC in which I would end up being right, but credit to the Union for showing up and its fans as well in full force.
How the East was won
The match was hard-fought and very physical with very few chances in front of the goal. The physicality/skill and the electric atmosphere at Subaru Park once again stole the show. NYCFC’s substitutions happened to make the impact and if I were Jim Curtin, I would’ve brought Paxton Aaronson into the match a lot earlier. However, the Union opened the scoring on an own-goal in the 63 rd minute. It didn’t take long for a response as Maxi Moralez answered right back tying the match 1-1 in the 65th minute. Caught napping in the back during a ball played in would provide the heartbreaker as Talles Magno puts it in the back of the net to make it 2-1 in the 88th minute. This goal would allow NYCFC to become Eastern Conference Champions and reserve a spot in the MLS Cup Final.
The final will be played on December 11th from Providence Park in Portland between the Portland Timbers and New York City FC.
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