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26 de Febrero de 2024 a las 16:17

Photo courtesy of JD Walker, Stream Punk Entertainment
Article by JD Walker
Columnist and Host of The Sports Den on Spanglish World Networks, Spanglish Sports World & Zingo TV
Philadelphia. - The Philadelphia Union returned home to the freezing friendly confines of Subaru Park in Chester Saturday evening. The team is racking up the frequent flier miles from the start this year as they just opened the season in Costa Rica in a driving rainstorm last Tuesday for CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC), a 3-2 victory over Deportivo Saprissa. The Chicago Fire play on the shores of Lake Michigan, so at least they’re no strangers to the cold. The game itself was plenty hot to heat up the place. From a freak injury, multiple goals called offside, and the game’s MVP being the crossbar, the momentum swung hard for both teams before ultimately ending in a 2-2 draw in the MLS opener for both teams before the Union resumes CCC play in a few days.
In the 2nd minute of the match Chicago defender Andrew Gutman went down near midfield in a non-contact injury with no opposing players near him. Gutman received medical attention for the hamstring but he was done for the night coming out for Chase Gasper in the 5th minute. Gasper coming in cold exposed a weakness on the right side for Quinn Sullivan and the Union to exploit early and often. In the 31st minute Julian Carranza was coming up the right side and sent a cross over to Daniel Gazdag directly in front of the net but his shot missed a few inches to the left. Chicago was not getting much going in the first half until the 39th minute Brian Gutierrez was just to the left of center and outside of the 18 yard box and sent a long range “Brujo bomb” a la Jose Martinez high over Union goalie Oliver Semmle’s head but managed to come down just enough in the downward arc to sneak under the crossbar and into the back of the net to give Chicago a 1-0 lead going into halftime. 
The Union had a nasty habit last season of scoring goals that were later reversed by VAR as offside. The bad breaks returned in force in the second half. Right out of the locker room in the 46th minute Quinn Sullivan passed up to Nathan Harriel on the right side of the box then Harriel sent a liner over to Gazdag directly in front of the net to send it home. The Subaru Park crowd went nuts and then the dreaded “box” signal came from the head referee to go take another look. One camera angle appeared to show Harriel was slightly offside, but other angles were questionable, so it was a big surprise for the crowd when the goal was overturned. The boys in blue went right back to work. In the 55th minute Quinn Sullivan again was holding court deep on the right side then he came toward the net and sent a beautiful feed over to Mikael Uhre directly in front of the center of the net for an easy tap in to knot the match at 1.
The Union appeared to be repeating the same trend of the Saprissa match in Costa Rica on Tuesday with a sloppy first half and then waking up with a vengeance in the second half. Sullivan had yet another chance in the 74th minute that goalie Chris Brady got a piece of to deflect out of the way of the bottom right corner of the net just before the ball went over the line. In the 81st minute Chicago crashed the box starting with a shot from the right side. Semmle initially saved it but was not able to cover as several players swarmed him. Gutierrez got enough control in the chaos to tap the ball over to Fabian Herbers in front of the empty left side of the net to finish the job and put the Fire up 2-1. The Union came right back down the field a few minutes later and had a corner kick in the 85th minute. The service eventually bounced out to Sullivan outside the box, sending a through ball up to Damion Lowe on the right side. Lowe sent a cross over to Uhre which deflected over to Nathan Harriel to send it into the bottom left of the net. Once again VAR reviewed and found Lowe was clearly offside and took the Union goal off the board. Eight minutes went on the board for stoppage time setting up an epic race to the finish. In the second minute of stoppage time, Sullivan again sent a through ball into the box which Alejandro Bedoya tapped over to Jose Martinez on the right side of the box. El Brujo quickly fired a cross up to Daniel Gazdag in front of the left side of the net to bounce a header into the net for the tying goal. We still weren’t done yet! Barely two minutes later the Union set up for a corner kick which Lowe was able to get over to Uhre in nearly the same spot Gazdag just found the net from but his game winner hit the crossbar instead. Chicago immediately came charging down the other end and Tom Barlow took his own attempt at a game winner which was saved by Semmle to keep it 2-2 and preserve the point for the Union. 
  1. Oliver Semmle made his debut for the Union starting in net in place of Andre Blake who suffered an abductor strain against Saprissa on Tuesday. Jim Curtin said he is a gametime decision for the second leg against Saprissa on the 27th. 
  2. Semmle is the 15th goalie to start for the Philadelphia Union in their history, appropriately coming at the start of the Union’s 15th season in MLS. 
  3. Mikael Uhre’s goal was his 23rd for the Union in his career, putting him in 8th place for most goals in club history. 
  4. All of the league matches this weekend used replacement refs as the PRO officials union is still under lockout by MLS as they have yet to reach a collective bargaining agreement for the 2024 season. 
  5. Chicago Fire return home for their home opener against FC Cincinnati at Soldier Field on Saturday March 2 at 8pm. 
  6. The Union have another quick turnaround to play their third match in a week as they play the second leg of their CCC first round matchup against Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica on Tuesday February 27th at 8pm at Subaru Park. This match will be broadcast on FS2.