The Philadelphia Union will play hosts LAFC in the MLS Cup final after coming from behind to score three quick goals in the second half to beat defending champions New York City FC 3-1 at Subaru Park in Sunday’s Eastern Conference final.
After NYC took the lead in the 57th minute through Maxi Moralez, Philadelphia quickly responded in pulsating fashion with three goals in 11 minutes through Julian Carranza, Daniel Gazdag and Cory Burke to send the Union to MLS Cup for the first time in the clubs 13-year history. history.
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LAFC defeated Austin FC 3-0 in the Western Conference final earlier on Sunday, meaning the MLS Cup will be a battle between the top two seeds for the first time since 2003.
For Philadelphia and coach Jim Curtin, it’s a long-awaited breakthrough after winning the Supporters’ Shield in 2020 and continuing to improve and challenge year after year.
And it will be especially sweet after falling at the same hurdle in 2021.
Sunday’s game was a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference final at the same venue, when NYCFC won 2-1 against a Philadelphia team decimated by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Although nothing on that scale, both teams came into this game with major injury problems. For Philadelphia, captain Alejandro Bedoya returned to the starting lineup for the first time in this year’s playoffs, but lasted just 45 minutes before having to be substituted.
On the New York side, interim head coach Nick Cushing was boosted by the presence of Moralez, but was without key defender Maxime Chano as well as forward Talles Magno.
Union had the better physical first half, but neither team created a clear scoring opportunity. The home team had the ball in the net in the 16th minute, but Gazdagu was immediately flagged for offside after he headed home Kai Wagner’s free-kick.
Additionally, Sean Johnson in the NYCFC goal was able to comfortably save shots from Gazdago and Carranza late in the half.
Just an hour ago, the game exploded into life.
NYC produced the best move of the game up to that point, going from the back to the front and culminating in Santiago Rodriguez laying the ball out to Moralez, who finished with signature quality from just outside the box with a low shot drilled into the corner of the box. net.
Within three minutes, NYC’s lead looked set to double only for MVP candidate Andre Blake to pull off a sensational full-length save to keep out Alexander Callens header.
As so often for the Union, Blake’s intervention proved crucial.
Five minutes later, in the 65th minute, the home team equalized. NYC were caught napping when Jakob Glesnes flicked a quick free kick past his defense and Carranza clinically finished past Johnson.
Within two minutes, Philadelphia was still ahead, and the decibel volume inside the already rocking Subaru Park rose even higher.
Carranza was again heavily involved, this time perfectly heading into the path of an unmarked and lateral Gazdago who side-footed high into the net from inside the penalty area.
With NYC still reeling from the dramatic turnaround, they found themselves two goals down in the 76th minute.
This time it was all about substitute Burke as Justin Haak cleared the ball and burst into the box before getting a touch of luck when the ball bounced to him from a defender.
His finish was strong, though, and sent Philadelphia, who had been knocking on the door of MLS’s elite for so long, into their first league game.