Past editions of the Union might not have won a game with a man advantage against a bunkering opponent, never mind 4-1 as they did Sunday night over Montreal. Indeed, as Jim Curtin attested to after the game, the Impact in particular have given the Union a lot of headaches over the years.
This was only the Union’s sixth ever win over the Impact in 21 meetings: three in Chester, two in Montreal, and Sunday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., thanks to U.S.-Canada border restrictions.
While the scoreline looks good, it covers up some problems early in the game that Curtin had legitimate complaints about at halftime. To the Union’s credit, they stepped up early in the second half and quickly put the game out of reach.
If you picked him as the Union’s man of the match, you aren’t wrong. He delivered a command performance: 82 touches, four interceptions, three tackles, three clearances, one block, one aerial duel won, two shots, one chance created, and 60-of-65 passing.
After the final whistle, he added another solid delivery: a zinger about his assist on Anthony Fontana’s goal.
“That’s the 302 connection,” said McKenzie, who grew up in Bear, Del., nine miles from Fontana’s native Newark. “We work on it in training, restarts and whatnot. I kind of scuffed the header for sure on my layoff to ‘Font,’ but ultimately just trying to be a presence in the box ... it’s ultimately just about winning your one-on-one duel and beating your defender to the spot.”
McKenzie’s best play of the night, though, was the pass that split Montreal’s entire midfield and defense to Brenden Aaronson, who fed Kacper Przybylko for the Union’s third goal. You can bet it added a few dollars to the transfer fee he’ll command when the time comes.
No one feels his misses more than Przybylko does, and his two early in the first half were glaring. He made up for them and then some with his two goals, including a perfect header in stride at the end of the first half.
Przybylko now has 22 goals in 41 all-time appearances for the Union, including seven goals in 15 games this year. He still has droughts and might keep having them, but overall, his scoring average is above a goal every two games. Those are good odds.
“For me, I’ve played in so many clubs and I was always fighting just to stay in the league,” said Przybylko, who played for four German teams in six years before coming to Philadelphia. “Now, playing here with [this] team, it’s different and such a great feeling having so many victories.”
Obviously, his two crosses were highlight-reel moments. But as has been said repeatedly here, it’s Real’s defensive efforts that will win him more playing time. This is not because Curtin is a former defender. It’s because even in a system where the outside backs get forward a lot, left back is still left back.
So it was encouraging that Real recorded two tackles, two clearances and one block along with completing 54 of 60 passes. He completed 16 of 18 passes in his own half of the field, including a perfect 10-for-10 in the second half.
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His champions in the Union’s fan base were surely thrilled that he created two chances and completed 39 of 47 passes, including 3 of 4 crosses and 3 of 3 long balls. But it’s also worth highlighting that he recorded zero tackles for the first time in any of his six appearances this year, and his two interceptions and one clearance tied single-game lows.
Did you miss José Andrés Martínez? If you didn’t, that’s a testament to more than just the lopsided score. In Creavalle’s 45 minutes on the field, he had three interceptions and one clearance, and completed 22 of 24 passes.
And by the way, congratulations to him and wife Chelsea Coffey Creavalle, who recently announced their first child is on the way.