Subaru Park was packed with a crowd of 18,717 fans, and there was a lot of buzz in the building for the Union’s first game since Philadelphia became a 2026 men’s World Cup host.
But while the home team mostly dominated the play, the Union’s first home game in a month ended in a 1-1 tie on Saturday. After Alejandro Bedoya opened the scoring in the 17th minute, Brandon Vazquez equalized in the 39th, and that was it for the night’s scoring.
Here are some observations on the game.
A good week for Bedoya
It was a nice coincidence that one of Philadelphia’s World Cup bid ambassadors got the night’s first goal.
After a terrific hustle play by Julián Carranza, Bedoya dribble-faked a defender and shot between three Cincinnati players to the far post. There was an initial fear that Carranza was offside earlier in the sequence, but replays showed he timed his run past Cincinnati’s back line perfectly.
The goal happened in front of a new River End banner that reads, “The World Cup Happens in Philly.” Some of the Sons of Ben’s banners are temporary, but that one will get to stay up for a long time.
A Harriel mistake
The first replays of Vazquez’s equalizer raised skepticism in the stands about him being offside. In fact, two players kept him on, Jack Elliott and Nathan Harriel. And Harriel was especially at fault, ball-watching on the corner kick – barely moving at all, in fact – as Vazquez ran behind him.
Cincinnati spent much of the first half whacking José Andrés Martínez all over the field. He was officially fouled three times in the half, and knocked over a few times more. It came to a head just before the half-hour mark, when he had to stay down for a while.
Perhaps it was a coincidence that this happened with Martínez’s predecessor, Haris Medunjanin, across the field in orange. But in Medunjanin’s fifth game against his old team, this was a reminder of Martínez’s importance to the Union’s rise to MLS’s elite.
Wagner hammered too
The hit that Kai Wagner took from Cincinnati’s Nick Hagglund in the 62nd minute was one of the most brutal of the night. Hagglund landed left-foot studs into the top of Wagner’s right foot, and the yellow card he earned from referee Timothy Ford was a worthy punishment. If Hagglund’s studs were any higher, he might have earned a red card.
Wagner took a while to get up, and it was fortunate for the Union that he was able to continue playing.
Short on changes
Despite missing five players, the Union had a full bench – because two goalkeepers were on it, Matt Freese and Joe Bendik. Still, they didn’t have many attacking options to choose from in the second half.
After Cory Burke came in for Mikael Uhre in the 63rd minute, the only true attacking option left on the bench was reserve forward Chris Donovan, who was promoted from the reserve team to the top squad the day before the game.
It felt like an an attacking midfield option was needed in particular. But with Paxten Aaronson, Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan all with the U.S. under-20 men’s team, the candidates were two-way player Jesús Bueno and outside backs Olivier Mbaizo and Matt Real.
Donovan and Real entered in the 85th minute for Carranza and Flach, respectively.
Fortunately for the Union, Cincinnati’s defense turned generous and offered the home team some good-looking chances. Unfortunately, the Union couldn’t capitalize on any of them. Gazdag in particular had two great looks, but both times he shot straight at Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano.
The tie nominally pulled the Union (7-4-5, 26 points) into a three-way tie atop the Eastern Conference with New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls, but NYCFC has played three fewer games. Cincinnati, meanwhile, finds itself above the playoff line (6-7-2, 15 points) for a rare time in its history as the three-time reigning last-place finisher leaguewide.