The Union beat D.C. United, 2-1, Saturday at Subaru Park in a game marred by a lengthy thunderstorm delay. Sergio Santos and Kacper Przybylko scored on either side of a Yamil Asad penalty kick, and the win moved the Union (6-3-5, 23 points) into second place in the Eastern Conference.
Here are some observations on the game.
Early jitters again
For the fourth straight game, the Union risked giving up a goal in the opening minutes. This time, D.C. (5-7-1, 16 points) created a chance just 14 seconds after kickoff, as Junior Moreno intercepted a Jack Elliott pass and sent the ball the other way. The ball eventually came to Nigel Robertha, who rolled it past a diving Joe Bendik toward the far post. Fortunately for the Union, Adrien Pérez was a step late and the ball went out of bounds.
A terrific opening goal
The Union’s opening goal, scored in the 11th minute, was a showcase of fast-break attacking. Olivier Mbaizo started it with a smart bit of dribbling out of the back, then a pass to Alejandro Bedoya on the right flank. He sent a pass toward Dániel Gazdag in the center of midfield, who flicked the ball around a defender and into Santos’ path with one touch.
Santos was wide open and off to the races. He needed just two touches to place home the finish and give the Union a badly-needed early lead.
On the video replay reviews
The video replay booth went 2-for-2 on big reversals of calls by referee Alex Chilowicz. Unfortunately, neither went in the Union’s favor. But they were both right, and all the better that both decisions were made quickly.
The first reversal came in the 54th minute, when it looked like the Union’s Leon Flach had won a penalty kick after being tripped by Moreno. But the replay booth saw that Moreno cleanly got the ball before Flach went down.
In the 70th, a Santos goal that would have given the Union a 2-1 lead was overturned for offside. The call was close and a bit fluky, but correct.
Santos was offside when Kacper Przybylko played the ball toward him, and while the ball bounced through a crowd to get to Santos, it didn’t touch anyone along the way. Fans might not have seen all the replays, but TV viewers at home saw a freeze-frame of the moment when the pass was made and Santos was clearly off.
Curtin wins a substitution gamble
Union manager Jim Curtin waited a long time to make his first substitution, hoping his starters — especially his starting attackers — would deliver a second goal. He won the bet. In the 83rd minute, Leon Flach sprung Santos on a breakaway with a beautiful long ball over D.C.’s defense, and Santos squared back for Przybylko to score and put the Union up 2-1.
During the ensuing stoppage, Santos was withdrawn for Quinn Sullivan.
Just over three minutes later, Mother Nature made an arrival that had been awaited all night. Chilowicz sent everyone off the field, and many fans hustled to their cars before the thunderstorm turned torrential. The delay lasted just under two hours — 9:26 to 11:18 p.m., for the record-keepers — and the game resumed with the clock reading 85:55.
When the game resumed, the Union successfully saw off the rest of regulation and five minutes of stoppage time.
The night’s key stat
It wasn’t Przybylko ending a five-game goal drought. Or anything Gazdag did in his best performance for the Union so far, creating both of his team’s goals.
It was Santos playing 82 minutes, his most in a game since his last 90-minute outing on March 1, 2020. His previous high this year for minutes in a game was 78 against the Red Bulls on May 16 of this year.
Bendik steps up
Honorable mention for the night’s key stat goes to Joe Bendik. He made two saves and a handful of other clutch plays to help seal the win. It was his first victory as a starting goalkeeper since May 6, 2018, when he backstopped Orlando City to a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake.
The weather rule
As it had been a while since the last time a Union game was suspended due to weather, it’s worth clarifying Major League Soccer’s weather rule here. Games are not called early in MLS as they are in baseball. They must be played to their conclusion at some point.
“In the event a match is abandoned at any point prior to its conclusion, it will be postponed, rather than canceled and/or final,” the league’s rule book says. “In the event the match is postponed at any point, any remaining time will be completed the following day or as soon as practical.”