The Union advanced to the quarterfinals of Major League Soccer’s tournament at Disney World with a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution that wasn’t pretty, but got the job done. Sergio Santos scored the winning goal in the 63rd minute with one of the game’s rare attacking sparks.
“A professional performance from start to finish and that’s what was needed,” Union manager Jim Curtin said afterward.
In the first half-hour, the Union created just one chance and New England created three. It took until the 40th minute for the Union to really wake up. Alejandro Bedoya sprung Santos for a decent shot that was deflected out; a minute later, Brenden Aaronson won a free kick 20 yards out with his first incisive move of the night. Kacper Przybylko headed Jamiro Monteiro’s service into the net, but knew he was offside and didn’t hide it.
Santos broke through again in stoppage time and should have scored, but shot wide right. By halftime, the Union had a 7-5 advantage in chances created and an 8-5 edge in shots.
New England had the better of the play early in the second half, exemplified by a 50th-minute buildup sequence that Kai Wagner had to snuff out with a sliding block. Six minutes later, the Revolution won a free kick and Gustavo Bou’s swerving hit forced a brilliant save from Andre Blake.
That seemed to wake the Union up. They finally started to put some authority on the ball, and in the 63rd Santos delivered the opening goal. Jamiro Monteiro set it up with a brilliant chip over the top of New England’s back line that Santos and Aaronson chased in tandem. As they pulled the Revs’ defense open, Aaronson made way for Santos to take the ball. He duly did, took one touch, then thumped a left-footed shot to the far post.
Santos left the game right after that for Ilsinho, who had been warming up for a few minutes.
“Really happy for him to get that goal,” Curtin said. “Maybe he was a little motivated because he saw Ilsinho up on the sidelines — he knew he probably only had one or two more runs in his legs. But a really good finish on a good play.”
Monteiro also saluted Santos’ work on the play.
“We are looking for that space every minute,” he said. “Santos is a player that runs a lot and [is] looking for the space in the right moment. He found, finally, the moment, and I gave him a chip and he made a good goal.”
In the 73rd, the Union came close to a second when Monteiro set up Aaronson with a lovely through ball. But Aaronson went down under barely any pressure from Wilfried Zahibo, and his appeal for a penalty kick had no chance. That was one of a few subpar moments for Aaronson on the night.
The second-half hydration break came three minutes later, and ESPN’s broadcast picked up Union manager Jim Curtin exhorting his players to get another goal.
“They’re exhausted, they’re so tired all over the field,” he said. “If we get one counterattack right, it’s 2-0, game over. OK? Let’s focus on that and play right.”
Curtin’s withdrawal of Aaronson for Warren Creavalle in the 83rd minute didn’t boost the attack, but it was justified given how poor Aaronson had been.
There was an attacking swap in the 88th: Andrew Wooten replaced Przybylko for his first action of the year when Przybylko cramped up.
New England didn’t threaten too much after that. Gustavo Bou took a 91st minute free kick from just over 25 yards out, but hit it straight at Andre Blake. It was Blake’s 23rd save of the tournament, the most of any goalkeeper in the league.
The Revs’ last chance came with one more free kick from afar in the final seconds. Alexander Büttner served it into the 18-yard box, Ray Gaddis headed it out of play, and referee Ismail Elfath called time instead of awarding a corner kick.
New England manager Bruce Arena was red-carded after the final whistle for offering some choice words to the officials.
The Union will play the winner of Sunday’s Sporting Kansas City-Vancouver Whitecaps game (11 p.m., FS1 and TUDN) in the quarterfinals on Thursday (8 p.m., ESPN and ESPN Deportes).