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09 de Marzo de 2024 a las 14:19

Photo courtesy of CONCACAF Advanced Media
Article by JD Walker
Columnist and Host of The Sports Den on Spanglish World Networks, Spanglish Sports World & Zingo TV
Philadelphia. - Another rainy Tuesday at Subaru Park, another night of CONCACAF chaos. CF Pachuca won the Apertura (first half) of the 2022-23 Liga MX season and had the highest combined point total of both halves to earn a first round bye in CONCACAF Champions Cup. They have gone through a bit of a transition with several player sales and transfers, but they are climbing back up the table currently sitting in 3rd in the Clausura (second half) with a high powered attack regularly scoring multiple goals a game, hitting 4 goals in several matches. The Philadelphia Union are of course normally defensive stalwarts but they have been uncharacteristically playing from behind in all of their matches this season so far, although in a much smaller sample size. Despite being down a few players due to injury and suspensions, the Union found their old selves again boosted by the return of starting goalie Andre Blake in a defensive rock fight of a game ending in a double clean sheet 0-0 in the first leg of the CCC Round of 16.
The theme for both teams in this game was “bend but not break”. The Union were able to get enough flashes of good ball movement to come up with several chances but none found the back of the net. Mikael Uhre had two close calls setting up on the left side, but both shots were denied in the 7th and 16th minutes. Pachuca tightened things up afterwards and seemed to be intercepting every pass whenever the Union came across the midfield slowing things to a grind, but the Union had an answer each time. Érick Sánchez had a fast break for Pachuca in the 19th minute after a Union free kick came back the other way, but Sánchez sent it high and wide into the supporter’s section. Shortly before halftime, “Peak CONCACAF” finally arrived in force. In the 44th minute Oussama Idrissi came up with a shot from the left side of the box that was blocked in front of the net. The block was called a hand ball on Nathan Harriel and he was issued a yellow card and a penalty shot was imminent. When the officials went to VAR, they caught something that was missed live. A few passes before Idrissi’s shot and Harriel’s hand ball during the setup, Pedro Pedraza actually had a hand ball of his own which led to the setup pass to Idrissi. VAR went back far enough to review both elements of the sequence and came to the decision to rescind Harriel’s yellow due to being canceled out by Pedraza’s handball a few seconds prior. No PK, no yellow, and offsetting handballs, Union awarded possession to end Pachuca’s closest chance yet. This wasn’t on my CONCACAF bingo card, but either way the first half ended scoreless. 
    The second half ratcheted up the tensions early in the 47th minute Gustavo Cabral leveled Mikael Uhre to earn the first actual yellow card of the match. Pachuca found Idrissi again in the 55th minute, finding an opening getting past Olivier Mbaizo and letting off a long range shot from outside the box on the left side which managed to sneak through the pack but missed wide right of the goal by a few inches. Mbaizo later earned a yellow card of his own in the 61st. The Union’s best chance came in the 77th minute as Quinn Sullivan came on the attack up the right side, sent a pass up to Uhre that was blocked by Carlos Moreno but he could not gain control of the ball. Daniel Gazdag fielded the rebound in the center of the box and sent his quick shot over the crossbar. “El Brujo” Martinez and the Union midfield frustrated Pachuca’s attack throughout the game, and on defense Pachuca knocked Martinez all over the field but the officials made it clear they were calling nothing and letting Pachuca do what they wanted to him. Amazingly, El Brujo made it through 90 minutes of abuse without losing his mind and maiming anybody or earning a yellow card, keeping his composure and earning Man of the Match honors in the 0-0 draw and going back to Mexico with the all important advantage in away goals. The solid contingent of Pachuca fans were undeterred, and still see plenty to party over despite going scoreless.
News and Notes:
Andre Blake returned for his first action since the first leg of CCC at Saprissa two weeks ago. Julian Carranza did not play due to injury while Damion Lowe and Jack Elliott were unavailable due to card suspensions from the Saprissa match. 
The Union remain at home and take on the Seattle Sounders at Subaru Park on Saturday March 9 at 7:30pm. All MLS matches are streaming on Apple TV+.
CF Pachuca returns home for a match Sunday against Club Queretaro 
These teams meet again at Estadio Hidalgo in Pachuca, Mexico for the second leg of the CCC Round of 16 matchup on Tuesday March 12 at 8:15pm. The match will be broadcast on FS2. 
Game Highlights & Interviews: