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Union Survive Columbus Crew Onslaught for Hard-Fought 1-1 Draw

This result allowed the Union to maintain their position above the Crew in the standings, with the Union having 51 points

In Columbus, Ohio, the Union faced a tough challenge as they battled the Columbus Crew at Field on Saturday night. Despite being outshot 20-11, with the Crew having a 10-2 advantage in shots on target and holding only 32% possession, the Union managed to secure a hard-fought 1-1 draw.

Their goalkeeper, Andre Blake, played a pivotal role with eight crucial saves, and Nathan Harriel's header from a corner kick in the 50th minute provided the Union with a vital goal. The match took a turn when Juan "Cucho" Hernández converted a penalty kick in the 72nd minute.

This result allowed the Union to maintain their position above the Crew in the standings, with the Union having 51 points compared to the Crew's 50. However, both teams were surpassed by New England, who secured a 2-1 home victory against Charlotte, and Orlando also maintained their second-place position with a 3-0 win over Montreal.

It was a surprising move when Union manager Jim Curtin chose to start the game with a 3-5-2 formation, but it was driven by the necessity to protect key players during a demanding schedule of seven games in 21 days. Dániel Gazdag, a regular starter, began the match on the bench for the first time since May 10. Additionally, with Jakob Glesnes sidelined, Curtin had to make adjustments to the defense, opting to use Nathan Harriel as a right centerback in a back three formation. This tactical shift also aimed to allow Olivier Mbaizo more freedom to join the attack.

The Union's midfield, missing José Andrés Martínez, relied on Alejandro Bedoya and Jack McGlynn in front of Jesús Bueno to thwart Columbus' playmaker-heavy 3-4-3 formation. The starting forward duo of Chris Donovan and Quinn Sullivan highlighted the challenges posed by the Union's congested schedule, with the decision not to start Mikael Uhre likely influenced by upcoming home games against Atlanta and Nashville.

On the bench, the Union had several options to boost their attack in the second half, but their ability to do so was contingent on their starters managing to hold their own. The Union's eight-game winless streak in Columbus since 2016 added to the uncertainty.

In the first half, the Union endured a barrage of attacks from the Crew but managed to keep a clean sheet. Blake made several impressive saves, and Harriel played a critical role in clearing dangerous situations. Despite being outshot 12-6, including 5-1 in shots on target, the Union held their ground.

Curtin's tactical gamble paid off as the second half began, with Harriel heading home a close-range effort from a corner kick by Kai Wagner just five minutes in. This breakthrough brought joy to the Union's bench and their coaching staff.

However, Columbus was awarded a free-kick just outside the Union's penalty area in the 69th minute, and it initially appeared that the Union had blocked it successfully. Nevertheless, a handball was called against Jack Elliott, leading to a booking for him and dissent-related yellow cards for Bueno and Wagner amid protests from the Union.

Hernández stepped up to take the penalty kick and successfully equalized the score in the 77th minute. To prevent the situation from deteriorating further, Curtin substituted Wagner out in the 77th minute.

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Sunday, October 1, 2023

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