Thanks to their seemingly impenetrable goaltender, the Philadelphia Union advanced further than they have in franchise history.
After 120 minutes couldn’t decide their MLS Cup Eastern Conference semifinal Sunday evening at Subaru Park, the 2nd-seeded Union and 3rd-seeded Nashville SC went to penalty kicks to decide things. That’s when two-time Goalie of the Year Andre Blake took over.
Blake opened the shootout by stopping Nashville’s MVP candidate, Hany Mukhtar, anticipating well and corralling Muhktar’s low shot to his right. After Jack Elliott drilled a perfect shot into the right side netting to put the Union up 1-0 in the shootout, Blake made a diving save to his left to deny Anibal Godoy.
Union forward Sergio Santos was stopped by Nashville keeper Joe Willis to keep their hopes alive, but Alex Muyl skied his attempt high and wide of the goal.
18-year-old Jack McGlynn stepped up for the biggest moment of his professional career, and coolly delivered a stutter-step bullet that wrong-footed Willis and gave the Union a commanding 2-0 lead in the shootout.
With the outcome all but settled, Nashville’s Walker Zimmerman butchered his team’s final chance at survival, just about sending his kick high up the River End stands and nearly into the Delaware River, clinching victory for Blake and the boys in blue.
The win gave Jim Curtin’s side its first-ever berth in the MLS Cup conference semifinals. They will face the winner between the top-seeded New England Revolution and 4-seed NYCFC, who will do battle Tuesday night at Gillette Stadium.
Mukhtar opened the scoring for Nashville late in the first half, running down a long cross and heading it home in the 37th minute. The Union responded just before the halftime whistle when midfielder Daniel Gazdag hammered one home from a corner, after his first attempt was blocked just in front of Willis.
The MLS Cup Eastern Conference final will be played next Sunday at 3:00pm at the home stadium of the higher remaining seed.