Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 4-0 Deportivo Saprissa

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union weren’t just happy to be in the CONCACAF Champions League.

The competition’s newcomers thrashed tournament veterans Deportivo Saprissa 4-0, scoring three goals in a second half seven minute spurt. Combined with the fist leg, the 5-0 aggregate scoreline has the Union through to the quarterfinals.

It was a warm (in spirit) return for fans at Subaru Park, with the deluge of goals all coming in front of a vocal River End.

Saprissa saw their winless streak stretched to ten games after a home draw with Pérez Zeledón over the weekend in the Costa Rican Primera División.

Union head coach Jim Curtin made no changes to a starting 11 which saw out the 1-0 first leg victory at “The Monster’s Cave” — becoming the first MLS to win at the home of Saprissa since 2005. Returning from injury, forward Sergio Santos provided his manager with an attacking option off the bench.

It was a different story for the visitors.

Manager Roy Myers was forced into wholesale changes due to a combination of COVID-19 protocol and injuries. Four new faces featured in the Costa Rican side’s 11. Former Bethlehem Steel alum Walter Cortés started in a back line without two center backs from last Wednesday’s clash.

One man who did feature was right midfielder Ricardo Blanco, who whose “questionable” challenge resulted in the raucous sequence  which concluded the past meeting. When introduced, Blanco received quite the Philadelphian welcome.

Saprissa began the match as they ended the last— pressing high and forcing the Union to work through their early intensity. But the home side nearly dashed the Morados hopes just six minutes into the match.

After winning a corner following a sprint down the right flank, Union captain Alejandro Bedoya flicked header from the following free kick fell to the feet of centerback Jakob Glesnes. The Norseman thundered a shot off the goalkeeper’s right post, and the ball caromed nearly thirty yards in the opposite direction.

The Union continued to force play. Only the Union’s imprecision up top prevented the Boys in Blue from adding to their lead.

With flashbacks of Wednesday, the edge returned after another crunching Saprissa tackle left midfielder Jamiro Monteiro grounded. It begged the question: what is a red card in CONCACAF?

The score line from first leg held as referee Fernando Guerrero blew the halftime whistle. While Philadelphia threatened, Saprissa were held without a shot on goal in the opening 45 minutes.

When play resumed, Guerrero’s whistle blew just seconds later. Forward Anthony Fontana sliced through the Saprissa defense before being felled just as he entered the box. Guerrero immediately pointed to the spot. Up stepped Monteiro and in went his strike. The Union had their stranglehold.

Four minutes later, Saprissa were finished.

Monteiro’s inswinging corner just missed the head of center back Jack Elliott. Right behind his teammate was Przybylko, whose free header gave him two goals in two Champions League matches.

Fans in the River End had more to celebrate just three minutes later. Monteiro earned his second assist sliding a pass to forward Anthony Fontana. After flashing cool finishing last season, the Union’s first Homegrown slotted his shot across frame. The goal put the stamp on a convincing debut in international competition for the Union.

For the cherry on top, Monteiro picked up his fourth point of the night scoring his second in the final minute of action.

As far as what’s next? Philadelphia will take on Atlanta United in an all-MLS showdown in the SCCL quaterfinals, which resume starting Apr. 27. Before then, the Union open the regular season with a road showdown in Ohio. The defending champion Columbus Crew will take on Philadelphia this Sunday at 5:30pm at Historic Crew Stadium — previously known as Mapfre Stadium.

Three Points

  • Subaru stout. After going a perfect 9-0-0 in MLS regular season play during their run to the 2020 Supporters’ Shield, the last game at the Park was a 2-0 knockout defeat. Tonight was a return back to last season’s dominance.
  • Two for two. Przybylko wasted somes chances in the first half. But there was no mistake on his headed goal. A goal a game is a pretty good pace.
  • Knack for knockouts. While new to the competition, Curtin and the Union aren’t strangers to knockout competitions. After all, look at their success in U.S. Open Cup play.

Andre Blake; Olivier Mbazio, Jakob Glesnes (Aurelien Collin 89′), Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner; Jose Martínez (Stuart Findlay 67′), Alejandro Bedoya (Quinn Sullivan 76′), Leon Flach (Jack McGlynn 68′), Jamiro Monteiro, Kacper Przybylko (Sergio Santos 76′), Anthony Fontana
Subs: Matt Freese, Matt Real

Deportivo Saprissa

Aaron Cruz; Ricardo Blanco, Jordy Evans, Esteban Espíndola, Walter Cortés, Luis Jose Hernández; Jedwin Lester (Jonathan Martinez 65′), David Guzmán (Atim Roper 70′), Christian Bolaños (Jimmy Marin 65′); Michael Barrantes, Daniel Colindres (Jostin Telleria)
Subs: Douglas Sequeira, Matthew Bolaños,  Alejandro Gómez

Scoring Summary

PHI: Jamiro Monteiro – 47′ (penalty)
PHI: Kacper Przybylko — 51′ (Jamiro Monteiro)
PHI: Anthony Fontana — 54′ (Jamiro Monteiro)
PHI: Jamiro Monteiro — 90′ (Sergio Santos)

Disciplinary Summary

SAP: Jedwin Lester — 35′ (foul)
PHI: Jose Martínez — 48′ (foul)


  1. Man…that was definitive.
    Maybe just another game. Maybe a milestone. Maybe the beginning of a new social contract with this team and it’s fanbase.
    Just so long as no one ever calls it, “The new normal.”

  2. Miro is a absolute monster! What a player.

  3. Really nice game from Monteiro, the passing from him (and the team as a whole) was so much crisper in transition than it was in Costa Rica. Also great to see Fontana bounce back well after a bit of a stinker last time out.

    I also thought Mbaizo had a pretty nice game, his giveaways were minimized and he was very threatening from the right throughout the first half. I’m still not completely sold on him as the starting RB, but he’s making a case for it.

    Looking forward to both Columbus in the league and Atlanta in the CCL.

  4. Job well done. Closed it out professionally. Congratulations on the convincing win.
    Another red card missed. Not surprised. Just grateful Miro’s leg wasn’t broken. What a night for him!
    Still left some opportunities begging, but not going to get into it. Moving on. ATL is next.

  5. Dominant performance.

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    Only thing that could have been better would have been if the final sub had been Freese for Blake to bring on one more kid rather than Collin who’s already played in several CCL games.

  7. Andy Muenz says:

    I’d be happy if 4-0 wins were considered “normal”. On second thought, I’ll stick with 5-0 wins like against Toronto last year as being normal.

  8. Granted, Przybyłko got a goal again on his head, but he needs to get a goal on his feet. How many chances did he blow inside the 6 yard box? This kind of thing catches up, and after last season, it’s not a fluke but a pattern. He needs to work on his foot finish hour upon hour in practice. That’s something controllable within the player.
    . . .
    It was a weakened Saprissa side on an unusual slump but, hey, a definitive win is a win. It’s rare enough to get into the CCL as we know and passing the first stage is superb, so hopefully they’ll set their minds on Atlanta. It’s a twofer…domestic travel and further training against an MLS season opponent.

  9. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Saprissa demonstrated how NOT to beat the Union.
    Leave Jose Martinez comparatively uncontested and unchallenged in the deep-lying central midfield behind Jamiro Monteiro as the attacking central mid.
    The Union seemed to press more intensively with Monteiro and Martínez at the top and bottom vertices of the midfield triangle.
    If a combination of de Vries, Flach, and McGlynn can hold down the left channel shuttling central midfield responsibility – I liked how Flach and Wagner understood instinctively how to cover for each other defensively – leave Monteiro and Martínez where they have been and let a good shooter who tracks back well into the midfield to defend stay at second striker, particularly while the group is so very thin up top.

  10. What a great performance from the midfield. As others noted, Monteiro was a beast and had a great game (he was like his 2019 self rather than the 2020 version). Martinez was dominant again, and so smooth and confident on the ball and linking together passes. Bedoya was solid, again, and Flach looked like he’s been playing with his teammates for a while (instead of just a few weeks of practice that it’s actually been).
    Fontana was much more involved in this one than last game, when he seemed invisible.
    And the defense was dominant too. Blake was never really tested in this one thanks to Glesnes and Elliott stopping attacks before they started.
    Finally, it was good to see Jim make some smart subs once the game was determined to give Martinez and Bedoya a break.

  11. The commentator was spot on that he appeared to learn from his first outing as a forward.

  12. To me, they looked like a preseason team in the first half. Had some bad giveaways that Saprissa did not punish. They also benefitted from poor finish with a few good chances that Saprissa put wide of goal so Blake didn’t have to do anything.

    Once they scored the PK Saprissa’s will seemed to evaporate. GK for them the only player who stood out to me with a couple of stops.

    All in all a good experience for the Union and a chance to warm up for regular season. Next game will be a test as Cbus will not allow that much freedom as OSC mentioned above and they will ruthlessly pounce on mistakes. Expect to see them push up their left and test MBaizo much more.

  13. Well that was a pretty good statement on your home pitch! I hope to watch on DVR later and see some of the replays of buildup. The U looked confident. As stated above Montero was very fluid and Monteiro has a beast!

    On a separate note. It was just great to be in the park!

    Off to Ohio and Georgia! Come on the U!!

  14. They played an inferior side, with 4 injured starters, and other out due to Covid. They won (and were dominant in the midfield) as they should be against a team with such a line-up. There were definitely mistakes in the 1st half that a better side may have taken advantage of. I’ll chalk that up to pre-season, glad we got through, but there is still plenty of work to be done to get into form.

  15. A joy to watch. Monteiro was on another level tonight. How do we keep him in that gear? Is it just knowing he has Martinez behind him? The two of them are earing their paychecks like nobody else. Bedoya continues to be the stalwart, tireless leader. With the likes of him on the pitch it’s no wonder the young guys know what they’re working towards. The youth look dangerous as ever. Mbaizo’s offensiveness is a delightful change from Ray. Elliot at the 6 is so much fun! Was Kacper getting his goals the most understated “win” from these games? We all know how cold he can get. Here’s to hoping he stays in the vein of goals!
    At this point I might as well say something nice about everyone. It was a great two-leg performance. The fellas seem to know their jobs and I’m eagerly awaiting league play.

  16. YES – all of this!
    Flach was a beast! Jim’s going to have some hard decisions to make in midfield if he wants to put Fontana back at #10.

  17. Gruncle Bob says:

    Solid win against a weakened opponent. Hopefully they can do this against league bottom dwellers. JM was great. Kacper scored, yes, but had some bad flubs in the first half. Would like Sergio to have gotten more minutes.

    The best “revenge” was to crush them, and they did.

  18. I can’t decide whether Monteiro or Martinez is their best player and I love it. M&M. Pure gold.

  19. Exactly this. On the one hand it is nice to have quality depth (as long as Jim isn’t afraid to use it.) Flach didn’t look like someone who has only had 2 weeks of practice with the team.

    The U looked like they completely out-classed their opponent. (As they should have given the number of first team-ers missing from Deportivo Saprissa.)

    I think it is a positive sign that the 2 CBs and el Brujo can’t be given space, or they will find the right diagonal pass.

  20. As “enthused” as I was to watch the Union take this team apart, I agree, that is what should have happened against a depleted side like that. There were alot of mistakes in the first half, but Saprissa just could not take advantage of them… Mistakes a better team, even one depleted, could have made us pay for…
    Saying that…
    Being an ex-defender, I think our back four are going to be one of the best lines in the MLS this year….

  21. I thought Flach had a better outing in the first leg.

  22. I’ve run the emotional gamut of tabulating the numerous asterisks that deserved to be appended to the accomplishment of bouncing a much-depleted Saprissa side out of this competition to letting my own personal hype horses run wild with thoughts that it just might be possible the Union could win this whole thing and be the first US team to win it in 20 years. Might not be likely. But it is not inconceivable.

    Last night was fun, and anything going forward is going to be great (just bummed we have to play boring old Atlanta and one of the Mexican clubs next).

  23. Keep the train rolling. I see no reason to be anything but extremely pleased with this win. Well done Union.

  24. Went on the Atlanta website. The consensus was the Union beat a happy team. They seem to be very confidentc very cofident that the Union will have a very difficult scoring against them. I think if the Union come out with the same intensity they will win the series vs Atlanta.

  25. Went on the Atlanta website. The consensus was the Union beat a verry
    Crappy team. They seem to be very confidentc very cofident that the Union will have a very difficult scoring against them. I think if the Union come out with the same intensity they will win the series vs Atlanta.

  26. OneManWolfpack says:

    Convenient for the Atlanta fans to talk about how the Union beat a weakened Saprissa team, when they did the same thing to Alajuenese. To me, the Union are no better or worse than Atlanta. Should be a fun 2 legs.

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