Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 0-2 New York City FC

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Coming off the high of Concacaf Champions League success, Philadelphia Union crashed back to earth in MLS play on Saturday night, with a fifth minute goal for New York City FC’s Jesus Medina and a 16th minute red card for Jose Martinez leading to the Union’s second straight defeat at Subaru Park.

With this match sandwiched between two legs in the Champions League, Jim Curtin took the opportunity to make three changes to the lineup that started against Atlanta in midweek. Matt Real came in at left back for Kai Wagner, Anthony Fontana replaced Leon Flach in midfield, and Cory Burke started for Kacper Przybylko up top. All three made their first starts of the MLS season.

The visitors, coming off a 5-0 victory over hapless FC Cincinnati, started brightly, with Valentin Castellanos forcing Andre Blake into a save before the Union had a chance to touch the ball.  Four minutes later they had the opening goal, a Jose Martinez miscue in the attacking half leading to a City breakaway. Jesus Medina played in Anton Tinnerholm, whose centering pass found Medina at the six yard box. His one time finish beat Blake and put the Boys in Blue on the back foot.

Martinez, already suspended for Tuesday’s CCL tie through yellow-card accumulation, earned a few more days off with a straight red card in the 15th minute.  Brujo brought down Castellanos in the midfield and, as he went down, brought a hard elbow down into the playmaker’s face. Referee Ismail Elfath, who had given Martinez a stern talking-to moments earlier, initially handed out a yellow card. But after a look at the VAR monitor, Elfath pulled a bright red card out of his chest pocket, sending the Union midfielder to the showers early.

It was the Union’s first red card in over two years.

City nearly doubled their lead minutes later on a counterattack. The cross from Gudmundur Thorarinsson on the wing was inch-perfect and found the feet of Valentin Castellanos right on the doorstep, but his one-time finish went high.

In the 29th minute, Andre Blake was called upon to make a leaping save after a final-third turnover found the feet of Maxi Moralez. His deflected shot from outside the box looked destined for the top corner until Blake palmed it away.

The game became a mess for the Union, who could not keep the ball or even hammer it out of their own half. With each turnover or misplay, the socially distanced crowd at Subaru Park grew more frustrated. The frustration grew on the pitch, too, with Jamiro Monteiro picking up a yellow card for a hard foul on Medina in the 38th minute.

Philly finally earned some attacking possession in the 42nd minute leading to a free kick. The ball over the top found Sergio Santos, but the striker could only knock it harmlessly wide of Sean Johnson’s goal. After a half in which they were thoroughly outplayed, the hosts were happy to enter the break only down one goal.

Neither side made a change at halftime. The flow of play on the field didn’t change either, with City dominating the ball and creating chances. Moralez blasted a shot from about 25 yards that forced Blake into another leaping save, seconds after a tackle that left Monteiro on the ground in pain. Blake went down for another stop on Tinnerholm moments later. And a desperate slide from Jakob Glesnes was all that stopped Moralez from a point-blank chance after he sliced through the Union’s defense.

Jim Curtin played his cards in the 61st minute, inserting Flach, Wagner, and Przybylko for Fontana, Real, and Santos. It had the feeling of a planned line change, and this writer was surprised to see the night continue for Monteiro and Alejandro Bedoya. The changes turned the tide momentarily, with Philadelphia earning their first sustained attacking possession in what felt like an hour.

But City put the match to bed moments later, thanks to a disastrous error from Glesnes. Jack Elliott headed a ball high in the box, which fell to Glesnes. With Blake not taking charge, the Norwegian made the ill-advised decision to play the ball back to Blake, and his chest pass was woefully underpowered. Castellanos beat Blake to the ball and rounded the keeper for a rabona tap-in.

With the match lost, Curtin pulled Bedoya for Homegrown Jack McGlynn in the 72nd minute. Not much changed, as both teams were basically content to play out the string at that point.

The Union are back in action at Subaru Park on Tuesday night, as they take a 3-0 lead into the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal against Atlanta United. Kickoff from Chester is at 8:00 p.m.

Three Points
  • Ugly start. City attacked without fear from the first moment, and the Union conceded far too easily. It has been a long time since Curtin’s men found themselves in an early hole.
  • The madness of Martinez. El Brujo had been asking for a card from the first minute, and the referee had no choice but to oblige after Martinez’s dangerous elbow. The Union will now need to survive two games without him — and maybe more, if the Disciplinary Committee extends his suspension.
  • Two-track mind. Getting through to the Champions League semifinals is a priority, and Philadelphia are positioned to do it. But one point through three league games — two at home — is a disappointing start, and after Tuesday’s tie the Union will need to get their domestic form in better shape.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Matt Real (Kai Wagner 61′), Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo, Jose Martinez, Alejandro Bedoya (Jack McGlynn 72′), Jamiro Monteiro, Anthony Fontana (Leon Flach 61′), Sergio Santos (Kacper Przybylko 61′), Cory Burke (Quinn Sullivan 85′)

Subs: Matt Freese, Aurelien Collin, Stuart Findlay, Cole Turner

New York City FC

Sean Johnson, Gudmundur Thorarinsson (Malte Amundsen 76′), Alexander Callens (Vuk Latinovich 90+2′), Sebastien Ibeagha, Anton Tinnerholm, Keaton Parks (Nicolas Acevedo 76′), James Sands, Alfredo Morales (Ismael Tajouri-Shradi 67′), Maxi Moralez, Jesus Medina (Andres Jasson 90+2′), Valentin Castellanos

Subs: Luis Barraza, Chris Gloster, Tayvon Gray, Justin Haak

Scoring Summary

NYC: Jesus Medina — 5′ (Anton Tinnerholm)
NYC: Valentin Castellanos — 65′

Discipline Summary

PHI: Jose Martinez — 16′ (red) (violent conduct)
NYC: Alfredo Morales — 18′ (foul)
NYC: Sebastien Ibeagha — 25′ (foul)
PHI: Jamiro Monteiro — 38′ (foul)
NYC: Maxi Moralez— 45+2′ (foul)


  1. I still believe. In The Union I trust. Look at the MLS teams in CCL, all are performing badly in the league. I think we will get back on track after we WIN on Tuesday and don’t have to think about the CCL for months.

    Flach: what a player. What. a. player.

    I also like that McGlynn got some minutes and for a while was looking pretty competent getting on the ball and passing around.

  2. Inexcusable not to get monteiro, arguably your top player, some much needed rest. This one was a mess from the get go.

  3. Peter Pappas' Pappy says:

    It would be nice to have real functional depth and offensive TALENT in this squad.

    Move/pass/receive pass/control/read game…..you know; stuff like that.

    JP: “Martinez’ card set the tone for the game.” No it didn’t. They were outclassed from the opening whistle-and behind before he got sent off. Anybody really think they were going to compete if he’s not ejected (at that point-because the red was always coming.)

    3 MLS games. 1 goal. It’s not going to change if they don’t stop playing guys out of position.

    • Agreed and martinez is not your guy in that spot …slide monteiro to cdm and push fontana to cam…flach and mcglynn out wide…curtin won’t tho

  4. Micah Bertin says:

    It was good to see Scory go the full 90 and I thought he did well tonight.
    I planned at halftime to go to the union shop and much to my (non fan) wife’s delight, come home with an Artisano jersey and move the Bimbos to the back of the closet. My son said he would personalize his with whoever scored the first goal of the season, so he had claimed Monteiro. After much back and forth between Bedoya, Fontana and Martinez I decided on Martinez.
    My son got his jersey, but I walked away empty-handed because there is no way I can now put number 8 on my back. I love him he’s still one of my favorite players and arguably he is the union key player. But that was such an incredibly selfish, boneheaded move – to clearly intentionally elbow somebody in the face and suddenly put his team in a very bad position. To call it bush-league would be an insult to bush leagues.

    If Aaronson were still around his name wood be on my jersey, no question. I think for now I’ll buy it with no name – so I can walk out the house to a game without my wife glaring at me, haha – and add a name when the right choice becomes clear.

  5. el Pachyderm says:

    NYC came out in the 3-4-3 dropping Sands deep and split between the CB in total control for the first /0 min and the Union had no idea how to manage it. Totally dominated in the midfield which led to Martinez getting frustrated and earning the Red Card he’s been cruising towards for weeks.
    Just an awful display of soccer. Some will make excuses. Just not good enough. Too slow. Too untechnical. No ideas.
    Just Play Well.

  6. I’m thoroughly disgusted with Jose Martinez. The starting lineup and overall team strategy was crafted and dependent on balancing the MLS and CCL obligations with extra matches in quick succession.
    . . .
    Martinez got himself red carded early after being a main cause for City’s opening goal. Not only did this leave us goal down but a man down, and this left our players expending extra energy for the match and with extra tired bodies for the Atlanta 2nd leg CCL QF and remaining MLS matches in May.
    . . .
    He’s now banned from the 2nd leg CCL match on Tuesday due to yellow accumulations plus MLS match bans for today’s red that might be extended upon review.
    . . .
    This behavior also has to be a locker room morale killer.
    . . .
    He could be Messi and yet be not only useless but also injurious when being this undisciplined. He needs to get his act together immediately or be shown the door. Enough’s enough.

  7. Martinez praised for walking that line. Tonight he crossed it. Is anyone surprised he gets the first red in 2+ years? Already suspended for CCL for unnecessary cards. Already sternly warned by the ref literally minutes before the red. Coach and crew have talked to him. Cap has called him out tonight. I hope he gets multiple games because nothing is getting through to him.
    It’s early in the season. Sure, I go with that. But this Jekyll and Hyde play is hard on the nerves. The defensive blunders are just ugly.

  8. Old Soccer Coach says:

    All teams practice playing a man down.
    When the first unit was reassembled in the 61st minute, the change in offensive effectiveness was clear. Before that there was much less effectiveness in trying to create offense. Ideas were mentioned at halftime, but the red card forced an unrehearsed combination to try to play together in the left channel, Matt Real playing behind Cory Burke who was doing his best to try to think like a flank midfielder. That meant Real had to stay home defensively, completely. For the flash half hour of the first half little to no offensive thrust came out of play in the Union’s left channel, understandably.
    I was thankful for the Bedoya sub. The only was Monteiro could have been subbed that I can figure would have been to leave Real on the pitch when Wagner came on, because Sullivan had to stay in reserve to get Cory Burke whenever he died. The de Vries concussion limited their options.
    I was glad to see Jack McGlynn get some minutes. He seemed focused on maintains possession rather than creating play and advancing the ball. His physical pace will improve some with practice and age. The precision of his longer passes needs to improve. The mental thought processes seemed to be there.

    The clear difference between Anthony Fontana and Leon Flach reflected the difference between the qualities of the practice milieus of Bundesliga 2 and MLS, most likely. From Fontana’s point of view, his development might be best helped by going to Europe and getting himself into the best league that will take him.
    Finally, a question. Should the Union play the 4-4-2 narrow diamond on Tuesday, or should they switch to a 4-2-3-1 with Bedoya and Elliott in a double pivot in front of Holden and Glesnes? Josef Martínez did not start for Atlanta, and will be rested for Tuesday.

    • I said a week ago that they should play a 4-2-3-1. But I’d put Bedoya and Monteiro there rather than pushing Elliott up. Then you can play Santos-Fontana-Flach. I would rather see the three of them on the pitch together than see Stuart Findlay for the first time.

    • Stu Holden won’t come out of the broadcast booth to play for us.

  9. Andy Muenz says:

    What a waste of 2+ hours. The Union can’t handle the high press. They were dead when Martinez decided to watch the play from the ground when NYCFC was busy moving in to score the winning goal.
    Unlike last year when they were a TEAM the Union appear to be a bunch of individuals. The number of times a pass was made to the spot where someone should have been if they weren’t just standing around was ridiculous. They also seemed morally opposed to attempting a fast break and kept letting NYCFC get numbers back on defense.
    And once again, now that the activist players (McKenzie, Gaddis, Creavalle) are no longer there the team is standing during the national anthem. For what it’s worth, every player on NYCFC kneeled and then played like a team that was together.

    • Yeah that’s several games now in which the Union have had major trouble handling the high press. Not sure what’s different this year, unless the switch of Aaronson for Flach/Fontana is screwing up the chemistry. Or is it not having MacKenzie’s passing out of the back?

      I think they may gel with a little time. Plus there will be a #10 coming in a few months, I bet. But Jesus that was one rotten egg of a match last night.

  10. The Union made no effort to spend any of the $12+ million they made from sale of Aaronson and McKenzie, and no effort to replace those players. Flach is a replacement-level player not a substantive replacement for either of our homegrowns. And Findley doesn’t seem to have won Curtin’s famous confidence. We also got extra resources for qualifying for CCL. And the FO did nothing to improve the team and nothing to reinforce player pool to compete in MLS and CCL simultaneously. Bedoya is older and slower. Not having a backup #6 when el Brujo is so key to the way this team wants to play, having a 3rd striker in Burke who really should be playing with Union
    II, all extremely frustrating. Curtin’s reliance on 12-15 guys and refusal to use others is his crutch and failing. Id like to get an established coach who’s actually won something who can lead a revamping of this roster… Caleb Porter is the model.

    • T.Coolguy says:

      It seems that Tanner believes that the best use of that money will be to wait for the summer, where the financial implications of the pandemic means there will be a lot of European Clubs needing to sell. So I’m waiting to see what happens then before I criticize the club for not using their resources. That said, I agree we’re awfully thin right now, but that’s less on Curtin than Tanner’s gamble IMO.

    • Section 114 says:

      + 3/4

      Agree it’s shameful they are holding back 10 million Gerber Bucks. Combined with the choice to half-ass the USL problem.

      If they could loan out the kids and just get some adequate pros for the back half of the roster last night would’ve been a single game loss instead of exacerbating all our weaknesses. This is all on El Cheapo Sugarmsn.

    • “Flach is a replacement-level player not a substantive replacement for either of our homegrowns.”

      You what mate?????? Flach is looking great out there.

  11. In Tanner We Trust says:

    Was very angry about the result, so I need to mark some positives down to keep from going insane:

    1. We have the best GK in MLS history at his peak right now
    2. This is the first time Martinez has actually been sent off, so maybe just maybe he’ll realize there are consequences to his actions
    3. 2021 Monteiro may be even better than 2019 Monteiro. Hopefully he has enough gas in the tank for Tuesday
    4. Santos seems to be very close to full fitness and certainly did his best last night to keep us afloat
    5. When Flach finds better chemistry by summer and autumn he will be a very key cog
    6. The back 4 put out every single fire that would’ve been Brujo’s assignment. NYC’s only goal with 10 men came on a brutal mistake having nothing to do with NYC
    7. Good to see McGlynn and Sullivan get minutes despite trailing, that definitely surprised me
    8. I know this is the biggest stretch of opinion, but at the very least, when everyone is exhausted from the next few games, our #6 will have 100% fresh legs

    I know we’re all extremely ticked off right now, but it could be worse. Take care of business Tuesday and they’ll buy more patience from us fans

  12. SoccerDad says:

    1. Glesnes doesn’t seem to have the same level of confidence this year.
    2. Jose has to be Jose. Yes that was an ugly display to get the red card but as another Jose famously said, “You have to play like a c##t out there.” And if you blunt his edge he won’t be as effective a player.
    3. I hadn’t noticed it before, but Flach’s acceleration is astonishing.
    4. The summer schedule got a little easier with no open cup. (Yes that is a cup half full take)
    5. Tuesday’s rope a dope came from the same not being able to handle the press. One less option in the midfield made it more difficult.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Agree 100% about Martinez. Have to take the ‘flaw’ too if you want to love the edge. All things being considered I think he does a great job managing the razors edge… and last night he cut the team.
      Some of Unions age old glaring deficiencies were highlighted by a team of straight ballers. Reminds me of watching the U18 Union Academy team play the Pilkington NYCFC Academy team a few years ago. The difference in quality and style of play was so stark it was uncomfortable to watch. Gary Lewis standing on the sideline yelling at his players “to give it a big one.”

  13. I don’t get why, when they finally decide to start Fontana, they still don’t put him at #10.
    Miro was not a #10 in 2019
    Miro was not a #10 in 2020
    Miro is still not a #10 in 2021
    Miro is undoubtedly one of our best players, but he will not unlock defenses for us.
    Why play BOTH Fontana and Jamiro out of position?

  14. There is a difference between being Philly Tough and just plain dirty. Martinez’s intentional and totally unnecessary elbow was disgusting. He owes an apology to the player, his team and fans….without the red we had a shot at a point or three. #playthegame!

  15. Meh, it was bad. Apologies to Peter, the defense looks terrible. Glesnes seem to have a mistake in him. Whether or not it will cost the team is a coin flip. Elliot has made some iffy choices in lunging at players taking him out of position. Their communication with each other seems lacking.
    Martinez plays on the edge, and as such is going to run into a red card or two during a season. It was an ugly one. It’s still going to happen.
    It’s a loss. No the team hasn’t played well in MLS competition, but there’s still time. Not going to over react over this.

  16. Timothy A Herring says:

    Dear All, what you are lacking, is the insight that it has been long past time to send Sugarman and Curtin packing.

  17. Alicat215 says:

    You can tell Jim is majorly worried about the depth of this squad with who we see him roll out each week. It’s unsustainable frankly, but luckily after Tuesday they can worry a few months from now about it. Come August they will need some squad rotation.

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