Union / Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 3-0 Portland Timbers

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union demolished an injury-ravaged Portland Timbers side on Sunday night at Subaru Park, with goals from Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos, and Jack Elliott leading the way to a 3-0 victory.

On the back of two straight victories, Jim Curtin made just one change to his starting lineup, bringing Sergio Santos in at striker for Cory Burke. Daniel Gazdag, who made his debut with the club last Sunday, was unavailable, as he is away with the Hungary national team in advance of the European Championships.

It was a chilly evening by the Delaware River on the last Sunday in May, with the temperature hovering around 50 degrees at kickoff. The crowd, announced at 6,635, was the largest at Subaru Park since 2019, as state guidelines allowed for up to 75% of the venue’s listed capacity. Both sides took the pitch in “Primeblue” kits — pale blue for the Union, deep blue for the Timbers — that made the match a bit of an aesthetic nightmare.

Andre Blake snuffed out an early Portland chance off a free kick. Lined up thirty yards from goal and dead center, Diego Valeri hit a curler that seemed destined for the inside of the post. But Blake, agile as always, lept and caught the shot, making a really difficult save look almost easy.

Kacper Przybylko broke the deadlock with his second goal in as many games in the 26th minute. On a free kick drawn by Santos about 35 yards from goal, Kai Wagner lifted a ball over the line of Timbers, finding Przybylko’s head. The finish was easy for Striker Muffin, as Portland’s defenders failed to mark him and keeper Logan Ketterer came for the ball and ended up well short.

The Union doubled their advantage just five minutes later, this time with Santos supplying the finish. Wagner’s corner kick found an again-unmarked Przybylko in the box, who headed towards goal. That header found Santos, who emphatically put the ball in the roof of the net from about four yards out. It was the first goal of the season for the Brazilian striker.

Philly’s faithful were celebrating what seemed like a third goal right before halftime. Again off a corner, the ball came to Leon Flach, whose shot deflected off a Timbers player and into the net for what would have been his first Union goal. But referee Robert Sibiga went over to the monitor, where he concluded that Flach had trapped the ball with his arm. As rain began to fall, the crowd booed when the goal was waved off, even though the Union would still take a 2-0 lead into the halftime break.

Philadelphia put the game to bed with a 63rd minute goal from Jack Elliott. Substitute Cory Burke headed a corner kick directly at Ketterer, who saved but could not control the rebound. The ball skittled around in the box before falling to Elliott, who poked home from one yard out for his second goal of the season.

Burke, active after entering, had a shout for a 76th minute penalty when he was dragged down by Bill Tuiloma in the box chasing a cross. The referee decided that the contact was incidental. At the other end, Blade came off his line to stone Jeremy Ebobisse after a bad giveaway sprung the Portland attacker. Diego Valeri fired the rebound over an empty net, neatly summarizing Portland’s toothlessness on the night.

With the result secured and the Sons of Ben chanting “WE WANT PAXTEN,” Curtin handed a MLS debut to Homegrown attacker Paxten Aaronson in the dying moments of the match. Cory Burke had a chance to add another in the last minute before stoppage time, but Ketterer came off his line to save.

With the win, the Union head into their three-week June break sitting pretty in second place in the Eastern Conference. They’ll be back in action with a rematch against Champions League rivals Atlanta United on Sunday, June 20. Kickoff from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Georgia will be at 2:00 p.m.

Three Points
  • Set pieces. All three Union goals on the night came off set pieces. Some of that was due to lax defending by the Timbers, but the Union’s strikers were sharp and the delivery was the best it’s been in weeks.
  • Clean sheets. The win gives the Union three straight clean sheets. Keeping clubs off the scoresheet is Jim Curtin’s preferred way to win, and he’ll be happy with how they’ve done since the schedule settled down.
  • A late debutant. The locals love them some Paxten Aaronson.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Olivier Mbaizo, Jacob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach (Paxten Aaronson 89′), Alejandro Bedoya (Quinn Sullivan 90+1′), Jamiro Monteiro, Kacper Przybylko (Anthony Fontana 90+1′), Sergio Santos (Cory Burke 60′)
Subs: Matt Freese, Aurelien Collin, Stuart Findlay, Matt Real, Jack McGlynn

Portland Timbers

Logan Ketterer, Josecarlos Van Rankin (Pablo Bonilla 89′), Bill Tuiloma, Dario Zuparic, Claudio Bravo, Yimmi Chara, Eryk Williamson, Diego Valeri (Renzo Zambrano 89′), Jeremy Ebobisse, Felipe Mora (Dairon Asprilla 79′), Marvin Loria (Zach McGraw 68′)
Subs: Hunter Sulte, Blake Bodily

Scoring Summary

PHI: Kacper Przybylko — 26′ (Kai Wagner)
PHI: Sergio Santos — 31′ (Kai Wagner, Kacper Przybylko)
PHI: Jack Elliott — 63′ (Cory Burke)

Disciplinary Summary

PHI: Olivier Mbaizo — 5′ (dissent)
POR: Dario Zuparic — 62′ (foul)
POR: Claudio Bravo — 72′ (persistent infringement)


  1. A nice and needed finish before a well deserved break.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    I thought this was the Union’s best overall effort this season. The passing, while not perfect, seemed more accurate than it’s been all season, especially the short, ball control passes.
    Once again, the ref was an embarrassment. I’m not talking about the key calls like the VAR, I’m thinking of several situations where he would let something go at one end and then 20-30 seconds later call a foul on a similar play at the other end. And Mbaizo got a yellow card (deservedly) for tossing the ball away when he disagreed as to who the ball went out off of, but later on one of the Portland players did the same thing and was just warned.
    It was nice to see Martinez play a clean game (although he still was in Sibiga’s face too much).

  3. Great 3 points. I’m glad Paxten got some time on the pitch, and hopefully he won’t always be compared to his brother by the announcers.
    On a side note – what was with the during play interview with Curtin?

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    Just missed my second game in a row for the first time, maybe ever- Out of sorts a bit but thankful for some key updates throughout the game.

  5. In Tanner We Trust says:

    Portland definitely weren’t their usual selves, but we took care of business. Wagner and Monteiro continue make our set piece history fade from memory. Remember winning 13 corners per home game and getting 0 goals out of them? Nah, me neither. Must’ve been in a dream or something.

  6. It was cold,wet,and a really good win! There were Timbers fans sitting 2 rows in front of us. After the game I asked how far they traveled
    .he said just up From North Carolina. Pretty cool that they were able to come up for a game. Really nice guy! Complemented the U on a great game. And said hope we get ya back next time! Let’s hope not!
    Either way I wished him safe travels home!

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Always great to meet respectful opposing fans and have a nice conversation, and maybe a friendly back and forth. I hate when fans visit stadiums with the intention of irritating the home fans.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      Had some great interactions with Timbers fans in my section too. Super friendly, brought their little kid to his first game, supported their side through all the goals, didn’t mind the rain. Textbook away visit.

  7. Micah Bertin says:

    I would edit the description of the third goal. The ball did not “skittle around in the box”. Scorey very aggressively and astutely followed up his header, took a shot which deflected to Elliott, who buried it. While Burke did not get an official assist on that goal he clearly earned it and it was his goal as much as Elliott’s.

  8. I realize a USMNT v Switzerland summary article may be coming on PSP today, but in advance of that I’d just like to point out that Mark McKenzie was by far the best US center back in the game yesterday. I thought Aaronson played well too. I guess Aaronson will go to the bench when Pulisic starts against Honduras this week? But might McKenzie start?

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      The Aaron Long Achilles tear means Berghalter is looking for a partner for John Brooks. McKenzie gives speed and athleticism that few other center backs have, as well as strong defensive instincts.
      Certainly Tim Ream did nothing for his chances.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      We don’t have someone covering the USMNT full time right now. We are accepting applications of course…

  9. “At the other end, Blade came off his line to stone Jeremy Ebobisse after a bad giveaway”

    Daywalker now plays for the Union. Nobody scores…and lives.

  10. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Blake’s save against Diego Valeri in the 5th or 6th minute seemed huge to me at the time.
    While the ageless Argentinian is not Andrea Pirlo, he is doggone close. But Mr. Brickwall set the tone. The match goes differently if Valeri scores that one.

  11. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Rebuilding attendance may take some time
    A detail of little importance to the Union’s fans but of great importance to its managers is the attendance at Subaru Park Sunday, May 30th against Portland.
    Attendance was not close to 75% of capacity, i. e., 13,500. It was 6,635, or 36% of that capacity.
    • The match occurred in the middle of the first three-day holiday weekend of relaxed but not eliminated pandemic restrictions in 15 months.
    • The temperature was in the high 40s, the wind was out of the northwest at over 10 MPH, and it was rainy.
    • Not every Union fan in the Delaware Valley has recovered economically from the pandemic
    • Not every such fan may have restored his and her confidence in the safety of cheek-by-jowl public gatherings with no temperature checks, verified vaccinations, or other anti-virus measures.
    The eyeball test from row Z in section 123 suggested that the extra crowd density may have been concentrated in the less expensive seats. Certainly several large families with plenty of young children ranked in adjacent rows could be seen, a pattern not seen last fall and less obviously earlier this spring.
    Tim McDermott and his sales staff will be considering additional ticketing strategies applied with more intense effort.

    • We almost bailed out. Then some friends kinda twisted our arms! It will be interesting to see if attendance is up for the next home game! Also the time frame of a few more weeks down the road. And the financial situation of some is a factor!

    • I for one am firmly in Category 4. I’m glad some folks are ready to go back in person. The atmosphere sounds more fun each game. But I’m not there yet. Hopefully by September when we host Petulanta United.

      Row 123 Section Z? I sat two rows behind you for years?

      • Andy Muenz says:

        It definitely seemed safer with the smaller crowds the last few games last season. They were much stricter about masks, keeping people apart, one way aisles, etc.
        Last night was the first time they removed the one way and had full occupancy in the rest rooms, but even the few games before that, many people were ignoring some of the protocols.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I doubt if they really could have gotten 75% assuming they still wanted to keep a seat or two between groups since they would have had to work around the seats already sold.

  12. I’d also add that increased ticket availability wasn’t well publicized for the more casual fans who don’t haunt the team’s official and fan websites. The state restrictions got lifted today. As people go back to normal and see full action in general sports, that will spread the word for the next home games.

  13. Andy Muenz says:

    Anyone have any idea why Blake isn’t shown on the MLS website as being among the leaders in Clean Sheets? He’s not even listed in the top 4 even though he should be number 1.

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