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Match report: Nashville SC 1-0 Philadelphia Union

photo: Marjorie Elzey

Former Union man C.J. Sapong scored in just the second minute and Nashville SC held on for a 1-0 victory against Philadelphia Union.

Jim Curtin made five changes to the team that drew with Chicago last weekend. Oliver Mbaizo returned to start at right back as Alvas Powell moved to the bench, Jack Elliott returned to the backline after moving to the midfield last week, with Stuart Findlay giving way. Alejandro Bedoya returned on the right side of midfield in place of Quinn Sullivan, while Daniel Gazdag made his first start for the Union, taking up a spot on the left side as Jamiro Monteiro kept his place at the top of the diamond. Cory Burke replaced Sergio Santos up top to partner with Kacper Przybylko.

Nashville took the lead in just the 2nd minute. Nashville broke at pace on the counter through Sapong and the ball came back to the former Union man at the top of the box. He controlled with his first touch and then fired a low shot into the bottom left corner of Andre Blake’s goal from just inside the area.

There was a flash point at the very end of the half as Bedoya came close to handling a deep Nashville cross into the Union box. Replays showed while Bedoya did reach his arm out as the ball came in, the ball actually hit his upper shoulder. The call was reviewed and no penalty was given.

The Union would throw on Sergio Santos, Jose Martinez, and Quinn Sullivan as they searched for an equalizer, but a listless Union attack failed to create many clear cut chances.

Philadelphia is next in action on Thursday, when they travel to New Jersey to take on the New York Red Bulls (8 p.m.).

Three Points

  • Short on ideas. The Union failed to create many clear cut chances throughout the match. It looked a tired effort.
  • Gazdag. Daniel Gazdag made his first MLS start, on the left side of the diamond. Monteiro failed to really influence the match from the top of the diamond, and we can wonder if we’ll see the two in different positions next time out.
  • Strikers. We’ve been waiting for the three strikers to find some sort of chemistry with each other and it’s just not happened. Is it time for a new striker? A switch back to a 4-2-3-1?

Scoring Summary

NSH: C.J. Sapong – 2′ (Randall Leal)

Disciplinary Summary 

PHI: Jose Martinez – 79′

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Olivier Mbaizo, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner, Olivier Mbaizo, Leon Flach (Quinn Sullivan 82′), Alejandro Bedoya, Daniel Gazdag (Jose Martinez 55′), Jamiro Monteiro, Cory Burke (Sergio Santos 55′), Kacper Przybylko
Unused Subs: Matt Freese, Aurelien Collin, Alvas Powell, Stuart Findlay, Matt Real, Jack McGlynn

Nashville SC

Joe Willis, Dave Romney, Jack Maher, Daniel Lovitz, Walker Zimmerman, Brian Anunga (Anibal Godoy 45′), Dax McCarty, Randall Leal (Luke Haakenson 87′), Alistair Johnston (Alex Muyl 45′), C.J. Sapong (Johnder Cadiz 82′), Hany Mukhtar
Unused Subs: Brian Meredith, Jalil Anibaba, Dianel Rios, Taylor Washington, Abu Danladi


  1. Gazdag shouldn’t be given defensive responsibilities. It actually shocks me that with Monteiro, who loves to get himself involved on winning the ball back, played behind the strikers and Gazdag out wide. He was invisible for that reason, nothing of his own doing. He had a few good passes that were just a touch hard or early.

    Mbaizo to me is super mediocre. I don’t see this “offensive” ability everyone loves to praise. He literally cannot cross. His 1-2 passes are usually misses. He’s fast, that’s all he has. He does the same stop cut back when he’s pressured, and McCarthy straight up stonewalled him while he tried doing it.

    Wagner was getting burned tonight. His positioning was so off tonight because lack of coverage provided by Gazdag, which again, isn’t his fault. He’s not a defensive player. He’s not really a wide player.

    Curtin needs to start thinking fresh, because teams are catching onto us. We’ve got countered hard by two teams that I really don’t think are better than we are, especially Chicago.

    We had chances. Ugly chances, but chances. We could’ve easily tied the game a few times, Nashville could’ve gotten another 1 or 2 as well.

    Also. Bedoya “handball”? No. I love the Nashville fans spreading their screenshots of the ball AFTER it hit his shoulder and bounces away. Amazing.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    That was the worst performance by the Union in several years, reminding me more of circa 2013 than 2021. When they were pressured they would try and play one on one rather than looking for an open man. The passes they were attempting were missing their target. They barely threatened at all. They also need to learn to keep their footing as they fell down numerous times with no pressure. If it wasn’t for some poor shooting by Nashville, some good saves by Blake, and a missed hand ball, this could easily have been a result similar to the one Toronto saw in DC today (7-1).
    Also not sure why Burke was subbed for. Assuming he is going to be with Jamaica by next game, they should have given Kacper a rest late and ran Burke into the ground.
    Thursday’s game is definitely worrisome if the Union are without 3 players while the cows will likely be at full strength and just won in Orlando.

  3. McMohansky says:

    That was forgettable.
    No one played well for the U, except Blake perhaps.
    But Mike and E are right to suggest Monteiro back on the left and Gazdag at the 10.

  4. It looked like a team trying to fit in a new player. I know they like the way Miro pressures at the ten so I get why he started there. I think passes were off from everyone. Bedoya gave you nothing all night with multiple giveaways. He should have been taken off instead of Flach or even Gazdag. Just a really bad effort all around. They looked slow and pondering until Martinez came on. MLS refs continue to be a joke. Sbiga top 3 worst. Learn some lessons and move on.

  5. It really does feel like the Union attack just can’t maker anything happen in the final third. Crosses to no one, turnovers…. Nothing all that threatening. An upgrade at striker sounds like a plan. Also agree that this squad seems better built for a 4-2-3-1. One slow, hold up man at the top is enough.

    Also, credit to Nashville fans for being pretty loud. That was definitely an atmosphere.

  6. Chicago showed everyone 5 in the middle shuts the Union down, disrupts the offense. Only the Fire’s lack of focus allowed us to tie. Chicago is not a good team.

    However, NSC isn’t Chicago, they are a good team, now 1 point below the U. NSC saw what Chicago did and now the league sees, will use it effectively against us.

    As someone said, worst looking loss in years… like Curtin had nothing in the bag to break out the offense but 17 year olds, sadly.

  7. Curtin has no imagination…… watching the train wreck about to happen

    agree with earlier comment Gazdag starting in an unnatural position that forced Wagner to stay back and took away some of the attack on the left. Mbaizo was invisible. Put Gazdag at top of Diamond. Isnt that why he was acquired ? (to replace Aaronson ). Move Montiero back on the left to allow Wagner to make his offensive runs, as was said Montiero can come over and cover a little if needed. Curtin needs to make adjustments when opponents clog up the middle. Where is the bench player with speed at the flanK? oh yea we traded Fafa away because he was not needed in this system. Ok I know there are no time outs in soccer but there has to be a way to use some kind of coded signal to have players switch positions or get wider on the flanks during the game. If Mbaizo had moved to Bedoyas position and Bedoya dropped back to right back and Gazdag moved inside and Montiero out left the union could have attacked from flanks. Thats been Curtins issue forever. He has always been to conservative to make a bold move once the game starts even everyone else sees the train wreck is about to happen. The offense was going no where all night.
    From early in the game it was a train wreck about to happen and Curtin did nothing much to change the outcome.

  8. el Pachyderm says:

    Hard to kill a team that’s played it’s way into top half of table the last 8 games and really week in week out has produced… but I will say that was the worst game this team has played in a long time. Just dreck. There are so many concerns I can’t even itemize here. I’ll leave it with this… I chose that shit over Copa. And I regret it.

  9. Uninvited Guest says:

    impatiently waiting for Tanner to bring in the on-ball talent and finishing this club desperately needs. If winning CCL is really their goal-I know it’s their “stated goal”- this roster isn’t going to cut it.

    Great plan by Coach Smith, who saw what Chicago did by formation and then built upon it with a far better squad. Union will see 3-4-3 in their sleep until they find an antidote. Wish Philly had a Mukhtar & Leal available….. Nash looks like the real deal to me.

    The first half of ’21 was an experiment to see if Fontana could cut it and Santos build upon his ’20 in the top. Epic fail x2. Both could go for me-they need far better. If Gasbag was brought in to run things…..then let him run things!

  10. Maybe you, like me, watched a lot of footy yesterday. By the time I got the the Union game I was waiting to switch over to Argentina. I stuck it out though, for those late game heroics that never came. Really poor all around. Even the miscommunication with Blake almost costing us a goal. Could easily have been 3 on us. Happy for Sapong scoring. No more though. Forgettable and move on.

  11. el Pachyderm says:

    Gazdag’s natural position is as an 8… for those thinking he is a 10.
    How that translates to the style this team plays is anyone’s guess.

    • He played as a 10 almost his entire career, he’s listed on everything as a 10/attacking midfielder. He’s also played mostly as a striker or behind the striker the last 2 years.

  12. We were out of sorts and were figured out without figuring out in turn. Watching Sapong score almost immediately was painful. Of all the players we ought to have figured out, it was him. Let’s see what they learn from it on Thursday.

  13. Well that was just awful!! They have been good for a long time. That, however, was bad.ok…on to the next! Come on the U!!

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