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Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-0 Nashville SC

Kacper Przybylko’s goal from the penalty spot in the 18th minute was the only goal of the game as Philadelphia Union moved into second place in the Eastern Conference with a 1-0 win over Nashville SC on Saturday night at Subaru Park.

Jim Curtin named an unchanged side from the team that lost in Minnesota on Wednesday night, opting to keep the 4-3-2-1 “Christmas tree” formation.

Philadelphia would take the lead in the 18th minute through Przybylko’s penalty kick. Jamiro Monteiro’s free kick into the box bounced up and hit the hand of Taylor Washington and referee Armando Villarreal pointed to the spot. Przybylko stepped up and and fired a high, powerful shot down the middle as Joe Willis dove to his left.

Much of the match after the goal was a cagey affair with few clear cut chances for either side and a total of six yellow cards given out, split evenly between the teams.

The Union had a great chance to add to their lead in the 87th minute as Monteiro played in Przbyblko as Philly broke on the counterattack. Przybylko’s shot was hard but Willis made himself big and saved with his shoulder.

Philadelphia is next in action on Wednesday when they travel north of the border to take on Toronto FC (7:30 p.m.).

Three Points

  • Professional Performance. The Union put in a well rounded performance against a very stubborn Nashville side. It wasn’t the prettiest of matches, but Philly got their goal in the first half and limited Nashville’s chances all night. Job done and the Union move up to 2nd place in the Eastern Conference.
  • Clean Sheet. The backline was strong for all 90 minutes, with Jack Elliott and Kai Wagner putting in particularly gritty shifts. It was a terrific bounce back performance from the leaky side that conceded three sloppy goals to Minnesota on Wednesday.
  • The 10s. With Jim Curtin opting for the 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree the last two matches, the partnership of Gazdag and Monteiro has flourished. Gazdag scored a brace on Wednesday and Monteiro put in one of his best performances in recent memory against Nashville.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, Daniel Gazdag (Paxten Aaronson 61′), Jamiro Monteiro (Stuart Findlay 90+4′), Kacper Przybylko
Subs: Matt Freese, Sergio Santos, Anthony Fontana, Jesus Beuno, Nathan Harriel, Jack McGlynn, Quinn Sullivan

Nashville SC

Joe Willis, Eric Miller, Dave Romney, Jack Maher (Walker Zimmerman 46′), Anibal Godoy, Randall Leal (Jhonder Cadiz 77′), Brian Anunga, Taylor Washington (Dylan Nealis 77′), Alistair Johnston, Daniel Rios (C.J. Sapong 31′), Ake Arnaud Loba (Abu Danladi 62′)
Subs: Bryan Meredith, Jalil Anibaba, Alex Muyl, Matt LaGrassa

Scoring Summary

PHI: Kacper Przybylko – 18′ (penalty)

Disciplinary Summary

NSH: Ake Arnaud Loba – 23′ (foul)
PHI: Kacper Przybyko – 27′ (foul)
NSH: Anibal Godoy – 53′ (foul)
PHI: Jakob Glesnes – 55′ (foul)
PHI: Jamiro Monteiro – 62′ (foul)
NSH: Dylan Nealis – 90+2′ (foul)


  1. Tight game. Looked like a playoff game. Literally down to a single bounce of the ball.

  2. Happy with the win but they still didn’t show they could break down a team ceding possession given how the goal came about.
    I believe that one more win clinches a playoff spot.
    Would still like to see them go to the corner more with the lead in stoppage time.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Yeah so if we win one more game, Montreal can still match our win total. I believe their goal difference is 8 behind ours so a win would just about do it. 4 points make it 100%.

  3. Was at this one. First in a while. Union looked good most of the time. Lacked real incision in the final third. Liked to get it out right and rondo around without finding that pass inside. Some good opportunities wasted, too. But they looked quite a bit better than Nashville in every way.

  4. Attended this one. As poorly as the Union played in Minnesota, they played very well and composed against Nashville. Beyond a doubt, Nashville is the grabbiest, pushiest team in the league (which until now I thought was Columbus, but I was wrong). Nashville nearly got the equalizer off a grab by Sapong gave him a leg up. Just because the jersey tug does not injure the other player, the foul still needs to be called, especially if it results in an advantage to the offending team. Monteiro was MOTM, and he showed off his amazing skill with the ball on many occasions.

  5. I’m drunk. Good game Union!

  6. In Tanner We Trust says:

    I was nervous with it at first but I love Jim putting JM and DG next to each other and saying “figure it out”. And they have so far. I thought the middle would be too congested with only one ball to go around but it seems to have taken the pressure off of them. Monteiro doesn’t need to force a pass forward or play it backward, he now has a 3rd option to give it to the other #10, who may see an opportunity he doesn’t. Still not crazy about Miro at the 10 but this was the best he’s looked at the position.

  7. The Christmas tree does not force Gazdag to be a striker. It allows him to be what he is more naturally, which may actually be a 10.
    It also means that he does not have to cover the entire pitch touchline to touchline defensively,which right now is more than he can manage.
    The Christmas tree reflects having only one match ready striker.
    It also illustrates just how much ground Brenden Aaronson could cover ny himself defensively.
    Also, a reason for caution in interpreting this win is that Nashville was missing its best playmaker to yellow card suspension. He had had some minor buzz as an alternative to New England’s Gil as MVP, so his presence might have changed things.

    • Your comments actually represents one of the best things about the Union in my opinion. Without a huge name, they are not as dependent on any one player the way other teams are so if someone is hurt or suspended or away, they have someone else of similar quality to step up. And when multiple strikers are injured they can switch the formation to bring in players at other positions and still be in position to beat a good team.

  8. Anyone else think Martinez was given a talking to about when to show some urgency in dangerous situations? For all I was critical about him Wednesday, I thought he was much better at simply avoiding the press last night rather than trying to beat it by himself.

    • Much better. Still tried some cleverness early on, almost got burned, then was more responsible and decisive from there.
      So perhaps a combination of external pressure—whether from Curtain, staff or teammates—and his own awareness and intrinsic motivation.

    • I was at the match, and it was notable just how much more in control El Brujo was. No stupid risks, no ill-advised shots, consistently found the open space to receive the ball from the defenders playing out, and consistently made sharp passes up the middle (usually to Monteiro). And he only threatened to lose his sh*t once (and was calmed down by, off all people, Leon Flach!).

  9. It was a good solid win, the U were the dominant team throughout. But as Andy points out, this formation and personnel might struggle to score from open play against other good sides.
    It’s a limitation Curtain is likely fine with
    Wagner and Mbaizo will need to get to the opposition’s end line more often and cut balls back to the one striker and midfield runners. Less need to deliver crosses. That’s not a bad thing imho.

  10. I’m happy that the sloppy defense got it together! Still some moments of risky behavior but I think over all it was pretty well done. Liked that Curtin said he basically put them back out there to clean up that mess! And they did!
    Not a thriller of a game but they should beat a team that is missing it’s best players!

  11. I warned my son before we attended this match that there was a good chance we’d see a goalless slog, and I was nearly right; in fact, had Walker Zimmerman started, I suspect the game would’ve been a 0-0 draw.

    Yes, the Union showed continued difficulty breaking down a packed defense. However, Nashville is probably the top defensive team in the league, which mitigates this. And at least the Union repeatedly tried to do stuff through the middle this time instead of endlessly crossing. At times it looked promising too. (Gazdag is gonna grow into a sweet #10, I suspect…)

    The aforementioned notwithstanding, the U. clearly looked the superior team throughout the match. Hard to complain too much.

    P.S. Matches like this show that we simply need Sergio Santos on the pitch. His combo of speed & strength changes everything.

  12. soccerdad720 says:

    No one has mentioned the three, count’em three – pretty decent chances from open play that would’ve iced this game later in 2nd half. First, striker muffin got selfish when he could’ve slid it across to a WIDE OPEN AAronson….then AAronson returned the favor a few minutes later. Finally, Kaspar was selfish again, this time to montiero’s detriment. I’m all for a striker being selfish, as one myself, however, if you are gonna be selfish, at least get in on goal.

    It WAS GREAT to see the U take three from a solid opponent, and agree that montiero was MOTM. Dude was everywhere, and trickily there too.

    • Actually, if you’re thinking of the same ones as I am and the last one or two were during stoppage time, I would have rather seen the team just go to the corner and kill some time rather than trying to ice it with a goal.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      I’ll counter this with one observation. On the 3v2 where Kacper could’ve centered, Monteiro was making a run to the 6 already and dragging a defender with him when PA arrived. KP would have had to see Aaronson 20 yards behind him and avoided those extra bodies with his pass. Possible, but not as easy as it initially looked.

  13. Gruncle Bob says:

    No way 49 points finishes out of the money. They’re in, and 2nd place would be really nice – so would a healthy Sergio.

  14. Well played first half, and very professional handling of the second half to see out a win. Still can’t figure out the ongoing reluctance to make substitutions. Excluding Findlays cameo in stoppage time, we used one, compared to Nashville’s five. Does Jim simply not trust most of his bench options in tighter, physical matchups? I assume Santos being held out was cautionary, given his injury and not needing to chase the game after an early lead.

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