Union match reports

Match report: New York City FC 1-1 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Howie Pollard

A second-half goal by Valentin Castellanos cancelled out Kacper Przybylko’s first-half finish, as Philadelphia Union managed a draw versus ten-man NYC FC at Yankee Stadium.

The result, combined with scores from around the league, wraps up the regular season with the Union in second place, good for home field advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Their first playoff opponent will be New York Red Bulls.

Jim Curtin reintroduced Jamiro Monteiro and Leon Flach into the starting XI for Decision Day, replacing Paxten Aaronson and Jack McGlynn in the now-familiar 4-3-2-1 formation. Cory Burke and Alvas Powell returned to the bench after injury layoffs, while Sergio Santos missed out.

The teams spent the early minutes on the postage-stamp field at Yankee Stadium feeling each other rout, with the Union doing well to clog the midfield but unable to spring their attackers the other way. Daniel Gazdag had the first quality chance after Kacper Przybylko played the ball down to him in the box, but Alexander Callens deflected the shot wide of goal.

A terrible tackle by Gedion Zelalem reduced the hosts to ten men in the 21st minute. The ex-Arsenal man miscontrolled the ball and lunged wildly to recover it, going in to Leon Flach’s ankle with his studs. Originally given as a yellow on the field, the referee took a look at it on the monitor and changed the call to a red.

Just moments later, Przybylko gave the Union the lead with his 12th MLS goal of the season. A cross looped in by Olivier Mbaizo initially missed the striker, but Flach found the cross at the far post and crossed back to a waiting Przybylko, who made no mistake from point-blank range. NYC shouted for offside, but the goal stood after review.

With the man advantage, Philadelphia monopolized the ball through the rest of the first half, even without creating any high-quality scoring chances. The Union entered the half with everything working in their favor.

The home team came out with more energy at the start of the second half. An early corner forced Andre Blake into his first action of the game, as he dove to snare a flicked-on header by Alfredo Morales.

The goal came in the 53rd minute, and it came from the Golden Boot leader: Valentin Castellanos. A looped-in cross from Moralez found Castellanos’s head in the six-yard box, and he deftly floated one in at the far post. Blake could do nothing but watch the ball settle in his net.

With the Union unable to reassert control of the game, Curtin brought on McGlynn and Aaronson in the 66th minute, removing Flach and Gazdag. The substitutes stabilized what had been one-way traffic, and New York City failed to really threaten Blake’s goal the rest of the way.

That said, the Union did not convert their man advantage into a winner. The best attempt of the half was a relatively tame attempt by Jamiro Monteiro. The late introduction of Cory Burke didn’t add much offense either.

As the final whistle blew, news came in from the Music City that Nashville had only managed a draw with New York Red Bulls. With that result, the Union secured second place in the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia will host New York Red Bulls in the first round of the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs at Subaru Park. The date and time of that matchup remains to be announced by the league.


Philadelphia Union 

Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Jose Martinez, Alejandro Bedoya, Leon Flach (Jack McGlynn 66′), Jamiro Monteiro (Jesus Bueno 90+3′), Daniel Gazdag (Paxten Aaronson 66′), Kacper Przybylko (Cory Burke 82′)

Subs: Joe Bendik, Stuart Findlay, Nate Harriel, Alvas Powell, Quinn Sullivan

New York City FC

Sean Johnson, James Sands, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Malte Amundsen, Alfredo Morales, Gedion Zelalem, Jesus Medina, Maxi Moralez, Santiago Rodriguez (Tayvon Gray 89′), Valentin Castellanos

Subs: Luis Barraza, Chris Gloster, Vuk Latinovich, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, Andres Jasson, Tony Rocha, Talles Magno, Thiago Andrade

Scoring Summary

PHI: Kacper Przybylko — 26′ (Leon Flach, Olivier Mbaizo)
NYC: Valentin Castellanos — 53′ (Maxi Moralez)

Discipline Summary

NYC: Gedion Zelalem — 21′ (red) (violent conduct)
PHI: Jakob Glesnes — 25′ (foul)
PHI: Kai Wagner — 31′ (foul)
PHI: Jose Martinez — 50′ (foul)
NYC: Jesus Medina — 82′ (foul)


  1. 7 straight road games they’ve had the lead. 1 win.

  2. Gruncle Bob says:

    Great first half. Weak 2nd. Got a bit of luck and 2nd place. Castellanos is lucky Brujo lifted his foot – would have been straight red. The disciplinary committee should look REALLY closely at that play.

  3. Got the result and the 2nd seed, that’s all that matters. Bring on the pink cows…memories of the great playoff game from two years ago.

  4. Not the greatest performance, but I’ll take it. Considering the Union’s good CCL run, it was always going to be an uphill battle to repeat with the Supporters Shield, but the Union did pretty well as it is.

    MLS playoffs are always kind of a crap shoot, but the Union could go far as long as Kascper doesn’t shank it when he gets his chances. So yeah, 50/50 at best on that, but you never know.

    • Luckily Kascper has played really well in tournaments. Maybe the 5 goal CCL campaign will translate to the playoffs as well.

  5. What did we lose points in, 5 of the last 7, including today? Not the way to enter the postseason. Is there a chance Curtin gets canned if it’s another one and done?

    • Vince Devine says:

      Stupid comment. Curtin is one of the best coaches in MLS. Supporters Shield last year and 2nd in the conference this year after a CCL quarter final with a team payroll in the bottom third of the league.

  6. That 1 in 7 road stsr screams this is n going to end badly if NE make it to the East final. And will this year, if that happens, will be finally the end of the Jim Curtin error?

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      He’s not getting fired. It he leaves, it will be for Europe like Jesse Marsch. 2nd in the East and semis of the CCL , not to mention dealing with frustrated players and Covid, is the kind of thing that gets a guy a raise.

      • Thing is, respectfully, the problem with the U has ALWAYS been the problem with the U in his tenure – coming from *ahead*. They can’t hold a lead to save their *FAMILY’S* lives, let alone their own. And if they have to go to Foxboro…

      • Ernie would hire him first.

      • Chris Gibbons says:

        They have been excellent in Foxboro for the last 5 years or so. Only one loss in that whole time, I think.

  7. Why can’t I post?

  8. Team is not bad. But not good, either. Really toothless in attack. There was a passage of play in the 79th minute that really summed it up for me. Union bring the ball down the left, Przbylko is unmarked on the right. Instead of a cross into him, the ball is recycled back. Ball goes to Monteiro on the right, Przbylko makes a great run and Monteiro takes a shot that’s easily saved. Selfishness and ineptitude in the final third. That and such poor finishing. Aaronson’s chance…. Good lord.
    I don’t want to pour a bunch of pessimism on a team that did well to finish where it did, but it’s not a team playing to it’s potential. I’m not optimistic about the playoffs, though every other team in this league is rife with flaws as well.

  9. John O'Donnell says:

    So the most competitive league top to bottom because there is no pro/rel is now ending the spending myth.
    Four of the top five spending teams don’t make the playoffs.
    Four of the bottom five teams make the playoffs.
    The team that spent the least won the West.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      I know we don’t communicate much on this platform anymore but it’s a pretty remarkable statistic. I mention the Wynalda podcast because he and Hercules speak almost directly to this.
      Highly recommend… once they get past the glad hands of friendship they really have an interesting discussion
      I complain about the style of play along the way- with due measure and honest intellectualism I believe and am strongly critical and strongly praiseworthy – but it’s hard to argue their model. It’s pretty well spot on..

  10. el Pachyderm says:

    Escape from New York, Snake Plissken style.
    Congrats and well done. For awhile there you all looked damn good. Then not so good. Then … pretty okay again.
    Either way. Mission accomplished. I offer only congrats on a pretty successful regular season.
    If you read between Herc’s lines when he visited Wynalda in episode 14 of For the Win- hard to argue how Union are going about this thing. If you haven’t listened to the podcast or that one specifically I highly recommend.

  11. Curtin’s Half Time Speech again?

    It’s happened so many times now… its NOT a coincidence.

    If we play again like the 2nd half vs NYCFC, we will be 1 and done in playoffs, again.

    The most talented squad ON PAPER this team has ever had…. and they can’t close important games against inferior talent. Why?

  12. While I really like all the work Flach puts in, I think a strong case could be made for improving offense without too drastically reducing defense, by starting Paxten at 10 and moving Jamiro back to left mid. Paxten is much better in tight spaces and moving vertically though the middle of the field.

    • I was thinking something similar but was considering resting Martinez rather than Flach (especially if Martinez is playing in Caracas 4 or 5 days earlier).

    • That, or even McGlynn for Flach as a straight swap at the 8.

      Either way it is good that the homegrowns have continued to grow this season and are now real options to contribute on the pitch.

      • What !?!? Sitting flach? That’s crazy does no one understand Martinez’s inability to possess and play simple in the middle of the pitch ?? He’s a cdm playing with a winger mentality. Casper and Martinez replaced with davo and mcglynn ad you have a playoff win.

  13. OneManWolfpack says:

    Pretty sure finishing second after selling the best player your club has ever produced, arguably your best CB as well, being one point shy of tying the club record in points earned (54 this year / 55 was the high in 2019) – AND having won the Supporters Shield last year… is pretty damn good. For sure holding a lead, especially has been an issue, but they’ll have at least 2 home games (assuming they win the first) and if NE stumbles you could be playing for the East Title at home too.

  14. if only the game was next weekend…instead we have seven key players traveling overseas, training in different systems and playing in varying meaningless or important games. so lame

    • At least next year there won’t be an international break during the playoffs. (Although it would be really funny if FIFA tells teams they have to release players for their World Cup teams prior to MLS Cup.)

  15. Although I’ll take a goal anyway it comes like anyone else, Przybylko got a second chance tap in after whiffing it the first time. He’s a frustrating player that way. The finishing was once again a problem, even with a man advantage.
    . . .
    For example, besides lack of developping fine touches, I’m surprised that the simple mechanics and discipline of keeping your head down when shooting isn’t instilled. Everyone knows what happens in baseball, golf, etc, what happens when you pick your head up when making ball contact. Shots shouldn’t be high over the bar and wide as much as they are. It’s basic mechanics amd discipline problem. Keep your head down and watch your goals on YouTube.

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