Commentary / For Pete's Sake

Can the Glesnes golazo spark something even more magical?

Photo: Stephen Speer

Somewhere, deep in the 1s and 0s of the Philly Soccer Page servers, there is a draft of Saturday night’s match report that discusses a penalty shootout.

It seemed inevitable. One hundred and twenty two minutes of some of the most intense soccer you’ll ever seen had failed to produce a winner. The discussion in the press box turned to which players Jim Curtin would enlist to take a high-pressure slate of penalties. It was not an encouraging discussion.

And then the unthinkable happened.

You already know, of course, but it’s worth describing one more time. A recirculated cross popped to Norwegian center back Jakob Glesnes at the top of the box. The anxious crowd encouraged him to shoot, more due to Glesnes’ reputation and the late stage of the match than any real optimism that such an attempt would lead to a goal.

Glesnes controlled the ball off his chest, let it bounce in front of him, leaned back, and let it rip.

The shot rifled over the mass of players in the box, away from New York Red Bulls keeper Carlos Coronel, and into the back of the net.

The place went nuts.

It was the most incredible goal I’ve ever seen. (I would still rate the legendary Carlos Ruiz goal in 2011 as higher on a pure difficulty scale, but considering the moment and the context, the Glesnes goal has to rank higher.)

It’s the kind of goal that makes casual fans into true believers. (I heard from at least one longtime friend who had never been to Subaru Park before this year that the goal made her a soccer fan.)

Now, we’ll see if it’s the kind of goal that can make something even more remarkable happen: a championship run.

How can you not love Jakob Glesnes?

Before getting to that question, let’s pause and talk for a minute about Glesnes, who might be Ernst Tanner’s best signing in his time with the Union.

Jim Curtin has bemoaned the lack of leaguewide recognition for Glesnes, who played every minute for the Union this season, in the Defender of the Year nominations. And I tend to agree with him.

Glesnes’ importance to the Union might be a bit overlooked just because the back half of the XI is stocked with really good players — Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, and Jose Martinez are no slouches. But make no mistake: he’s been key to everything they’ve accomplished since his arrival in early 2020. Glesnes is a skilled, athletic defender who also has great vision and passing range. He was a great partner for Mark McKenzie last season, and he might have been an even more perfect complement for Jack Elliott this season (given the latter’s athletic limitations).

Glesnes also seems like an immensely likable guy, at least based on my post-match interactions with him. (On Saturday night, I asked what possessed him to take that shot. He laughed and simply said, “I don’t know, to be honest.”) And his on-field persona — intense without being petulant or hotheaded — adds something to a side that can be a touch too spiky.

On top of that, of course, the guy only scores bangers. The LAFC free kick at the start of last season would go down in Union history on its own. Same with the howitzer of a shot that secured a late draw in midseason against Atlanta United. But this most recent goal, one of the most audacious and incredible winners you’ll ever seen, is the stuff of legends.

Let’s hope Glesnes anchors the Union defense for many years to come.

Why can’t us?

It’s not worth dwelling too much on what came before the goal, but any observer would tell you that it wasn’t the prettiest game of soccer. The Union never looked likely to concede… but they also didn’t look much like scoring, given that the striking corps had traded in their boots for bricks before the match.

The Union of old might have lost that game in fluky fashion late in extra time or come up short on penalties, another promising season down the drain.

Instead, they play on. It’ll be another home game this weekend, and neither Nashville nor Orlando — while good teams — present an insurmountable obstacle. Philly already beat both sides at home this season, after all. And they will (most likely) get back Jamiro Monteiro and Olivier Mbaizo, two key starters who missed the first round due to health and safety protocols.

Then, it would be either New England on the road — a game in which the Union would be substantial underdogs, but not minnows — or NYC FC at home — another winnable matchup.

And as for MLS Cup? Anything can happen in a one-game final.

Sometimes, unlikely plays spark remarkable runs. When I think about the Eagles Super Bowl run in 2017, I barely remember the first playoff game, an ugly rock-fight against the Falcons that ended in an unlikely goal-line stand. But it was enough to get the Birds in gear, who went on to whomp the Vikings and topple the Patriots for an unforgettable first Super Bowl title.

Of course, sometimes magic is just a one-game thing. Those same Vikings were flying high after advancing on an incredible play called the “Minneapolis Miracle.” That didn’t stop them from getting curb-stomped by Nick Foles & Co. the subsequent week.

Can the Glesnes golazo propel the Union on that kind of run?

After what happened on Saturday night, no one can say it’s impossible.


  1. Going into tonight, who are people rooting for? I.e. who do folks think is the better match up for the Union? Whoever it is looks like loses to these teams in the earlier part of the season involved giving up early goals and hopefully we’ve shored up that issue. It’s also interesting looking at golazos out of thin air, historically it seems like it’s been from a pinch hitter type of signing coming out of the mid field. Now it’s a center back. Would be nice to bring in some high level fire power inserted into the mid field or striker spots to keep defenses honest…

  2. I would prefer Orlando, but they can be streaky…Nashville would be a tougher nut to crack, imo.

    Great article!

  3. And who is not hoping against hope that RSL continues with the upsets in the Western Conference. Since they are the only ones left in the West with less regular season points than the U.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    Nashville it is.
    Going to need a very strong defensive effort. Muhktar was nearly unstoppable last night.

  5. In Tanner We Trust says:

    As a Saints fan from Philly, these last few days have been rough enough, and now this guy brings up that miracle sheesh. It’s funny though, most of the Eagles fans that gave me a hard time have no idea about the Union. So I linked the Glesnes goal and said you may not understand, but THIS is why I don’t care about the Saints beatdown.

  6. If Seattle can lose in the playoffs, anything is possible. Probably the best thing about MLS is that you can look at any matchup and see it going either way without a result being all that shocking. With every win from here on out, the legend of Glesnes’ golazo will grow.

  7. The Eagles/Falcons comparison is an interesting one. That was an ugly game, coming off of the birds looking dreadful leading up to the playoffs. Then everything clicked. They weren’t perfect, but they were the best version of themselves. If the U do that, they could certainly win it.

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