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Union dealing with COVID issues ahead of Sunday’s match

Photo: Stephen Speer

This story has been updated with additional information after publication.

Suddenly, not everything’s coming up Union.

An unknown number of Philadelphia Union players are in MLS’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and may not be available for Sunday’s Eastern Conference final against New York City FC, manager Jim Curtin said on Friday afternoon.

The club cancelled training yesterday, while enough players were available for training to go on today.

While Curtin could not get into specific details about how many or which players are in the protocols, and stressed that the situation is fluid, it sounded like the absences for Sunday could be substantial in number and importance.

“You feel bad for certain players who put so much into this situation,” said Curtin. the literal definition of a professional is always being ready.”

Update: Matt De George of the Delco Times reports that “Leon Flach, Olivier Mbaizo, Kacper Przybylko, Daniel Gazdag, Jamiro Monteiro and most of the youthful Homegrown contingent” practiced on Friday. Notable absences from that list include goalkeeper Andre Blake, defenders Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, and Kai Wagner, and midfielders Alejandro Bedoya and Jose Martinez.

“We’re going to prepare as best we can with the hope everyone is available, but that’s not likely.”

The Union have already dealt with some COVID-19 issues in the playoffs. Jamiro Monteiro and Olivier Mbaizo both entered the league’s protocols before the first game against New York Red Bulls. Monteiro returned against Nashville, while Mbaizo missed both games and is now cleared to play.

Philadelphia entered the week riding high after a penalty-kick shootout victory over Nashville, NYC FC knocking off New England Revolution to send the next match to Chester, and City’s star attacker Valentin Castellanos picking up a late red card.

Now, it’s the Union who find things going against them.

“A group of men or women with nothing to lose can often be the most dangerous,” said Curtin.

The Union play in their first-ever Eastern Conference final on Sunday afternoon against NYC FC. TV coverage on ABC begins at 3:00 Eastern, while kickoff from Subaru Park is scheduled for 3:18. The stadium is sold out. Make sure you read our match preview, written by Jim O’Leary, beforehand.


  1. Noooooooooooooooooooooo!

  2. John P. O'Donnell says:

    Oh well. I wonder if they would have to forfeit?

  3. John P. O'Donnell says:

    From Matt De George.
    Among those present at training Friday were regular starters Leon Flach, Olivier Mbaizo, Kacper Przybylko, Daniel Gazdag, Jamiro Monteiro and most of the youthful Homegrown contingent.

    Missing three starting defenders.
    Bedoya and Martinez.


  4. Rut row

  5. Missing the centerbacks and Wagner would be a hammer blow. What rotten luck if so.

  6. #PlayTheKids

    • Some were seen practicing, but the U2 play with the senior team so how many U2s aren’t also available as backups is an issue. Hell, it might be a call to Reading United or having fans bring their boots. What a mess . . .

  7. Why do the soccer gods hate us so much?

  8. COVID trends do not look good; have 12% positivity rate on tests and circa 6,000 new COVID cases per day in PA. If we get thru this game hope the Union will isolate all the player in a hotel to minmize risks of further infections.

  9. FWIW – this news broke hours ago and yet the odds posted by both Draft Kings and Fan Duel have not changed, with the Union still the favorite. You would think the “smart” money would be rushing to NYCFC and that the odds would be showing a dramatic shift.
    I guess either the sportsbooks are shockingly uninformed, or they know something we don’t.

    • Gruncle Bob says:

      NYC is now +190. The odds are moving.

    • they are moving now. i have two futures (eastern conference champions at +550 and mls cup winners at +2000) that i just hedged slightly. please just allow us elliot and glesnes soccer gods, please!

  10. el Pachyderm says:

    So if you’ve chosen not to get vaccinated— you are ostracized.
    And if you have gottten vaccinated then test positive for Covid you are ostracized. Do I have this close to right?
    I mean really, I do think I have it close to right
    It’s not like that shot made Covid go away- we’ve all been informed Covid wasn’t going away because of it… it made it so we can live life as close to normal as possible. If these men are vaccinated, why are they then punished for abiding by the social contract?
    I don’t know. There needs to be an aspect of informed consent and some form of waiver and if they are willing to sign it… then carry the hell on with life. Probably not the forum for it here.. but it keeps rambling around in my mind as the primary issue with this thing. Those not vaxed are ‘lepers’ and those who are vaxed are ultimately ‘lepers.’
    Here’s what I hope. No matter who steps on that field… Union go into the game convicted they have ‘nothing to lose’ and not just words a coach gives in the pregame lead up when stuff piles up. Then absolutely …. ATTACK. Fucking attack in waves.
    Going to be a long two days that’s what I know.

    • ostracism and Hansen’s disease are not applicable, this inflammatory response is going to make people think you are something I know you are not, trust me that there are lawyers sitting in the room when the league’s protocol is written, and the protocol is about indemnity and tort as well as health and safety…

    • Holding out players who have tested positive isn’t a punishment or an ostracism. It’s an acknowledgment that if you test positive for COVID, you may be contagious to other people. Until the virus is cleared, the responsible thing to do is to isolate. That’s the social contract: protect yourself and others by getting the shot, protect yourself and others by isolating if you get the virus.

      • and give vaccines to the rest of the world so that more than 8% can get vaccinated there otherwise mutations will continue to evolve!

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Hmm. I am inclined to think the virus isn’t ‘going to clear.’
        Otherwise, I do appreciate your logical argument.

      • Pachy, he means cleared from your system. Possible good news is that vaccinated players may – stress MAY – be asymptomatic and could test negative only a day or so later. We don’t know, but it’s possible they only found this because players are tested so frequently. My kids’ school allows you to return immediately after a negative test if you are vaccinated.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Appreciate, Nuggz.

  11. Just got back from getting a PCR test after Covid exposure 5 days ago. Waiting for the results. Was worried I might miss the game this weekend if I test positive. I’m vaccinated and boosted and careful but I’m a doctor seeing patients on a regular basis and have seen otherwise healthy young people seriously ill. They were unvaccinated but I’ve also seen breakthru cases where vaccinated people were pretty sick.

    Many of these guys have young kids who can’t be vaccinated. I hope everyone is okay and I’d love to see the Union at full strength but when it comes down to it this is a recreational, elective event. If people have to miss games to be safe then so be it. It sucks, it really does suck.

    If you feel otherwise that’s okay but just take a minute to view it from another perspective. It’s about more than me or you and as bad as I feel about it I’m sure it’s not nearly as bad as those guys who might not get to play.

    • Well stated. Thank you for the reality check.

      • Thanks for the support. Thankfully my test came back negative so I’ll be there tomorrow.

      • Good to hear, Jimber. Half hoping you’re not there because the game gets pushed back a few days until the Union are healthy.

    • 100%
      And I’m hoping no one’s family is at risk.

      From a game perspective, our kids gave New England a run for their money. I think we put up a fight no matter who plays.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      I’m a health care worker myself and have been on the front line with this thing for 18 months since early March 2020 in ICU’s, Covid units– now generally just individual Covid rooms (Thankfully). I stipulate to your above points but feel my perspective is also well rounded.
      I’ve seen some vaccinated people hosptialized true but generally the bulk of hospitalizations are those who remain unvaccinated. My contention is, if all parties are vaccinated and asymptomatic regardless of someone having a positive test– go to work. This isn’t an elective event. It is a profession.
      My co-worker has the flu. I’m not going to rush out and get a flu test just because my co worker has tested positive. I’ve been vaccinated. My contention is we are becoming prisoners of hyper testing which is then crippiling our ability to move forward.
      18,000 people are going to come to the game Sunday… what percentage of them do you think would test positive for Covid yet still feel perfectly fine?

  12. John P O'Donnell says:

    Fontana scores three goals in this game and doesn’t make the bench for the Cup. The world is healing as Curtin leaves for Cincinnati…..

  13. Unless almost everyone is out of protocol in time to practice tomorrow, it would probably be best if they have fewer than 10 players available so the league would pretty much be forced to postpone the game.
    Can’t wait to read McMohansky’s whining that the season isn’t a success if the team is without most of its starters and loses Sunday.

  14. The Union dodged every COVID bullet last season and this one, save for last week, and were rewarded for their luck in doing so. If they have to play 11 teenagers in the most important game in team history, then their luck may run out by the legend will grow bigger by the hour.

    • Didn’t they lose Martinez for a couple of games down the stretch last year because he tested positive after playing in Venezuela?

  15. Well, this is a disaster zone situation. The players are presumptively vaccinated given international MLS travel to Canada and international team travel for several players. All we can hope for is that this helps produce negative tests before kickoff, and that quarantining players are doing their best to stay match fit with personal training.
    . . .
    I’d also like to think that the team, as paid professionals, also took reasonable isolation factors during this playoff run to guard against this problem given how much has been on the line. There’s only so much people can do with a pandemic that’s gone endemic, but if there was negligence with public socializing during this playoff run that permitted this disaster, that’s another matter.

    • It could be as innocent as a child picking it up at school and passing it on to their parents who then gave it to the rest of the team during a film session or something in a poorly ventilated room. (Not that I have any actual information, just speculating an innocent cause.)

      • Or it could be MLS stacking the deck and wanting the f’n Pigeons to have a walkover to the title game.

      • You’re probably right, especially considering having the final on a baseball field is exactly the level of competance at which the league is run.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      We call them Code Orange in the hospital. Internal or External.

  16. How about we just play them. 3 days quarantine is good enough. Fuck Covid.

    • MLS would certainly not allow that for liability purpose alone. That said, it presumably could postpone the match if necessary, although scheduling TV could certainly pose a problem.
      . . .
      There’s justification to postpone the match if our team or any other is ravaged by a disease. It’s not a situation where players are out due to self-inflicted misconduct with cards or injuries that’s part of sports.
      . . .
      I would have had no issue with CONCACAF postponing the Saprissa match in the CCL due to having several players out due to COVID. We did not play the ‘real’ team in the Philly home leg route, and it was unsporting not to do play it.
      . . .
      MLS controls this situation, and it’s unsporting to make us play a JV and/or shorthanded team due to understandable health conditions that it imposes on players that makes the ineligible. By doing that, though, it should understand the ramifications of it’s own rules so not to cause an unjust result in something so important as a conference final.

      • It’s not just unsporting, depending on the number of players missing, it would be an embarrassment to the league. The NHL has postponed 5 regular season games (including Monday’s Islanders-Flyers games) when the Senators and Islanders had 10 and 8 players out on COVID protocol. To make a team play a league semifinal in the situation would be as bad as potentially playing the final on an illegal field.
        Oh, wait a minute, this is MLS and they want the final in New York so this will likely happen.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Andy. This is very cynical. I like it.

  17. So if this post is in jest please say so and move on. If it is not, I doubt there is anything I can say that would change your mind but I feel I have to say something to those who might see this and still be unvaccinated. I talk to people almost every day who are not vaccinated against Covid for a variety of reasons. My only skin in the game is to help people. Yes, I get paid to do that but I have enough. My debts are paid and I have few expenses and I’m lucky enough not to need more of anything not considered a luxury so I’m not trying to sell anything. Covid is a real illness and one that can be made less serious with vaccines. Vaccines that have been some of the most scrutinized and studied. If you are not vaccinated yet please consider getting vaccinated now or talk with a healthcare provider. I really wish I could help you understand how serious this is.

  18. In Tanner We Trust says:

    Thoughts with everyone affected, as sports are certainly secondary to human life. That being said, what kind of team can we reasonably field?
    I didn’t see any goalkeepers on the list of players who practiced, so that’s probably the biggest concern.
    2nd would be Wagner. Do we play Real now of all times or do we see Mbaizo or Harriel playing out of position? Or maybe even see wingbacks like we saw against NE earlier with a lot of the team out.
    Conflicting reports about Elliott, as the Inquirer reported that he practiced and but seeing elsewhere that he didn’t. So let’s hope for Elliott and Findlay being available at CB
    In midfield, looks like Bedoya and Martinez are the biggest absences. Flach can certainly play the 6 and people said all year we need a younger midfield without Bedoya at times, so this isn’t the largest problem area.
    At striker, it’s Kacper and no one else. Yikes. Sullivan we can assume will spend time there at some point, and maybe even Fontana.
    In conclusion, we have to assume Mbaizo, Flach, Monteiro, Gazdag, Przybylko are locked in starters, so that leaves 6 unknowns. Most likely at least of the 2 homegrowns midfielders would also start, and it’s looking like Findlay will definitely have to step up. But beyond that, lots of unknowns right now.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Went back and found the NE lineup from a few months ago:
      Aaronson Sullivan
      Flach McGlynn Martinez Mbaizo
      Findlay Elliott Glesnes
      That could be very telling. I forgot to mention Bueno above, didn’t happen to see his status. So the lineup I’m about to write below could theoretically have Bueno in Monteiro’s spot, freeing Monteiro to play position of greater need elsewhere:
      Aaronson Gazdag
      Flach McGlynn Monteiro Harriel
      Findlay Elliott Mbaizo
      If the lineup looked like this, I could only assume Sullivan would have a massive role off the bench and maybe Fontana too.

      • +1
        Doesn’t seems so bad written out does it.
        We have so many talented kids.

      • Oh wait. Elliot is possibly exposed too.

        Aaronson Gazdag Monteiro
        Flach McGlynn
        Real Findlay Bueno Mbaizo

    • They’re vaccinated. This is fake news. This is a scam cooked up by MLS to grease the skids for NYCFC.

  19. Apparently key stakeholders (senior staff, ownership, etc.) received an update this morning telling them that multiple players will be out and the starting lineup will look very different from the past few games….

    • So basically the Union are in danger of having Freese get hurt and not having an actual goalkeeper on the bench to replace him? I kind of hope it happens since it would be a HUGE embarrassment to the league on national TV.

      • The times when field players have gone into goal have become stories of legend, not embarrassment.

    • From the link:
      ELEVEN (!!!) Union players are in MLS’ health and safety protocols, according to the team’s game notes that were just published:
      Alejandro Bedoya
      Joe Bendik
      Andre Blake
      Cory Burke
      Jack Elliott
      Jakob Glesnes
      Alvas Powell
      Sergio Santos
      Quinn Sullivan
      Kai Wagner

  20. For me, I could see juggling around the lineup and having work arounds for most positions except the 2 starting center backs. Those hurt deeply. Less crucial but still deeply painful are Blake and Wagner and having zero strikers other than Przybylko. It really pains me to think of having a Collin Findley center back pairing. No speed and guaranteed red card.

  21. This is the most Philly Sports thing ever.

    We can actually field a pretty comfortable front 6 with Kacper, Paxton + Gazdag (actually looking forward to see them play together more), and Flach-Martinez-Monteiro behind them. I guess the other option is to leave Monteiro next to Gazdag and start Bueno.

    But in the back, we are screwed. I guess Nate Harriel or Matt Real is playing LB? And our CB pairing is Findlay and Collin?? Oy vey…

    • Could Real or Harriel play CB next to Findlay?
      Regardless, a 4-2-3-1 might be smart with El Brujo and Flach at the double pivot to help shield.
      Midfield on top of that = Gazdag – Monteiro – (Aaronson/Bueno?)
      So curious to see the lineup.

    • Bueno and Real can play CB. Real has played CB in USL and for the US U20/23 teams.

  22. This is COMPLETE HORSESHTT. This REEKS of the league not wanting the Union to be in the final. I refuse to believe this. Too goddamn convenient. There needs to be an investigation into how this happened.

  23. Play the 11. What’s MLS going to do about it? F ’em. Play them all. F their protocols.

  24. So the Union are doing another one of those hold up placards things to greet the team. Right now my thought is to write “MLS Sucks” in large letters on the back so it can be seen on TV.

  25. I just want to say I appreciate the removal of misinformation from this site. Of all places, I never expected to see it here. Thanks again.

  26. #FreeThePhilly11.

  27. Again, play ’em. Screw MLS. Screw their bogus protocols. What are they gonna do about it besides huff and puff? Gotta have MLS Cup at the postage stamp that is Yankee Stadium? F, no. The screwjob of all screwjobs.

    • MLS Cup is in Portland. Now if the Union hadn’t blown the lead in 6 games since late August. 2 more points would have seen the U hosting if they win tomorrow.

      • Kind of moot now since MLS made goddamn sure they’d lose. This game is now an anticlimax.

        One of the worst weeks in Philadelphia sports history. Phillies locked out, Flyers in their annual crash and burn, no Jalen tomorrow, Sixers faceplanting.

        IT DOESN’T ADD UP.

      • How did the Flyers do in their game against the Islanders Tuesday? Oh, that’s right, it got cancelled because 8 Islanders were under COVID protocol. Of course postponing a regular season game when 8 of 30 rostered players are out makes more sense than postponing a playoff game when it’s 11 who are out.
        Boycott MLS sponsors.

  28. Any way we can get Mark McKenzie and Brendan Aaronson back here on a red-eye flight by game time?

  29. This is very sad, but even if we beat NYFC, is there really any chance of winning against the Timbers on the road in the final?

    It’s even crazy that these matches are being played in full stadiums with mostly unmasked fans.

    Stay at home (if you can), drink, and read poetry.

    I’ve totally lost interest and am glad I did not buy a ticket to today’s game.

    It’s Doomsday and there is not hope, nor is there time for repentance.

    Nonetheless, GO UNION! DOOP POOP SWOOP, or SWIPE after POOP.

    AND PLEASE, GOD spare us anymore soccer games in Yankee Stadium. Utter nonsense.

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