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Eleven Union players in health and safety protocols

Photo: Stephen Speer

This post has been updated with additional information.

With 24 hours to go before kickoff, eleven Philadelphia Union players are in Major League Soccer’s health and safety protocols and are currently unavailable for tomorrow’s Eastern Conference final against New York City FC.

Those players, from the club’s official game notes, are keepers Andre Blake and Joe Bendik, defenders Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Alvas Powell, and Kai Wagner, midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, and attackers Sergio Santos, Cory Burke, Quinn Sullivan, and Ilsinho.

Six of those players — Blake, Glesnes, Elliott, Powell, Wagner, and Bedoya — started the club’s first two playoff  matches. Santos and Burke also made appearances off the bench.

It remains unclear whether any of these players might be able to exit the protocols before the match. That’s because there are different ways a player can be placed in the protocols, including:

  • Quarantine due to participating in high risk behavior.
  • Quarantine related to being a high risk close contact.
  • Pending COVID-19 test results.
  • An inconclusive COVID-19 test result.
  • A positive COVID-19 test or a confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Other illness not related to COVID-19.

The requirements to exit the protocols differ based on the reason the player entered the protocols. So it remains possible that, depending on what’s going on behind the scenes, some players could be cleared before kickoff. At this moment, all eleven are listed as “out” in the game notes.

Assuming none of these players are available for the match, manager Jim Curtin will be forced into major changes to his lineup. The most serious situation appears to be in central defense, where the presumed starters are Stuart Findlay and Aurelien Collin. Findlay has made just four starts this season for the Union, his first with the team. Collin, 35, has not appeared in an MLS game since 2019. Left back is also an issue, where options to cover for Wagner include regular midfield starter Leon Flach, out-of-position Nathan Harriel, and out-of-favor Matt Real.

Bedoya and Blake, two of the club’s talismans, will also be big misses. Bedoya, the club’s captain and beating heart on the field, scored the winner against City in a game in August. And over a decade has passed since a keeper other than Blake started a playoff game for the Union. He is, of course, coming off a legendary performance in the shootout against Nashville SC.

Matt Freese is expected to start in goal, backed up by MLS pool goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh.

Curtin will likely to dip deep into the club’s reserves in order to fill out his bench. Matt De George reports that players in training today included Brandan Craig, Cole Turner, Matheus Davo, and Union II’s Anton Sorenson. Update, 4:00 p.m.: The Union announced that Craig, Sorenson, and Ranjitsingh have officially been added to the club’s roster through an Extreme Hardship exception.

Although the Union inquired with the league about a postponement, the match is expected to go on as scheduled, according to reports from Sam Stejskal and Paulo Maurer.

The Eastern Conference final is tomorrow against NYC FC. TV coverage on ABC begins at 3:00 Eastern, while kickoff from Subaru Park is scheduled for 3:18.

36 Comments

  1. These guys are around each other all of the time. The fact that only a limited number are listed leads me to purely speculate that this could be an outside contact who tested positive and these guys are all “close contacts”; otherwise, that is a large number to test positive at one time – a statistical anomaly
    .
    I just hope that there was not a “spreader event” where these guys were with folks outside of their typical “bubbles” during a playoff run…

    • My thought was someone’s school aged child came home with it and it spread from there. Pure speculation.

    • Wow! Just heard that Blake had a bday party. Super spreader! Neighbor has a relative within the organization. Season ticket holder for 6 years and am livid with the lack of giving a flying hoot of what was on the line! Accountability!!

      • If he’s vaxed he probably felt like it was ok!!!!! Talk about misinformation. Is the team vaxed? Can anyone answer that? Are they A-symptomatic? Maybe the players feel fine.

      • The Blake birthday party was my first thought – I know several of the players had things posted on their instagram stories. That was the night of the Glesnes goal….

  2. The team and league are ripping us off, charging extra for a game and then expecting us to watch an inferior product (and yes, I know that play the kids is fine, but Collin is not a kid). Just wrote to my ticket rep letting him know that I’m considering cancelling my seasons tickets.

    • Jeremy Lane says:

      This seems extreme to me. Covid has disrupted every league in every sport, across the entire world, to varying degrees. This definitely sucks, but it’s not anyone’s “fault.” It just is. I certainly wouldn’t choose to punish the Union for this. But that’s just my take. I understand you and others might differ.

      • In other leagues games have been postponed because of covid. I’m hoping the entire team tests positive tomorrow. What’s the mls gonna do if that’s the case. Andy…. I totally get where you’re coming from. This isn’t a regular season game in June. This is fucking bullshit!

      • The one thing that is MLS’ fault is not postponing the game. The Flyers had a game postponed this week when the other team had 8 players on COVID protocol, 3 less than the Union and obviously a less important game. And MLS established precedent by postponing/cancelling games last year when only 2 or 3 players had tested positive.
        .
        While I don’t want to punish the Union, they are a part of the league and it is somewhat difficult to separate the two.

    • The Chopper says:

      MLS between rock and a hard place. They have a rare National slot on ABC for this game. They have no other game available for the network. Major lost dollars and opportunity if they postpone. The flip side is MLS will be on National broadcast television with a joke of a product. Perfect for the Mickey Mouse Network

      • Seems like an easy decision. You want to showcase your best product. When you can’t do that, postpone the game until you can.
        .
        Union should do everything they can to make the league look bad, preferably by creating false positive tests for several other players.
        .
        Or maybe start taking players out but not bothering to put in subs so the game ends up 11 on 6 or something.

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    Sigh… we can’t have nice things I guess

  4. Looks like they just added Ranjitsingh, Craig, and Sorenson

  5. If there are still ways for players to come out of protocol in the next 22 hours, shouldn’t they be listed as questionable rather than out? Also, where are you seeing their status? I followed the steps Peter gave yesterday in a comment but all I see are Game Guides/Notes from November 26.

  6. I hope it is a strategy to give NYC false hope of an easy game. I bet many are just waiting for a test result. If they get it tomorrow and it is negative they can play.

    • You’re an optimist Guido. Good on you. 3-0 NYFC at halftime…. And I hate NY teams!!!! I should sell my tix to those pricks and make some
      Money off the situation. People in government do it all the time.

      • I was half thinking the same thing, especially since my cousin is an NYCFC fan (he lives north of NYC). But at least tomorrow, I’ll support the Union players who are there.
        .
        I’d also love to start an F*** You MLS cheer except I need to respect my wife’s wishes not to curse when there are lots of kids around (a feeling I usually agree with).

    • Guido—While I don’t believe this is intentional psychological gamesmanship, it would be fascinating to see what effect it would have if Blake and the entire back line walk into the field for warm-ups. 🙂
      .
      So curious to see what happens when lineups are released.

  7. So am I the only one who thinks some players may have faked their Covid shots?
    This is not unheard of for athletes.
    I think we will see how Curtins doghouse plays out over the next few months.

  8. MLS wants the Pigeons in MLS Cup and they’ll do anything to make it so.

  9. MLS Cup will be in Portland. Even if the Union win tomorrow, blowing the lead in 6 of their last 7 road games is going come back to haunt them.
    .
    Remember the man advantage against NYCFC? Remember scoring less than a minute into the game into Toronto and then Bradley getting away with a handball in the box at the end? Remember the last second goal given up in Montreal? Winning any one of those games would have meant the Union would still be in position to host MLS Cup.
    .
    I guess they might as well lose tomorrow so I don’t need to waste 2 hours watching them struggle in Portland as they always do.
    .
    My prediction is Collin gets tossed for DOGSO within 5 minutes and it’s 0-5 by halftime. Second half has more fans in section 133 than the rest of the stadium combined. 0-8 final.

    • I would also add that using total points as the home field determinant in a season where inter-conference play was curtailed is bogus. It is simply not a reasonable method. Conference seed (or something similar) should have been used, but MLS flat out missed it.

  10. The devil is in the details. I understand that delaying for weeks for individuals who test positive is not a workable solution. If, however, a significant number of the the 11 are in the close contact bucket (which seems likely) then not delaying for a few days is really short sighted and cheap.

    Sadly that seems to be the calling card of a league can’t shake it’s Mickey Mouse patina by consistently failing to put the good of fans and the game first.

    Far too many games are impacted by the leagues inability to ensure that games are played on regulation size non plastic pitches. Far too many games are listless/lifeless while played in weather not friendly to the sport. The teams are managing to improve the product on the field (Even, surprisingly the spendthrift Union). The League is not. This joke of a conference finals being affected by the most predictable problem of the 2021 season is just another example. The League needs to be better.

  11. I hope and expect that the team takes a Rockylike Philly attitude tomorrow and believe in themselves that they can win it, and they can. There’s teens and older Crash Davis players who dream of a match opportunity like this and they’re going to get it. Show ’em up lads.
    . . .

    I’d also add a big life size cardboard cutout effigy of Alexi Lalas in the locker room with his smirk for extra motivation. He’s been a snarky dismissive Philly hater and doubter all through the playoffs. Nothing would make me happier than to stuff it to him, and so should the players.

  12. In Tanner We Trust says:

    No negativity, Union are winning 1-1 in penalties. I can’t be at the game but those who will… make your presence felt. Show NYC some Philly hospitality and show the kids Philly love.

    • Union are dead if it goes to penalties, and I was thinking that while watching the PK’s Tuesday night. NYC was actually taking quality kicks and scoring even when Turner guessed right. Union don’t have that in them.

    • I love your optimism. I do. But the reality is the league has given the Union a massive . Portland v NY is better than Portland v Philly in their eyes. I was a 10 year season ticket holder and have been waiting for this day. Can you imagine this happening to the Eagles/sixers/ flyers…? The league would do what’s right and move the game. This is a mugging from the mls. They couldn’t care less about the union fan base.

  13. Move the game, this is ridiculous!
    Not fair to a team that played well, worked hard to get this far and of course all the season ticket holders, MLS be fair and step up!!

  14. I see the parking rates are jacked up too today. Guess they’re keeping up with trend of everything costing ridiculously more than a year ago. Talk about rubbing salt in the wounds. F the mls!

    • Yup, tickets and parking up about 40% from normal. Product on the field down 40%. It all evens out.

      • I’ll be chanting F the MLS with you! Don’t need to use the word. Just the letter. Hopefully the sons of Ben don’t bitch out and make their voices heard. They’ve become very puffy these last few years.

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