Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 4-1 Columbus Crew SC

Photo: Stephen Speer

A pair of penalties converted by Daniel Gazdag and a brace of counterattacking goals by Julian Carranza helped Philadelphia Union kick off the 2023 season with a 4-1 win over Columbus Crew SC at Subaru Park.

Jim Curtin turned to a familiar lineup to get the 2023 season started, with all eleven starters returning from last season. The only surprise was on the bench, where first-round draft pick Holden Trent earned the nod as backup keeper. Offseason signings Damion Lowe, Andres Perea, and Joaquin Torres all made the bench.

For the Crew, Wilfried Nancy’s first-ever XI featured the likes of Lucas Zelarayan and Cucho Hernandez in attack, while goalkeeper Patrick Schulte made his professional debut.

The teams took the pitch on a frigid February evening, warmed only marginally by the pregame pyrotechnics. The Union debuted their new secondary kits, with only Jack Elliott eschewing tan long sleeves under his jersey.

Columbus had the better of the play in the early going, with Nancy’s squad stringing passes together and controlling possession in the Union half. But they failed to generate any clear-cut chances, while Philly looked dangerous any time they generated a turnover and started to spring a counter.

Andre Blake’s first save of the season came from a decent free kick from Zelarayan after 16 minutes, not hit hard enough or close enough to the corner to force a full stretch from the Union keeper.

Philly looked certain to take the lead in the 25th minute, when a long ball from Jose Martinez sent Daniel Gazdag and Julian Carranza 2-on-1 with the keeper. But Carranza’s shot at a wide-open net hit off the post, and the offside flag came up a half-second later.

Just moments later, Columbus had the lead. A flowing attack found Hernandez, who entered the box down the right wing and fired at goal. The ball slid through traffic, deflected off of the recovering Jakob Glesnes, and skipped past Blake for the opener. Although Cucho celebrated in front of the River End, it went into the record books as an own goal by Glesnes.

The Union picked up the tempo in response. Alejandro Bedoya fed Gazdag at the top of the 18, but his shot didn’t have enough power to beat Schulte. Few chances presented themselves, with the Crew doing well to hold the ball and pin the likes of Kai Wagner back.

Just before the stroke of halftime, the Union equalized through a penalty kick. Off a Wagner free kick, a shot from Leon Flach struck off Mohamed Farsi’s arm in the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Gazdag’s last penalty flew over the bar in the MLS Cup shootout; here, he cooly sent the keeper the wrong way for the game-tying goal, and the sides went into halftime on level terms.

After the halftime break, an almost identical free kick from Wagner found Carranza in great position at the back post, but the striker’s header popped harmlessly over the bar.

But Carranza redeemed himself just under a minute later, finishing off a classic Union move that began with Martinez winning a duel at midfield with Hernandez and springing it forward to Gazdag. Gazdag played Bedoya in wide, and Bedoya’s centering pass found Carranza for a nifty flicked finish past Schulte.

In the span of seven minutes of game time, the Union had gone from 1-0 down to 2-1 up.

Somehow, Philly failed to almost immediately make it 3-1, when a poor back-pass from the Crew sent Carranza in on the keeper. Only great recovery defending from Philip Quinton and some scrambling in the box kept the Crew in touching distance.

Columbus resorted to some dark arts to try to buy a penalty, as Hernandez tumbled over in the box. But the referee did not hesitate to give the attacker a yellow for simulation, much to the crowd’s delight.

The Union doubled their edge with their a second penalty for a handball. A Kai Wagner blast in the 66th minute deflected off Milos Degenek, and, after an interminable VAR review, the referee once again pointed to the spot. Gazdag once again put it past Schulte for his second goal on the evening, and the game was well and truly won.

Joaquin Torres made his Union debut in the 79th minute, replacing Mikael Uhre and slotting in as a striker. With his first touch, he spun around one defender, then another, then split two more with his pass, cooly slotted away by Carranza to make it 4-1.

Loud chants of “go back to Ohio” rang around Subaru Park as the home side finished out what proved to be a comfortable victory in the season opener.

The Union hit the road for the first time this season next Saturday, when they’ll head to south Florida to take on Inter Mimi CF. Kickoff from DRV PNK Stadium is at 7:30 p.m.

Three Points
  • It’s familiar… After a sluggish first 30 minutes or so, the Boys in Blue (Tan?) picked up right where they left off last season, piling up the goals and winning comfortably against a side that couldn’t cope with their counterattack.
  • But not too familiar… Joaquin Torres announced himself with his very first touch as a substitute. It was an electric moment of quality and something the Union missed last season.
  • But not too not familiar… It’s always the referees in MLS, huh? This writer couldn’t see a high-quality replay of either penalty, but a VAR process that takes five minutes to sort out a handball remains a frustrating part of the modern game.

Philadelphia Union 

Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo, Jose Martinez, Alejandro Bedoya (Andres Perea 90+2′), Leon Flach (Jack McGlynn 89′), Daniel Gazdag, Mikael Uhre (Joaquin Torres 79′), Julian Carranza (Quinn Sullivan 90+2′)

Unused subs: Holden Trent, Nathan Harriel, Matt Real, Damion Lowe

Columbus Crew SC

Patrick Schulte, Philip Quinton, Milos Degenek, Steven Moreira, Will Sands (Luis Diaz HT), Darlington Nagbe, Aidan Morris (Jacen Russel-Rowe 76′), Mohamed Farsi (Yaw Yeboah 76′), Alexandru Matan (Sean Zawadzki 86′), Lucas Zelarayan (Kevin Molino 86′), Cucho Hernandez

Unused subs: Evan Bush, Jake Morris, Isaiah Parente, Max Arfsten

Scoring Summary

CLB: Jakob Glesnes — 28′ (OG)
PHI: Daniel Gazdag — 45+3′ (PK)
PHI: Julian Carranza — 52′ (Alejandro Bedoya, Daniel Gazdag)
PHI: Daniel Gazdag — 72′ (PK)
PHI: Julian Carranza — 80′ (Joaquin Torres, Daniel Gazdag)

Discipline Summary

CLB: Aidan Morris — 39′ (dissent)
CLB: Will Sands — 43′ (foul)
PHI: Leon Flach — 47′ (foul)
CLB: Cucho Hernandez — 56′ (simulation)
CLB: Lucas Zelarayan — 58′ (foul)
CLB: Milos Degenek — 71′ (handball)

PHI Statistic CLB PHI Statistic CLB


Possession % 59.2 46 Duels Won 44
14 Shots 7 14 Tackles Won



Shots on Goal 2 2 Saves 1
8 Blocked Shots 0 12 Clearances



Total Passes 462 12 Fouls 15
73.8 Pass Accuracy % 82.7 1 Yellow Cards



Corners 2 0 Red Cards 0
8 Crosses 7 3.4 xG







  1. el Pachyderm says:

    To unknown said MLS General Manager…. Our collective middle fingers to you. Eat a Peach.
    I was only able to watch one of the halves tonight, luckily it was the second.
    Welcome back- its a busy time for The Elephant these days but will try to check in on game days. I did not like the uniforms during the unveil but thought they were sharp as hell tonight.
    That final assist by Torres was art. Love those plays. I talk with my player all the time- for some this is a game about winning and losing and it is fine– I understand completely– for us- it is first and foremost about the sublime. About snatching the breath from you. That was a moment of high art. A gasp of beauty. The Sublime.
    We’ll all be here all season long– and at this point we all know what the mission is. My personal mantra will never change however.
    Just Play Well. Onward and Upward boys.

  2. I missed the first 35 minutes, but in the remaining 60, El Brujo was a buzzsaw. Between him, Bedoya, and Flach, I wish any team good luck trying to score on us.

    Meanwhile, the two non-PK goals were just sublime. Martinez winning that duel to start the move for the one was just classic Brujo. And Torres on that second one, my goodness.

    BTW I don’t know what Danny was talking about saying that the second PK was harsh. The shot was on frame; the defender blocked it with has hand. That absolutely has to be a PK. And I’ll disagree with Pete too — let them take some time to ensure they get that call right. It’s much better than the alternative.

  3. Great way to start the new campaign. Columbus looked pretty good but Union just took over in the second half. What a start for Torres, too!

    We go again.

  4. Chris Gibbons says:

    Like we never left really…

    I don’t know what the handball rule is anymore but if you use yours to block a shot on frame, it’s hard for me to feel bad if it’s called a penalty.

  5. Micah Bertin says:

    Torres first touch, all time,Hall of Fame debut first touch/team/season moments in soccer football history, f-ing ever

    • I was thinking that was the best first 15 seconds on the pitch as a Union player ever…and it’s not even close.
      Sort of makes him the anti-Tranquillo Barnetta.

      • It happened right in front of us and I thought he looked like Ilseno only smaller and faster.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Just barely tops the other Torres when he came on against NYRB back in the day — and tripped the lights fantastic. For those who remember. Still one of my favorite Union memories by probably my favorite Union player… next to My Dearly Departed- Amobi Okugo.

      • I present to you Corben Bone….

  6. Definitely a little sloppy as I’m thinking that if this was a mid season game they would have won 7-1 rather than 4-1. Still a good start to the season to win by 3 without playing your best.

  7. Cliff of Union Despair says:

    Where has everyone been? It’s lonely here…

    • hahaha


    • Oh Cliff. Play the long game. I’m sure someday we will be back (this is Philly, after all), but hopefully not for a long long time…

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I look at it like – if it’s cliff… it’s probably on the side of a mountain. We have been steadily climbing this mountain for 4 years now. Every mountain has a summit. Stay well cliff… once we reach that summit… we’ll have to come back down.

  8. Schulte, the Crew keeper, started against Union II last year at least once. So did Philip Quinton and Aidan Morris, and Mohamed Farsi. Matan created the goal that beat Union II here.
    That’s five starters from last year’s reserve team.
    They have chosen to teach several of their youngsters by playing them. They will be tough later on. Their weakness will be getting $16 million of attacking talent to play defense the way the Union forwards do. If Nancy can persuade them, he should be coach of the year.

  9. John P. O'Donnell says:

    Union picking up where they left off last year. Apple gets no complaints from me. Watched on my Amazon tablet at work and had zero issues. I don’t think anyone had a bad game that played tonight….

    • Although it was ok, I think Apple has some work to do. The much ballyhooed (is that really a word?) whiparound pregame was meh. The host (didn’t catch his name) was weak, Sasha and W-P are too rooted in Red Bull, and that woman (also didn’t catch her name) needs a new fashion consultant. Danny was great as usual—I learn a lot about the game listening to him—but needs getting used to his partner. I hope he does commentary on all the Union games. They had trouble getting the replays up quickly, a couple of time we missed live action because they were so slow. Finally, it’s absurd to have the announcing team wrapping up the entire league schedule after the game ends—they need to throw it back to a studio like NBC/Prem does. Room for lots of improvement.

    • Wait until you try to watch a full match replay! Ugh. Worst interface decision I’ve ever seen. The only way to start it, btw, so you don’t have to google it like I did… go to the game, page, and scroll all the way to the bottom past all the highlights and all. Then there is a square that says “How to watch”. Don’t click on that, it’s just the replay again! You have to select and HOLD THE BUTTON DOWN for 3 seconds. Then and only then can you get a full game. Ridiculous.

      • Vince Devine says:

        All that didn’t work for me. Went through all that only to get a message saying “selection is unavailable, check your internet connection”. if my internet connection was down I wouldn’t have had access to AppleTV.

  10. Great way to kick off the season. Only one minor quibble, with a season this long with multiple competitions, the moment you take a 4-1 lead in the 80th minute, Bedoya can come off the field. And you might consider the same for El Brujo, save him from doing something we’ll regret.

    But that’s minor. Can’t start a Season much better.

    • Micah Bertin says:

      Good point. Why not make those subs??
      As much as I/we love Jim his game management when it comes to subs still makes me scratch my head sometimes.
      Tonight, no harm no foul but I don’t want it to come back and bite us

  11. PaulContinuum22 says:

    Message. Sent.

    Straight from the top drawer. Well forking done, U.

  12. Think more carefully about why Jim Curtin did not substitute until the 80th minute, okay the 79th.
    1. He needed to condition his starters with an actual regular season game, not a preseason scrimmage.
    2. He will send down some if not all of his bench to Union II for their scrimmage later today, Sunday, at 1 PM in northern Virginia against Loudoun United to maintain and increase the conditioning of his reserves.
    I suspect Bendik gets the start for game sharpness, since at the end of March, Blake will probably miss the Orlando game away on international duty with Jamaica.
    It could easily be that the entire Union II starting defense is first team reserves.
    Both starting U II defensive midfielders could be Bueno and Perea. They got few enough minutes Saturday night that 60 to 75 Sunday afternoon is not out the question.
    Same for Sullivan and Torres at the attacking mids. or strikers, with Rafanello and Donovan joining them.
    The scrimmage is closed and it is a scrimmage so there are no rules restricting their moves and specific concrete information may be hard to acquire. But I expect a lot of first teamer will be on the bus south.

    • It’s his style….
      not anything else. Jim has always limited substitutions, unless required.

      If ‘Bedyoda’ starts, OFF at 60, every game, please.

      McGlynn should be starting, ‘Bedyoda’ on at 60…. with McGlynn taking all set pieces.

      Wagner still cannot get the ball in the air like last year. OVER THE DEFENDER!

      Good 2nd half…..

      Great debut by Torres, and the defense.

      Zel and “Culo” looked like individuals, not part of their team. Nancy has his work cut out for himself.

      Oh yeah, the best part of the evening? No yellow cards for Martinez!

      On to Miami. Doop!

  13. Union deep in talent. All is Well ! Watched Torres play in Final preseason game in Clear water. He showed great ball skills and scored in that game as well. He adds a dimension that we have not seen since Ilsinio retired and he is much younger.Thanks Montreal!

  14. Is anyone else having trouble with Apple? We haven’t been able to watch videos or even stream the game from our Roku TV. We reinstalled the app and it still will only play for about 10 seconds before it stops. We haven’t been able to watch anything from that app for the last week+. And the highlights aren’t even up yet(as of Sunday morning)! I couldn’t watch the game because I was on the road but my family couldn’t watch it at home. Not happy at all with the coverage or quality do far. Thoughts?

    • I haven’t watched a broadcast of the game yet (was at the game) so don’t know if there are any issues, but when I was having issues getting it setup in the first place, my ticket rep told me that apple has dedicated support reps to help with issues. I ended up getting it resolved without calling them, but these are the numbers:

      US: 1-800-275-2273 | Canada English: 1-800-263-3394 | Canada French: 1-800-263-3394.

    • Had no problem watching from Roku. I even tried the option to watch with the hometown radio for audio (hi Dave and Sheanon!), and it worked well.

    • Huge complaint here. As of now, I can only watch the 7.5 minute recap of the game. I was under the assumption I can watch any game at any time, in its entirety. The highlights and recap are great for other games, but I’d like to watch my team’s full game on replay. Is there something I’m missing here? Do I have to record before game somehow?

      • Yes you can watch all match replays. It is devilishly hard to find. Go to the Club icon and click on it. Scroll to the bottom and click on Past Matches. A new page comes up. That’s the recap. On that page scroll to the bottom to where you see MLS SEASON PASS. Click and hold on that icon. Three versions of the match will come up. One of those is the recap you want. GOOD LUCK!!

      • So it’s a treasure hunt lol. Well that’s a relief. Thanks so much!

      • F-big stupid design. I had to google it.

      • F-ing stupid design. I had to google it.

    • I had no trouble watching on Roku, but didn’t start till after the game was over. But very disappointed with the quality; as others mentioned, the replays were rare and poorly timed. One positive, the cameras spent most of the time on the game, rather than lots of shots of the coaches and bench like Fox and 17 did.
      PS, if you have T-Mobile you can get the Apple MLS pass free for this year; check out https://www.t-mobile.com/news/offers/t-mobile-customers-score-mls-season-pass-on-the-apple-tv-app-on-us

      • 17 only spent a lot of time not focusing on the game when it was a road game and the other team provided the video. For Union home games they tended to be pretty good at following the action live (although usually I was watching home games after I had already seen them live).

  15. santo bevacqua says:

    What a fantastic start, its a long season tho, we will see.
    Even the comments are spot on including the reference to the previous Torres, amazing on how deep and knowledgeable the audience is.

  16. Everything but the socks says:

    Thought Curtin handled the second 45 far better than the first. They were outnumbered so badly in midfield it felt like the Crew backline spent most of it in their half!

    Goalscorers get the glory, but I walked away impressed by Martinez -who I’m not a particular fan of – and Torres. J-Mart held the fort by his lonesome until the other 9 felt like contributing. #19 is going to be………useful.

    A rare opening win. Will take it and run.

  17. So a little off topic, but how bad was the parking situation? From what I heard, it was dreadful even for folks who arrived 2 hours before the game.

    • I parked in lot G for the first time. I would say I actually saved 45 minutes from my normal exit time. At least based on what time I got home. Traffic was still a mess though. Definitely waited.

    • Lot A was no problem. We arrived later than usual (about 45 minutes before the game rather than 60) but still had no issue getting a decent spot. After the game the lot was almost empty by the time we got there about 20 minutes after the end of the game (even though our seats are in row C, we wait until the section is mostly cleared out because my wife walks slowly and we don’t want to be in people’s way when the concourse is most crowded…and then we usually take a break on one of the benches by the river).

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Had no issue with Lot A either.

    • I park in Lot J and the lines going in moved way too slow more based on confusion on the the traffic flow. Hopefully it gets better. The lot was more full then usual, (got into the lot 45 min before the game) but not many more came in later. The Union didn’t seem to have attendants there to remind people that they need to exit out the back of the lot.

  18. Soccerdad720 says:

    I’m a lot B Parker. Had no issues getting in, and I arrived later, like closer to game time. Sorry to admit, but I left after 4th goal. Rarely do that, but it was cold and I’d seen enough, so no issues getting out either.

  19. Here is the view from 105 as we saw it:

    1) The Union were very sloppy in the first half. They created some good chances, but poor passing and shooting meant no goals from the run of play. The U were much sharper in the 2nd half. Let’s hope this is not a pattern.

    2) As I made clear last year, I am not a fan of the delayed offsides calls. Having watched the replays, 4 of the 5 Union offsides in the first half were correctly called, but they should have been called earlier. I do agree that if there is any doubt, play should continue, but where the infraction is clear, play should stop. I fear that it will take an injury, perhaps of a star player, to reverse this lamentable trend.

    3) The crowd last night were electric–congrats to everyone who made the game in the cold–and it was cold.

    4) Joe B above nailed it about Joaquin Torres–he is Ilsinho with pace. First of all, I can’t believe that Montreal let him go. Secondly, I can’t believe he only scored 7 goals in 2 years with Montreal with ball skills like he displayed last night. He should be an excellent fit with this club on the front end.

    5) So that I don’t have to repeat these themes every week, I think I will just post them here, then put them on repeat for the rest of the season.
    a) Bedoya comes out after 60 minutes, McGlynn goes in; some games, this pattern is reversed.
    b) Leon Flach gets some love for doing nearly as much of the “dirty work” as does El Brujo, and
    c) Uhre and Carranza get some love for their excellent hold-up plays.

    6) Columbus has some talent. I will not be surprised to see them make the playoffs this year. They are no longer one of the truly awful MLS sides (Think Hou, SJ and DC last year.).

    7) Reasonably consistent officiating–a pleasant change from last year.

    • Regarding number 3, it was a hell of a lot colder last year for the San Jose game (and the stadium was much emptier then).
      As for number 6, Columbus wasn’t a truly awful team in the past, they won MLS Cup in 2020 and last year only missed the playoffs on the last day of the season.

      • Yes, we were there for the San Jose game last year and my comment at the time was that San Jose were going to contend for the bottom spot. And yes, that was a very cold night!

        You are right, Andy, once Columbus added Cucho last year, they became better. My comment was for people who might view the scoreline and think that the only reason the Union won was because Columbus was inept, which they are not.

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