Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 0–0 Sporting Kansas City

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

After a weather delay due to severe thunder storms, two teams that both really needed a win to kickstart their seasons met in Chester, PA, on Saturday night. Andre Blake returned from injury to man the goal for the Union. Kai Wagner, however, missed out with hamstring tightness, giving Matt Real his first start of the season in league play. Nate Harriel earned a start, as well, pushing a healthy Olivier Mbazo to the bench. For their part, SKC welcomed Johnny Russell back, giving their right side an added bite.

With the pregame deluge, one might have expected the game to start slow on the soggy field. Not so. Both teams came out full speed. Philly looked for quick vertical balls, as ever, and SKC . . . did also. The story of the first half, in truth, was SKC doing a Philly Union impression better than the Union themselves—pressing high, creating turnovers, and looking for shooting opportunities.

The Union had chances of their own but never troubled Tim Melia in the Kansas City goal and, as time wore on, it was SKC who looked the more dangerous, holding possession better and getting multiple corners and free kicks around the Union area. In the 37th minute, Andre Blake did very well to get in front of a header from Dany Rosero off a Daniel Salloi cross. By the halftime whistle, the visitors had out-shot the Union 9 to 3, with 3 shots on target to none for the home team.

If fans were hoping to see an improved, more connected Union, that team hadn’t appeared. The Union had too many poor turnovers and their attacking moves were all a half-step off. The best takeaway from the first 45 was the Union didn’t give up an early goal as they had in nearly every other game of the season to date.

The second half did not begin any differently. Philly competed better but didn’t look likely to score. Kansas City were happy with the status quo.

In the 54th, Philly finally showed signs of life, with Daniel Gazdag getting on the ball on the break, finding Julian Carranza, who fed Mikael Uhre. Uhre cut his defender and managed to get a shot off inside the box but Melia was there to smother the chance. On the hour, a Gazdag free kick found a Union head in the Kansas City box and the header looked bound for the corner of the net but Melia plucked it out of the air. Up the other end, Blake did equally well to hold a Russell shot without allowing a rebound.

As the clocked ticked ahead, the Union substitutions started getting on the field, and it made a difference. First, Jack McGlynn replaced Leon Flach. Then Quinn Sullivan came on for Uhre. And suddenly, the Union started looking more like themselves. They harrassed SKC into turnovers, then connected their passes to get upfield. Ale Bedoya had crossing opportunities. Carranza put a good opportunity wide but was called offsides, regardless.

Jose Martinez wasn’t having a great night, turning the ball over, trying to do too much, and he came off for Joaquin Torres, leaving the Union with no recognized defensive midfielders. It was a risk but the Union started pouring it on as the game neared its end. Gazdag nearly chipped Melia from 30 yards. McGlynn found Carranza with a beautifully lofted ball but a defender nipped in before he could get a shot away. Carranza nearly brought the house down in the 85th with a bicycle kick that went agonizingly wide.

The Union had all the momentum, the wind at their backs, and . . . ran out of time. The game ended scoreless after a short four minutes of added time.

Three Points
  • U-G-L-Y. The first hour of this game was bad. Bad passing, no chemistry, allowing the opponent to dictate the terms. It wasn’t just him, but Jack McGlynn’s arrival signaled a big change in the game’s dynamics.
  • Subs light a spark. McGlynn reminded the Union who they were by slowing things down and retaining the ball. It didn’t need to be much, just enough to actually keep the ball for three passes, four, then finding the vertical pass. The Union were trying too hard before his introduction to knock Kansas City out with every attack, rather than actually making good chances. Sullivan was another who really improved things.
  • Start like they finished. If the Union had played the whole game with the intensity and attacking verve they finished it with, they would have won by multiple goals. But because it took them more than an hour to figure things out, they settled for a draw.

Philadelphia Union 

Andre Blake, Matt Real, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Nathan Harriel (Olivier Mbaizo, 85′), Leon Flach (Jack McGlynn, 63′), Jose Martínez (joaquin Torres, 85′), Alejandro Bedoya, Daniel Gazdag, Mikael Uhre (Quinn Sullivan, 72′), Julian Carranza

Unused subs: Damion Lowe, Andres Perea, Jesus Bueno, Chris Donovon, Joe Bendik

Sporting Kansas City

Tim Melia, Robert Castellanos, Dany Rosero, Robert Voloder, Graham Zusi, Erik Thommy, Remi Walter, Nemanja Radoja (Roger Espinoza, 34′), Daniel Shlloi, William Agada, Johnny Russell (Khiry Shelton, 62′)

Unused subs: Jacob Davis, Alan Pulido, John Pulskamp, Chris Rindov, Cameron Duke, Andreu Fontas, Felipe Hernandez

Scoring Summary


Discipline Summary

SKC: William Agada — yellow card, 17′ (bad tackle)

PHI: Daniel Gazdag — yellow card, 40′ (pulling back an attacker)

PHI: Jose Martinez — yellow card, 72′ (pulling back an attacker)

SKC: Remi Walter — yellow card, 94′ (late tackle)


Stats will be posted when available.


  1. [Stares at the keyboard… Types… Sighs… Deletes… Repeat]

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    I have an old bone to pick new again. I’ve been magnanimous for a few years now but not tonight. This is unacceptable.

    I will never ever be convinced this version of the game is enjoyable. I come to footy to forget about the chaos of the world— not endure the world’s unrelenting simulacra in my footy. Back and forth. Up and back. Ball in the air non stop. Hatchet tackle after hatchet tackle… Fuck me.
    I support this team. Always have. I asked for a Vision Philosophy & Plan for years and it has been delivered. An unappealing style like this comes down to accruing wins. And that ain’t happening currently- so you’re in the crosshairs.
    It’s like watching youth soccer.. that’s proper. yes. good… Nope. Then 6 more No’s and a bit of rhythm and gone again…this reoccurs again and again like watching children play. Two good passes to break pressure then Flach kills it.

    I watch the exact version of this 3 nites a week for FC Delco… and before that with Union PreAcademy to Academy.

  3. The way the Union play is so darned predictable and the other teams are now ready for it. It worked last season when everything was clicking and guys were having career years but there’s been some regression in individual performances but it sure isn’t clicking now. Opponents are jumping the passing lanes and prepared to play against the two strikers.

    It’s only when McGlynn is on the field is there ever any kind of wrinkle that the other team has to adjust.

    • As Vermes pointed out, other teams are playing against the Union with higher intensity now that the Union have shown they are among the best teams in MLS. When we’re facing off against the best of other clubs, performances will suffer. The tactical adjustments make an impact and the Union seem slow to adjustto them so far. Need to see some improvement, for sure.

  4. No sense of urgency and Curtin too late with the subs. That was not good and it was not fun. Literally, not fun. Gonna get killed on Tuesday if they play that sloppy.

  5. Eric Boyle says:

    The whole night was like a bad April Fool’s prank!

    Dre was clearly not himself and couldn’t kick the ball. Still Sleepy Joe likely let’s that header go in. They seemed to get going in the 80th minute but too little too late. A couple of great balls in from McGlynn. Seriously he should get the start over Flach at this point.

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    I don’t see how this team doesn’t get embarrassed Tuesday night.

  7. I just want to puke, again.
    Just like last week….
    And again, NOTHING but water to drink.

    This squad is about as disjointed as any we’ve seen in years.

    All on Curtin.

    Ship Curtin off to the USMNT and get a real coach who can motivate, adapt to the weekly opponent… NOT play down to them… and who instills aggressiveness and a NEED TO WIN MENTALITY.

    This is just puke-ful, sick and tired of sh*tty’ weather games when the season should have started next week….. without Don “Grabmoremoney” wanting a 12 months calendar.

    I ‘hate’ this league…….
    Totally puke-ful.

  8. It’s early.
    There’s champions league.
    They’re still gelling.
    But it’s also really really bad too.

  9. OneManWolfpack says:

    I’m still a “see me in May” type of guy… I just can’t wrap my mind around what I’m seeing. Are they good? Are they bad? Are they middling? Is it the weather? Am I hungover from what SHOULD’VE been last year? Are my expectations too high? Who’s better than than them… Cincy? Miami? IT’S BAFFLING!? I’m not happy but I’m not furious. They are so talented. They should be better. FUCK

  10. They truly looked like they were never in any danger of winning that game. Usual stalwarts have been looking very shaky except glesnes putting out fires everywhere. Unless they can turn the page in under a week (and we know how long it takes the ss curtin to correct course) they are going to get embarrassed by the orange union. All we can do is hope the CCL madness lights a spark.

  11. PaulContinuum22 says:

    outliers suck. And its looking more and more like 2022 was an outlier, an anomaly. Sad.

  12. FCdelcofella says:

    On a more positive note because the games are on Apple TV no one is watching other than the season ticket holders. I feel bad for ya’s. I remember those days which is why I stopped going.

  13. I was honestly expecting better from us tonight. A rebound. But that was a diabolical performance. Just bad. Poor pass after poor pass, giving the ball away over and over. We didn’t start playing until the last 10 to 15 minutes. Before that, nothing but pointless running and hacking.

    Don’t know what the solution is here. New starting XI? Tweak in the formation? Or does the starting squad just need to sort it out and play better? It I were running this team, I’d be thinking about how I could build something around McGlynn. Kid’s touch is magic.

    Other notes: Ref was really bad. MLS needs to figure out how to get better here. These guys don’t do anything to raise the standards. Also, Apple needs to sort out the volume of the game announcers. Can’t hear’ ‘em. It’s really bizarre.

    • Totally agree about the announcer volume. I’m not sure of the quality control but much like the quality of the Union as late…that was pretty poor!

    • Not only the volume (eg, Danny couldn’t be heard at all last night on CIN v MIA), but they come back from replay too late and miss action—some day they are going to miss a goal or a red card or something.

    • UnitedPenn13 says:

      I agree about the volume problem with Apple. I’m not crazy about the pre-game hosts. Very little talk about the specific team you want to watch. They have to cover every team. Half-time is bad too showing 2 second highlights of goals. It’s really cheap.

  14. It was like 11 strangers running around on the field. The passing was beyond atrocious. If they didn’t have Glesnes they would have lost—he’s the only one who did not make multiple mistakes. They have the look of a team who spent the winter reading how they were going to waltz back to MLS Cup final, but they aren’t at this rate.

    I’m sorry, I’m done with Flach—he needs to be sat down, or better, sent down to Union II to learn how to pass. No wonder people say his teammates don’t want to pass the ball to him—that’s how it looks to me. And the next time I hear about his fantastic dirty runs, I’m going to vomit.

    And why can’t Uhre play more than 70 minutes? Is he permanently out of shape, or just weak? He’s been poor all year. For a guy who makes a lot of money (in Union terms), it’s unacceptable that he can’t play 90.

    • I think the thing with Uhre is that if plan A isn’t working, he comes out to change the approach. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s a fitness thing.

  15. Union xG of 0.9 is attrocious and it only got that high due to the last 10 minute flurry. No movement down the left side with Real and Flach and very limited on the right with Harriel more defense minded. Can’t blame Uhre for last night as all the long balls either didn’t make it over the top or got cut out on their way to him. Some really crappy passing last night.

  16. Vermes’ post-game comments last night were more honest and revealing than Curtin’s. MLS teams know how to play the Union now and some of the players are not maintaining the level that made the difference last season.

  17. Deez Nuggs says:

    My thoughts… I said it in comments after the last game that we should expect Jose to have a bad game; he always does first game back from international. That said, it wasn’t as bad as some of those. His passes were too many turnovers but his defensive play was pretty solid.
    Flach looked much more comfortable in his normal role, but everything— the runs, the passes, the switches— is just too slow with this team at the moment. Luckily that is the kind of thing that can get better over a season. The mind sharpens.
    Ultimately, for all the turnovers, corners and free kicks that we gave up, SKC never really looked that dangerous. Blake made maybe one save that Bendik may not have. I think that honestly step one has to be to get the defense back clicking and not giving up goals. This clean sheet hopefully goes a long way.

  18. "They're not even any good!" says:

    Reverting to the mean.

  19. santo bevacqua says:

    Sure a lot of puking in the comments, you guys better get checked out by an intestinal specialist lol. The union needs to find the groove to score, with the international and chanmpions interruptions the team is trying to adjust.On a positive note the tie represents a new start on home undefeated record stretch.

  20. Henry Scobie says:

    The connection between the midfield and Uhre/Gazdag/Carranza hasn’t been working all season. Passes are off and attacking momentum is wasted with sloppy passing and feckless possession in the opponent’s half.

    I would like to see Flach and Uhre come out of the starting lineup for the next game or so and bring in McGlynn and Sullivan. At the very least these two replacements may address the lack of quickness and ball security.

    I’m not quite sure who I prefer between Mbaizo and Harriel. I understanding that the former’s couple of defensive shortcomings in the last few games may have warranted being out of the starting lineup, but I am not sure if Harrel is the answer if what’s plaguing the Union thus far is on the offensive side of the ball.

    A previous comment used the word “outlier” a few times and I think that with all of the multi-goal thrashings the Union put together last season, 2022 will be an outlier regardless of what Curtin et al. do for the rest of 2023. I was not expecting a cruising, waltzing repeat of 2022 but I also wasn’t expecting 2023 to look so rudderless and devoid of imagination and confidence.

    I am also looking forward to attending a game in clement weather this season. The cold and the rain and the poor play are a real downer.

  21. We were cautious about the weather and decided to just stay safe. I’m glad everyone was ok. Watching from the couch was tough. We really enjoy being in the Park. The team is just not finding a groove yet.we talk about it with the folks around us during the last home game. I’m not in panic mode but definitely concerned. In other news I mentioned up thread about the commentators needing volume. Apple needs to address it. I don’t mind being able to hear the crowd, but that was bad. Hang in there Union fans better weather is coming. Let’s hope it also brings better play from the boys!!

  22. These guys are hard to watch. I’m trying but the low-quality is a Sleeper Choke Hold and I get knocked out every time. I haven’t made it through a full match yet.

    Is the head coach not permitted to make subs before the 60-minute mark? Just curious about that because some of these guys look like they’d do better on the bench after the first half.

    • Eric Boyle says:

      Now you should know that Jim doesn’t sub before 60 minutes! Last year was the obligatory Burke sub at 60 minutes lol.

  23. The Union have a real problem at right back. My guess is that Harriel was in because of Mbazio’s defensive failures, but he did not look at all ready.
    With Real on the left and Harriel on the right, the Union had no wing play at all. I think maybe that is one reason they looked so one-dimensional.
    Flach was invisible too. Jack made a real difference when he came in. Should have had at least one assist. I hope he gets the start Tuesday.
    While Torres’ first touches on the Union were magical several weeks ago, he now seems to want to do magic all the time. Multiple times at the end of the game there was an easy way for him to control and move the ball, but he tried something fancy and lost it.

    • When I saw Torres was coming on I thought how much more fun it would be if it was the Roger Torres of old coming on to create some chaos

  24. It’s a little soon to panic. I don’t know about the away games, but the home games have been played in conditions which are not conducive to good play, so both teams have tended to look terrible.

    Last season was not that different, but they were a little luckier – a bunch of draws which could well have been losses and wins which could have been draws or worse.

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