Union / Union match reports

Match report: FC Cincinnati 1-0 Philadelphia Union

photo: Marjorie Elzey

Luciano Acosta scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the 69th minute as FC Cincinnati edged the Philadelphia Union on Saturday evening in Ohio.

Jim Curtin rolled a very rotated squad for the trip to Cincinnati, with a clear eye to this Wednesday’s trip to Mexico in CONCACAF Champions League to take on Atlas. Trying a new formation, the Union lined up in a 3-5-2. Nathan Harriel joined Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes in the back while Matt Real and Olivier Mbaizo lined up as wingbacks. The midfield consisted of Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, and Jesus Bueno while Quinn Sullivan and Chris Donovan partnered up top.

Cincinnati dominated possession in the first half but clear chances were hard to come by for either team and the teams went into the break scoreless.

The Union would have a decent chance on 51 minutes. Donovan won a long ball forward it broke for Sullivan at the top of the box. The striker slid a pass to his right for Bueno to strike from the top of the box, but the midfielder’s shot was high and wide of goal.

Cincinnati would take the lead in the 69th minute in confusing fashion. Luciano Acosta broke down the right side and squared a ball into the box. Jakob Glesnes was at first able to clear the ball of the line but eventually Brenner stroked the ball home. Referee Ted Unkel then ruled that the whistle went before the goal and ruled for a penalty kick for a foul by Andre Blake on Acosta. Acosta stepped up and fired the penalty into the lower left corner when Blake had guessed the right way but couldn’t get a hand to the shot.

The Union responded by bringing in Alejandro Bedoya, Mikael Uhre, Daniel Gazdag, and Jack McGlynn but failed to carve out a clear opening in the Cincinnati backline.

Philadelphia is next in action when they travel to Guadalajara, Mexico to take on Atlas in CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday (10 p.m.). They return to MLS action when they travel to Chicago next Saturday (8:30 p.m.).

Three Points

  • Eye toward Wednesday. Jim Curtin made huge changes in the Union formation and lineup for a difficult away day in Cincinnati. Clearly the view was to rest the first team players for an away day against Atlas.
  • Not bad, but not good. The team that did play put in a solid defensive performance, limiting the host’s chances through most of the evening without carving much offensively. Even when many of the first team starters arrived in the second half, the offense looked stifled and failed to really create much.
  • Long view. The changed XI, the concentration on Champions League, the lackluster offensive production made for another tough early season performance for this Union team. There are plenty of things to be concerned about, but it still feels that it’s hard to get a proper read on this Philly squad.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Nathan Harriel, Olivier Mbaizo  (Jack McGlynn 79′), José Martínez (Julian Carranza 70′), Leon Flach, Matthew Real, Jesús Bueno (Alejandro Bedoya 61′), Chris Donovan (Mikkel Uhre 60′), Quinn Sullivan (Daniel Gazdag 61′)
Subs: Joe Bendik, Brandan Craig, Andrés Perea, Joaquín Torres

FC Cincinnati

Roman Celentano, Matt Miazga, Yerson Mosquera, Nick Hagglund, Júnior Moreno, Marco Angulo (Malik Pinto 62′), Luciano Acosta (Sergio Santos 73′), Álvaro Barreal (Alvas Powell 90+1′), Santiago Arias (Ray Gaddis 73′), Brenner (Dominique Badji 90+1′), Brandon Vázquez
Subs: Ian Murphy, Alec Kann, Malik Pinto, Joey Akpunonu, Arquimides Ordonez

Scoring Summary

CIN: Luciano Acosta – 69′ (PK)

Disciplinary Summary 

PHI: Olivier Mbaizo – 22′ (off the ball foul)
CIN: Yerson Mosquera – 47′ (foul)
PHI: Andre Blake – 69′ (foul)


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    We could be well into this season before the after effects of Gareth Bale wear off. Till the after effects of Champions League wear off. Till the after effects of having Joe Bendik as a back up goalie and Chris Donovan as a back up gol scorer wear off. Till the after effects of a playing style linked exclusively to counterattack timing wear off… and man this 15-20 games are going to seem a lifetime.
    Gazdag Uhre Carranza just blah so far. Flach infuriating to me. Bedoya off the bench being so sloth-slow to find the game irritating…
    Amidst all that dreck they had twoglorious chances to score from Bueno / Gazdag and neither can do much as find the enormous gol right in front of them for a hopeful rebound.
    Thst was two painful hours. Painful painful painful.
    It is not acceptable… because if we excuse it that makes it okay. It’s not okay. Champions League or not— it’s not good enough at all.
    I hope they win in Mexico —but if they don’t I will not lament it. Time to begin finding a rhythm.

  2. Bueno miss was egregious. Horrible finish. Other than that, another disjointed match. Early still, but what’s the next excuse when that and distraction by Champions League can’t be used?
    LAFC only beat us by a hair and have 4 wins in the account.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Well… let’s hope that once Champions League is no longer a viable excuse that we no longer need to excuse anything.

      • Yep. CCL isn’t a viable excuse, especially considering most of the teams that have beat and drawn us.
        . . .
        Being in CCL is a rare honor and delight and the Union should want to qualify and win that too. It’s what European teams dream to do besides win their league. Teams like Bayern Munich don’t mind tournament duties but relish the opportunities and so have other trophy seeking clubs. Our problems are self inflicted.

    • Depth. LAFC has it, we don’t. It’s that simple. Donovan, Bueno, Flach, Harriel, etc. are not good enough.

  3. Deez Nuggs says:

    When I first saw the lineup, I thought “huh, basically all defense and 2 midfielders. This is an interesting tactical play.”
    I also thought “not like Jim at all.”
    For 60 minutes it worked. We completely messed the game up. FCC could not get through the slop we slung. It was ugly. But by god it worked. Against all odds we even had the best chances.
    Then — probably part of the plan — we began to shift the line of confrontation higher and tried to turn them over. And that’s when we gave them space. Rather than stick with the functional strategy of clogging the whole damn field and daring them to go through, we pushed for a goal. And we opened up too much. FCC started getting in behind, and ultimately got the goal off the second weirdest referee sequence this season.
    If it was me… I would’ve brought on Uhre for Donavan, and McGlynn for Flach, and I would’ve left everyone damn else exactly where they were. I would have told them to collapse the midfield, keep the press trigger for after they enter our half, keep the passing lanes clogged and Acosta out of the game.

  4. It’s a charitable assessment. This team has 2 wins, 4 losses, and 1 draw. One of the two wins came with an end of match goalkeeper glaring error. These results were against middling and poor teams. We’re currently out of the playoffs with today’s standing.
    . . .
    In Tuesday’s CCL first leg against Atlas–a middling Mexican team this year–we only won on a late penalty kick with Atlas down a man for the entire second half and it was the home match.
    . . .
    We lost few players from last year. The mentality just seems broken with lost confidence and urgency. There seems to be a ‘Simmons’ cowardice on finishing amd sloppiness in play. I don’t see a team leader on the pitch. Given the youth prospects competing for time, there may be underlying game flow problems and job competition concerns that disrupt performances. I’m ready to call Uhre a bust without a major change for the better starting now.
    . . .
    This team needs to put Atlas away on Wednesday and get a semifinal against LAFC for payback for the Shield and MLS Cup last year and find itself again because right now it’s lost and losing as a result.

    • Do we really WANT to play LAFC in a two leg yie though? I feel like LAFC will boatrace the Union right now.
      MTL, and SKC are not good….1 point from those two games…..not good enough.
      Miami, was playing well when they beat the U, although it took two golazos to beat the Union.
      Orlando….they are over rated as always. Should have gotten a W against despite the absences.
      Yeah….the Union needs to get their league form on track yesterday, or they are going to have a scrap to get a home playoff game, or even make the playoffs at this rate.

      • LAFC beat Vancouver 3 nil in Vancouver so it will be them. After getting skunked in the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup with the former affecting the latter, taking them on in the CCL may be the slump cure. I’d love the shot at payback. The team players among all should crave that chance.

  5. Henry Scobie says:

    I am at the point now where I would like to see a Union starting XI without Leon Flach. While I am not attributing most or all of the Union’s failings in this ’23 campaign on Flach, I have seen enough to wonder why Curtin gaddises Flach into every starting lineup, no questions asked, and why Jack McGlynn is relegated to second-half cameos.

    As I said in a previous comment for last Saturday’s match report, Gazdag/Carranza/Uhre aren’t clicking, and whatever recipe we conjured up to get them going last season isn’t working in 2023. It is troubling to me that a starting lineup of youngsters and backups looked the more cohesive, stalwart unit for the first 60 minutes tonight than the “closers” who came in at the end of tonight’s loss and couldn’t muster up an equalizer.

    Perhaps I am just crabby after another lackluster performance coupled with an even more shabby Apple TV broadcast which insists upon airing replays amidst live action and having commentators with superficial knowledge of the team. There was one point where the Apple TV commentator said that Philadelphia were making two substitutions and that Ray Gaddis and Sergio Santos were coming on and that would have been true in 2020. I would also suggest that the commentators were FC Cincinnati-biased but that feels like a very Philadelphia sports fan complex-thing to say and I hardly believe it (but I kinda do).

  6. Apple TV is just terrible… hope Don “Grabmoremoney” is happy with his $10B.

  7. So it’s obvious to me that this squad is NOTHING like last year’s team except the names on many uniforms.

    10th place…. and like the 10 ties last year, EVEN IF CURTIN can motivate this years players, losing to Montreal and Miami will be 6 points we just blew… And my prediction is we won’t even qualify for the playoffs.

    HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT SO FAR JIM, all on you and this squad.


  8. At least the socks worked. says:

    There’s not enough talent in attack for these competitions. Really surprised Ernst didn’t attack the off-season better.

  9. We are 7 games into the MLS season, 7 out of 34 games, ~20% done, and we only have 2 wins and a draw. That is troubling.
    In 7 games we have scored only 8 goals. Carranza has only two goals. Gazdag has only two goals. Uhre has only two goals. Torres has one and Perea the last. Carranza and Gazdag haven’t scored since opening day. Gazdag’s two goals were PKs. That is worrying.
    The Union have only two shutouts in 7 games. Both of those games were at home. One was a win, the other a tie. In the five games they surrendered goals, they gave up one goal twice, two goals twice, and three goals once. That is scary.
    Yes, there are reasons the defense leaked goals. Maybe the offense should get some time to gel, maybe. No, I did not expect it to take this long. Not this team which held so many players together. I am tired of the platitudes and excuses. It feels like no one on the roster or the coaching staff has ideas to try to fix their performances. And that is terrifying.

  10. SoccerDad says:

    The one “shocking” event in the game was finding out that Santos might of been off side when putting the ball in the back of the net.

  11. The one positive I can take from this match was a surprising willingness on Curtin’s part to genuinely rotate his squad. It’s something he has rarely done in the past, and I’m not sure he’s ever done it to this degree.

    Given all the circumstances, the result isn’t really shocking. We’ve just come to expect more from this team. That final pass is just so often not there. And when it is, the end result is Bueno rocketing a shot over an open goal.

    I hope it will prove to have been worth it on Wed. night.

  12. I don’t think it’s all that complicated. Our offensive stars who turned every scoring chance into a goal last season have all lost the plot. It was evident last night when Gazdag, Uhre, Carranza and Bedoya came on. They tilted the field but created almost no chances. All of them seem to be fighting the ball and lacking confidence. Gazdag in particular has reverted to his 2021 form. If these guys don’t get right we are in big trouble.

  13. Let’s face it, before the game and upon seeing the lineup, I predicted 5-0 loss.

    The team he put out there held its own with a not-really-impressive league leading team, who looked impotent.

    Then, almost predictably, they started to look tired after all that defending, and you just knew what would happen next.

    And putting on the “big boys” was always going to first lead to disaster, then a case of too little, too late.

    I hope winning the CCL, if that is what drove Jim to play it that way, is worth it to them. For, me, it’s not. Getting the first team playing up to its potential is what is required from the coaching staff. We’re not beating LAFC on this form if we beat Atlas Wednesday.

  14. Question… is the MLS app out of date, phasing out?

    Not one ‘article’ for the Union since March 23rd vs Orlando. I get no CONCACAF info (well, not really, but OK), but to completely miss the SKC match, and last night’s FCC tilt?

    Is Don “Grabmoremoney” at it again?

  15. Andy Muenz says:

    At least the Union’s U-15 and U-17 both made today’s finals of the Generation Adidas Cup.

  16. Good thing the club cashed in its Paxten chips while it could.

    Last season was an aberration.

  17. John P. O'Donnell says:

    MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield runner up. In the quarter finals of CCL and the team has found no rhythm after their best season ever. Playing youth, rotating the line up & trying different formations like so many have called for in the past. Maybe it’s not as easy as last year appeared to be but plenty of time for them to get on a roll.

  18. OneManWolfpack says:

    They have been getting better year by year since 2019. Last year was not an aberration. Perhaps a culmination? Maybe the terms are interchangeable, I don’t know. My point is, this team is talented and they are not playing anywhere near at the level they should. Does anyone here really think this team is 10th place talent? That the team that was a minute away from beating LAFC in LA for MLS Cup, just suddenly can’t play? They need something to spark them. They are playing poorly, but aren’t bad. I could be wrong but I believe I read the Union scored 15 goals in the first 10 games last year, before blowing the doors off the rest of the way. We’ve played 7 MLS games so far, and a couple CCL games. I am not ready to cancel this season on April 10.

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