Union match reports

Match report: Colorado Rapids 1–2 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Howie Pollard

The last meeting between these two teams resulted in a 6–0 Union victory. This game didn’t reach that kind of height but the Union emerged with their third consecutive win in league play.

The Union came out in a three-back formation, with Jack Elliott flanked by both Jakob Glesnes and Damion Lowe. It was a useful change that reignited some of the offensive interplay between Alejandro Bedoya and Olivier Mbaizo, but it was Colorado that had the first chance. In the seventh minute, Andre Blake had to make an excellent save on Kevin Cabral after a scuffed shot found the Colorado striker’s foot inside the box.

After that, the Union took over the half. Tactically, Bedoya received the ball on the wing directly from Glesnes or Elliott, allowing Mbaizo to get further up the field to play one-twos with the captain and Daniel Gazdag. On the other side, Jack McGlynn and Kai Wagner did the same, and Philly started to dominate the game. In the 13th minute, the Union scored from a corner but had the goal called back for a foul. In the 16th, McGlynn put Julian Carranza through on goal. The Argentine did the hard part, juking the goalkeeper to the ground, then put his shot on the open net wide.

Aside from the referee being a little too intrusive on proceedings, the one fly in the Union ointment was Lowe’s over-aggressive tackling. In the 28th, he missed a slide tackle that he didn’t need to make and it nearly led to a Colorado chance; only the Rapids’ own ineptitude prevented a good scoring opportunity. And in the 33rd, Lowe again lunged to intercept a ball, only to clatter through a Rapids player on the barest edge of the Union penalty box. It was a rash and, like his slide tackle, unnecessary challenge to make. After VAR confirmation, Connor Ronan put the resulting PK away with authority.

Though it was a disappointment to concede, the Union players surely knew they had a goal or three in them and returned to dominating possession and field position, earning corners and generating shooting opportunities. Carranza and McGlynn both had chances. And in the second minute of added time, the Union drew level. McGlynn came all the way across to the right side to play with Bedoya and Gazdag. Ale fed Carranza. With his back to goal, Carranza laid the ball off and, for the third time in the last two games, Kai Wagner was there to score, belting a laser-beam left-footed strike into the back of the net.

The Union finished the half hungry for another and it wouldn’t take long into the second half for them to find it. In the 52nd, McGlynn found Mbaizo over the top. Mbaizo ran on and then cut the ball back. Carranza finished well with his right foot from the top of the box. Yarbrough got his hand on it but couldn’t keep it out.

In the 61st, Colorado nearly found an equalizer. After a hard tackle dispossessed the Union just outside the Rapids’ box, Colorado was able to break 2-v-2. The shot came in but Blake was up to it, then got himself a kick in the head saving another as play continued.

The chance reflected a larger shift. Colorado, needing a goal, began to own more of the ball and put the Union under increasing pressure. Gazdag cut a frustrated figure up top, unable to find the ball. There were tired legs and burning lungs.

In the 89th, the Rapids nearly made the pressure tell, flashing a ball across the face of goal, but Jonathan Lewis couldn’t stretch his boot far enough to get a touch. In the 96th minute, the Union nearly sealed it. Substitute Matt Real put fellow sub Chris Donovan through. Donovan took the ball well but couldn’t find Gazdag running with him and the chance was cleared.

The game came to an end with a fracas. Blake misjudged a bouncing ball but was shepherding it out of play. Colorado sub Michael Barrios gave him a shove in the back that sent him into the advertising boards. The Union defense was not pleased and the resulting dust-up resulted in several yellow cards and a red card for Braian Galvan. There was even an additional VAR review, rewarding substitute Jesus Bueno with his own red card.

But the Union took all the points and that’s all they’ll care about.

Three Points
  • 3-5-2. The Union started with three CBs for the first time in 2023 and it largely worked. It got Bedoya more involved. If it can spark a similar goal-scoring revival as last season, when an adjustment got Bedoya on the ball more often, then it will be worth repeating many times.
  • No Uhre, no problem? Uhre brings a dimension to the Union attack that no one else on the roster does. Today, out with a knee injury, he wasn’t missed but don’t expect a healthy Uhre to be off the field much.
  • Rivas lost control. The silliness at the end of the game was the result of referee Victor Rivas’s poor game management. MLS refs have a hard job but sometimes they do it badly. This was one of those times.

Philadelphia Union 

Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Damion Lowen, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo (Nathan Harriel 90+3′), Jack McGlynn (Matt Real 83′), Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya (Jesus Bueno 90+3′), Daniel Gazdag, Julian Carranza (Chris Donovan 83′)

Unused subs: Joe Bendik, Richard Odada, Andres Perea, Jeremy Raffanello, Joaquin Torres

Colorado Rapids

William Yarbrough, Lalas Abubakar (Bryan Acosta 72′), Andreas Maxso, Danny Wilson, Anthony Markanich (Braian Galvan 58′), Danny Leyva, Connor Ronan, Sam Nicholson, Jonathan Lewis, Kevin Cabral (Michael Barrios 72′), Diego Rubio

Unused subs: Marko Ilic, Michael Edwards, Sebastian Anderson, Ralph Priso, Moise Bombito, Yosuke Hanya

Scoring Summary

38′ – Connor Ronan (PK)

45+2′ – Kai Wagner

52′ – Julian Carranza

Discipline Summary

18′ Yellow card – Danny Wilson

21′ Yellow card – Alejandro Bedoya

41′ Yellow card – Leon Flach

42′ Yellow card – Lalas Abubakar

62′ Yellow card – Kevin Cabral

79′ Yellow card– Sam Nicholson

90+9′ Yellow card – Michael Barrios

90+9′ Yellow card – Jakob Glesnes

90+9′ Yellow card – Jack Elliott

90+9′ Red card – Braian Galvan

90+9′ Red card – Jesus Bueno


  1. I held my breath when they came out in a 3-5-2, but they adjusted well and for the most part covered space nicely. Lowe’s tackle was truly foolish, and Elliott came close to getting burned early, but thank the universe for Andre Blake, and overall we looked the better team and deserved the W.

    Also: Michael Barrios is an utter punk.

    Also: Rivas did a terrible job refereeing that match.

    Also: I used to like both Arlo White and Cobi Jones, but they were pretty terrible calling his match.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Too many Mother’s Day jokes

    • One correction – it was Adrian Healy, not Arlo White (he does PBP for LIV Golf).

      But they were terrible, had done zero prep. ‘Andre Blake is one of the best in MLS at saving PKs’. Um, no, for how great Blake is in goal, he is quite average stopping penalties.

  2. Got all three points, on the road and despite baffling refereeing decisions. What Barrios was still doing on the field will require explanation from somebody with much more sense than Rivas.

  3. Looks like Elliot and Glesnes also picked up yellows

    • (Was in before the edit)

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      For the life of me, I never saw what Bueno got his card for. I did see Rubio drag someone to the ground, but no red for him.

      • Section 114 says:

        He actually had his hands around the neck of the Rapids guy who saw red and then threw him to the ground, and then engaged with three others. This four person twist really mitigated everyone’s culpability.

        I thought the only red required was for instigation and he handed out a yellow for that.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        I did see a replay finally from a decent angle. Yes he had his arm around the neck. Trying to pull that guy off Glesnes it looked like. Still. Probably a red for contact with the throat.

  4. Deez Nuggs says:

    These guys are gonna be tired Wednesday.

  5. 1) I cannot remember seeing an MLS game with so many blunders by both teams. Poor passing, poor receiving, poor decision-making.
    At times it looked like a youth match. I have commented often about how the general skill level of MLS had improved, but this game regressed to the level of 5-10 years ago.
    2) That said, Wagner’s strike was excellent. Carranza’s was a good strike, but it was a goal-keeping blunder.
    3) Referee Rivas was his usual clueless self.
    4) I guess I am glad that El Brujo did not play in this one because I cannot imagine that after Barrios pushed Blake into the boards, El Brujo would have defended and gotten discipline.
    In the NHL, boarding like the Barrios foul is a 5-minute major.
    5) Colorado is not a good team, but the announcers made a point of citing the statistic that since 2021, Colorado had only lost 4 home games before this, so even though this was an ugly win, I think we have to regard it as a quality win.

    • Delighted El Brujo didn’t play for precisely that reason. We wouldn’t see him for the Summer given what he’d do in reaction.
      . . .
      Ugly match and not a strong opponent but we got the three on the road. Mission accomplished. Do it lovely…do it ugly…it’s all the same to me when it works.

  6. Deez Nuggs says:

    Was it my imagination, or was Leon Flach playing some devastating through balls?

    • philsoc8 says:

      In a circumscribed role Leon is a fine MLS player. It’s when he has to play as the sole d-mid in a 4-4-2 that he struggles with positioning and decision making.

    • There seemed to be more space on the field for them to find each other and, I agree, Flach had some nice passes.

    • Jeremy Lane says:

      I saw that! I thought his passing was really good and also secure in this match.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        I think in the five across he had more defensive support and felt freer to try an attacking pass. Some really good vision on some of those. I wonder if Jim also told him to attack or “play forward” more.

  7. Happy for the three points, well-earned well-deserved.

    Yes, Barrios is a punk. In what universe does he not get a red for blatantly pushing Blake? Two hands, to the back, fully extended push on the keeper. How is that not called??

    • I kept expecting to see him get the red. I would have been ok with just a yellow but that foul caused the game to devolve.

  8. Andy Muenz says:

    I know that these are experienced announcers and yet they still don’t know why Uhre’s out (even to tell us whether it’s an injury, personal matter, coach’s doghouse, or something else)? That is completely unacceptable on Apple’s part.

  9. Andy Muenz says:

    Rivas had a simple way to diffuse the situation quickly. Show Barrios a quick red card and blow the final whistle (which he eventually did anyway before the ball went back into play). The Union would then know they don’t need to retaliate. At that point, he could work with VAR to determine whether to review and possibly downgrade to a yellow, but that could be done after the players are starting to leave the field.

    • Spot on. When the referee doesn’t control the match then eventually dirty players will take advantage and some reactionary players will take the law into their own hands even when they shouldn’t.

      Our players need to be more disciplined though. It’s a lesson for Bueno. Easier said than done with certain personalities (*cough cough El Brujo*), but taking advantage of another’s team’s red.card situation is a bonus when we don’t cancel it our with retaliation.

  10. Silly ending and painful Bueno got the red. Bad timing with the U20’s out.

    I think the statement that the Union have depth is false. Why, because we do not see any replacements even when it is obvious they had really heavy legs. Guess we will pay for that on Wednesday. We needed this win so there’s that…

  11. 9 yellow cards, 2 straight red. +7, +14 minutes. I fell asleep in the 2nd half and woke up to 102 minutes.. that ref needs to be under investigation, more worried about his hair than doing his job.

    PS: Apple exceeded horrible with this broadcast.

  12. I still believe the team plays poorly in those ridiculous SoCal Surfer kit.

    • Figured out why I feel so strongly about this kit….. NO CREST.

      The designers replaced our crest with that Damm snake.

  13. Union deserved the win. Loved the bit of play leading up to Carranza’s goal — McGlynn’s looping pass to Mbaizo and Mbaizo’s cutback to Carranza who struck it well. Colorado’s keeper could have done better, but it was well taken.

    A shame Rivas made the entire match about himself. That fracas of an ending was largely his making. If PRO is worth anything, he should get a poor review for this one. Maybe even a week or two off.

  14. HopkinsMD says:

    Joe Tansey’s line made me laugh: “The Union’s new offensive strategy should be to let Wagner take every shot attempt within the final few minutes of a half.”
    That was a rocket last night.

  15. Well that was a bad look for MLS! The ref was far to involved in little conversations and waving players off the ground only to give a card to the next player who committed a foul. He had lost control after about 20 ish minutes! The midfield set was better for Flach. And I felt they looked less disjointed. Still pretty sloppy from both sides!

    Also agree that the announcing is pretty awful!

  16. Understandably, that game will
    be remembered for the shoving match at the end but I thought the Union looked good throughout the match.
    The 3-5-2 looked pretty good and the Union made use of the field size. Is the Colorado field particularly big? I ask because it seemed like U was pinging it around very effectively and regularly had open space to use.

  17. Joe Hassell says:

    Great win! The 3-5-2 formation worked well. Spread the the midfield wide and effectively controlled the middle of the field for most of the game. Agree that Lowe overplayed defensively a couple of times, but overall he did a decent job. I think players were getting tired which led to Colorado dominating the latter part of the second half.

    First Union sub wan’t until 83rd minute??? Curtain‘s time management has been discussed on this page numerous times, but knowing the altitude where they were playing, plus they have a midweek game this Wednesday, he needed to make substitutions earlier than the 83rd minute to keep the players fresh and the pressure on Colorado. The Union actually had slightly more possession (over 50%) than Colorado at half time with around 80+% pass accuracy, but ended the game with 43% possession and 75% accuracy. They were running out of gas.

    Still not a fan of Mbaizo. Yes – his pass to Carranza was awesome, but he also made numerous passing errors and lost challenges.

    What is it with MLS referees? Rivas lost control of the game long before the fracas at the end of the game. 17 fouls, 9 yellow cards and 2 reds? Barrios should have gotten an immediate red. He deliberately pushed Blake to incite the Union, hoping to get a few Union players rejected. Bueno was holding another player, but what he did wasn’t worth a red.

    A well deserved win that moves Union up to 5th place in the East. They play the next 2 games at home against a resurgent DC on Wednesday and the #1 NE Revs next Saturday. Great opportunity for the Union to reestablish themselves as an elite MLS team.

  18. Old Soccer Coach says:

    ALTITUDE, as in Denver the mile high city.
    Running distance at Altitude affects runners who are not properly acclimated.
    Winning a soccer game played at altitude means arriving early enough for the side to acclimate, or bunkering in to defend a lead because, as Jeremy Lane referenced, lungs are burning.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I’m wondering if they flew straight from Minneapolis to Denver Wednesday morning in order to have a few days to get acclimated.

  19. el Pachyderm says:

    In the words of Jocko Willink: GOOD.

  20. Anybody know what foul and on who was it called that erased the first goal from the corner kick? Apple can’t get a replay of that but they didn’t miss a word Robin Fraser said about Bedoya deserving a card. Truly miss our top notch broadcast team from WPHL-17,

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Have no clue on that, although I assume it was a push off. In the old days, this would have been a Colorado produced feed so who knows whether we would have seen anything more than we did.

  21. 7 of the next 8 matches are against lesser quality Eastern Conference squads (except NER)….. a HUGE opportunity to get back in the race for Supporters Shield and hosting MLS Cup 2023 in Chester!

  22. FCdelcofella says:

    These are the days I like to be wrong. Well dome U! You did what you needed to do. Now, let’s go on a run….

  23. 3-5-2 rocked! It was fun to watch. Rapids had no answer for 80 min. If your best players are in the back, you might as well put 5 of them in. I would like them to try this with Martinez, too. A 3-3-4???

  24. How the Union saw more cards when Barrios deliberately created a brawl, and three Union players were thrown to the ground (vs none for Colorado) is beyond me.

    It looked like Bueno only had his hands on players when he was pulling them off of Glesnes, so I dunno what that was about. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better case for appeal? I hate it when refs try to both-sides scrums. A yellow card for Glesnes would have been fine, but there was one clear villain team in that collection.

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