For Pete's Sake / Player ratings / Union

The train keeps rolling for the red-hot Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Nothing about Citi Field is suited for soccer.

The field is wedged awkwardly across outfield grass. The best seats in the house are hard to discern.

And the visitors’ locker room — deep in the bowels of the stadium, past memento after memento illustrating the history (a very inflated history) of the New York Mets — is cramped and spartan.

But that did not put a damper on the mood of the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night, after they thumped New York City FC 3-1, sending the crowd back to the 7 train in stunned silence.

The win was the Union’s fifth win in the last six games, a run that’s sent them shooting up the Eastern Conference table. (They’re now fourth in the East after hovering around the red line through the first nine games, although they’re still 9 points back of league leaders FC Cincinnati.)

And their confidence is growing to match.

“When we are in a good streak like we are right now, the games almost can’t come fast enough,” defender Jakob Glesnes said after the match, in an interview punctuated by the irrepressible Jose Martinez yelling “Jakob the best, Jakob the best” in the background.

Carranza’s big night

Leading the way for the Union was star striker Julian Carranza, who bagged a brace in first-half stoppage time that turned the game on its head.

Both goals came from quick transitions from defense to attack. Sure, that was aided by the compressed pitch at Citi Field — “I don’t think anyone in Europe would agree for a team in the top division to play on a pitch like this,” said Glesnes — but it also required tremendous strength, composure, and finishing from the striker.

He also drew a penalty just minutes into the second half, beating the defender to yet another long ball and cutting across him to draw the contact inside the box. (Manager Jim Curtin said after the match that he overruled Carranza’s request to take the penalty; Daniel Gazdag converted to make him 6-for-6 from the spot on the year.)

Carranza, who won MLS Player of the Week honors for his performance, is now tied for the club’s lead in regular-season goals this year with 7.

The Union’s offense, which has produced 13 goals in this six-game stretch, is starting to click.

Keeping the train rolling

Some of that is due to the Union’s new 3-5-2 formation, broken out once again against City. Curtin has used that formation in three of the last four games, all wins. And, while the choice to use it has been influenced by injuries and other absences, it’s definitely been working.

“It’s hard to say something bad about it,” said Glesnes. “We’re back on track, we are where we should be, and so now we just have to keep doing well on defense and scoring goals on offense.”

After the heartbreaking loss to LAFC in the Champions League semifinal, Curtin challenged his team to rebound in MLS play. They’ve more than risen to the challenge, and there’s a hunger to return to last year’s heights.

“It’s much easier to go to the facility after the game when we’ve been winning, compared to when we are playing bad or we are are losing,” Glesnes said with a smile. “We are building confidence, and we just have to keep going.”

Up ahead is another two-game week, a pair of home games. Both Charlotte (four wins in five) and Montreal (five wins in seven) come to Subaru Park in good form.

But confidence in Unionland is high.

“We want to take six points in the next two games,” said Glesnes.

“The train should keep going now.”

Player ratings

While we’re here, let’s hand out some quick player ratings from Saturday night’s match.

Andre Blake – 6. Pretty standard game for the captain on the night, nothing he could have done on the goal. Some good distribution out of the back.

Olivier Mbaizo – 6. Still a frustrating tendency to get caught napping, as NYC almost scored early at the back post from Mbaizo’s unmarked man. But he did well on the night against a dangerous set of attackers.

Jakob Glesnes – 6. Another solid game for the reigning Defender of the Year, who did well to manage the game after picking up an early yellow.

Jack Elliott – 7. Looks comfortable at the heart of the back line and thumped a beautiful pass to Carranza for the opener.

Damion Lowe – 6. Gave supporters a heart attack pressing into the attacking third, but the Jamaican seems to have otherwise fit in perfectly to the Union’s defense.

Kai Wagner – 6. Still finding the balance of attack and defense in the wingback position. Offered some dangerous crosses.

Jose Martinez – 5. His error led to City’s lone goal, and his decision-making on the night wasn’t as assured as usual

Leon Flach – 6. Looks more natural as a deep-lying mid in the 3-5-2 than as a shuttler in the 4-4-2.

Daniel Gazdag – 6. Fairly anonymous other than the penalty and a good decision to let the ball on the second goal run for Uhre.

Mikael Uhre – 8. Sure, he only shows up on the scoresheet for one assist, but Uhre was central to this victory. His hard running and strength put City’s back line under severe stress, opening up space for Carranza and relieving pressure in the Union’s half.

Julian Carranza – 9. Scored two Union goals and drew the penalty for the third. That’s a fantastic day at the office.

Jesus Bueno (73′ sub) – 5. Looks a capable MLS midfielder, at least in substitute duty.

Chris Donovan (86′ sub) – n/a. Got a good seven minutes of running in.

Geiger Counter: Guido Gonzalez: 4. Not sure why NYC FC didn’t get a penalty early in the second half – seemed like a pretty clear foul by Blake in the box. Otherwise got the major decisions right and kept the match under control.


  1. Jeremy Lane says:

    I never saw a replay of the Blake non-penalty incident that seemed clear. I assume the ref was confident Blake got the ball.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      The replay was non-conclusive. I’d say it was 75% that Blake committed a foul and knocked his opponent’s foot into the ball rather than getting the ball itself, but 75% isn’t clear and obvious. I think the ref thought Blake got the ball because of the angle the ball left at.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        “Clear and obvious” standard. The Ref called no pk live, and the angles just could not produce 100% view of contact enough to change that. Live, I personally thought it was a pen. But on replay I actually got more confused whether there was any contact. This is why var didn’t intervene.

  2. Can’t believe I’m writing this but I think harsh on Martinez. He did send the pass to Uhre (hockey assist) and did play agressive without ‘hot head Jose’ exposed.
    So after watching last games of EPL, I’m posing this question:

    would it make sense/could the Union re-sign Brendan Aaronson now that his departure from Leeds is eminent?

    The transfer money the Union have received so far would pay his salary for years!!!! SMILE

    • +1 on Martinez.
      Honest question: Who’s Aaronson replacing in the lineup? Gazdag is arguably better suited to the Union’s approach. DG has also put up superior numbers for the Union compared to when BA was at the spear of the diamond. Granted DG is older than when BA was playing for the Union.
      They’d have to pay at least $8M-$10M for him in a transfer fee, a loan fee would be in the low Millions too. For him to do what? Come off of the bench? Doesn’t make sense, financially and soccer wise. I do get and appreciate the nostalgic sentiment though.
      I’d like to see the Union go out and get either a LB if they can’t sign Wagner to an extension. Possibly sign a veteran striker with MLS experience for the stretch run. Or go out and sign a young promising striker to replace Carranza when he inevitably gets sold for a pile of cash (hopefully in January and not this July). Possibly sign that Striker to a U2 contract since there’s no Salary budget restrictions in NeXT Pro, then move him to the senior team when Carranza inevitably departs.

    • Tim Jones says:

      I have no idea what salary Brendan Aaronson now commands, but I assume it is well above the Union’s usual range.
      Positionally, he would be a leading candidate to slot in for Bedoya at the right shuttling midfielder in the diamond. He knows the defensive system and has the underlying sprint speed, sprint frequency and ground coverage.
      But I would seriously doubt he wants to come back to MLS.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I’m also guessing that MLS has some mechanism in place so that the Union would have to “trade” up to be able to get him as an USMNT player.

      • I completely forgot about the Union’s most pressing need: finding a real long term replacement for Ale Bedoya on the right side of the diamond. Yes, you are correct that BA would fit that role very well!
        As for his current salary, if the interwebs are correct it looks like he’s on around $2.8M currently. Which would make him the Union’s highest paid player in their short history, but also isn’t that far off of what they’re paying Uhre and Gazdag currently either.
        To answer Andy’s question, MLS has done away with the Allocation Order system and Draft. The Union might have to put a discovery or special discovery claim in for him though.

    • The Union Jack says:

      That ship has sailed. Let him enjoy his timee in Europe. Hopefully he finds himself again. Leeds put a lot on him early. He just needs to remember what he is capable of.

      As for the Union they need to look ahead an not backwards.

  3. The main issue with Citi-Field and Yankee Stadium is the orientation of the field. The dimensions aren’t any smaller than West Ham’s old ground Upton park were. The issue is the orientation, which messes with depth perception. Because it’s on an angle, it’s difficult to judge distance. Similar to playing basketball in a dome stadium vs in an arena. The greater distance behind the basket in a dome setup makes it more difficult to judge the distance. The hoops appears to be further away than it actually is.
    And of course the baseball specific stadium also has baseball specific camera angles, which leads to a less than ideal TV viewing experience for any sport other than baseball being played in the venue.
    5 is harsh for Martinez IMO. It was his pass that setup the game winning goal after all. Lowe’s mark is a little high too. He does get caught out of position and upfield a lot which lead to a ton of space down his side of the field, leading to what should have been the pigeons second goal, and a 2-0 lead. His athleticism allows him to recover most of the time, but there’s been a ton of space on that side of the field for attackers to operate.

  4. Eric Boyle says:

    Luton Town’s stadium may be small, you may have to line up in someone’s driveway to get in the gate, but at least it is a proper football pitch, not a frigging baseball field!

    Only a NYC team could get away with this for so long. Having said that I thought they finally got approval for a new stadium. Anyone know?

  5. The Schmave says:

    Way too charitable for Uhre, who did have great heads up play on the throw in. Otherwise I don’t see how he gets an 8 if you only give Wagner, Blake and Glesnes 6s and Elliot a 7. How about some love for a defense that regrouped after am uncertain 43 minutes and really stoned NYFC in the second half.

  6. Tim Jones says:

    Peter Andrews’ observation about Leon Flach is worth pondering.


  7. The Union Jack says:

    That ship has sailed. Let him enjoy his time in Europe. Hopefully he finds himself again. Leeds put a lot on him early. He just needs to remember what he is capable of.

    As for the Union they need to look ahead an not backwards.

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