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Match report: Philadelphia Union 2-2 FC Cincinnati

Photo: Ruairi Rossi

Philadelphia Union and FC Cincinnati battled to a 2-2 draw in Chester on Saturday night. Jose Martinez and Daniel Gazdag were on target in the first half as the Union jumped out to a 2-0 lead. But Aaron-Salem Boupendza and Brandon Vazquez both tallied in the second half for the visitors as the league leaders stormed back to grab a point on the road. The match was ill-tempered affair, with 12 yellow cards and two red cards handed out between the two teams.

Jim Curtin made just one change to the team that defeated New York Red Bulls two weeks ago. With Alejandro Bedoya suspended for yellow card accumulation, Jose Martinez returned from suspension himself to start in the midfield.

The Union would take the lead in the 23rd minute through Martinez. Gazdag did well to make a run in behind the Cincinnati backline and then hold the ball up as the Union attack. He fed a ball back into Jack McGlynn just outside the box, and the young midfielder patiently waited with the ball before a laying a pass into Martinez. The Venezuelan took a trademark smash from 25 yards that beat Roman Celantano to his right.

Philly would double their lead in the 37th minute through Gazdag. It was the midfielder himself who made a great run in behind the Cincanniti defense, just onside with his timing. He took a touch and flicked a shot over an advancing Celentano, who couldn’t prevent himself from taking down Gazdag as the ball was cleared. After a long delay and Yerson Mosquera being booked for encroashing on the penalty area, Gazdag converted his penalty for his 11th goal of the season.

Cincinnati would pull a goal back in the 49th minute. Brandon Vázquez did well to flick a ball into the path of Yuyu Kubo and the Cincinnati man was in behind the Union backline on the left side. Kubo did well to wait for the run of substitute Boupendza and just squared a pass for the striker to tap home from close range.

The visitors would draw level on 76 minutes. Jesus Beuno gave the ball away poorly down the Union right side and the ball found its way to Boupendza. The striker did well to find time and space to square a cross to Vazquez, who flicked shot deflected off of Daimon Lowe and past Andre Blake.

Philadelphia is next in action when they travel to Charlotte on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m.).

Three Points

  • Chance blown. With a 2-0 lead at halftime, the Union had the game by the scruff of the neck against the league and conference leaders. But the visitors were the superior side in the second half and fought back to grab a point.
  • Ugly. The match wasn’t a great advertisement for soccer or MLS, despite featuring two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Referee Ismail Elfath was card happy and still never really got quite control of the match.
  • More personnel problems. Jack Elliott was sent off with a second yellow card and Jose Martinez came off early with an injury. The Union have struggled to stay healthy and keep their discipline in the closing stage of the regular season.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Daimon Lowe (Chris Donovan 90+3′), Nate Harriel, Jose Martinez (Jesus Bueno 64′), Jack McGlynn, Daniel Gazdag, Julian Carranza, Mikkel Uhre (Tai Baribo 73′)
Subs: Joe Bendik, Matthew Real, Quinn Sullivan, Jeremy Rafanello, Joaquín Torres, Olivier Mbaizo

FC Cincinnati

Roman Celentano, Matt Miazga, Yerson Mosquera, Nick Hagglund (Ian Murphy 46′), Júnior Moreno, Obinna Nwobodo, Yuya Kubo (Dominique Badji 72′), Álvaro Barreal, Santiago Arias (Raymon Gaddis 90′), Sergio Santos (Aaron-Salem Boupendza 46′ (Alvas Powell 87′), Brandon Vázquez
Subs: Alec Kann, Malik Pinto, Marco Angulo, Bret Halsey

Scoring Summary

PHI: Jose Martinez -23′ (McGlynn, Gazdag)
PHI: Daniel Gazdag – 37′ (PK)
CIN: Aaron-Salem Boupendza – 49′ (Kubo, Vazquez)
CIN: Brandon Vazquez – 76′

Disciplinary Summary

CIN: Matt Miazga – 18′ (other reason)
PHI: Jack Elliott – 19′ (foul)
PHI: Daniel Gazdag – 21 (foul)
CIN: Roman Celantano -35′ (foul)
CIN: Yerson Mosquera 36′ (other reason)
PHI: Daimon Lowe – 42′ (foul)
CIN: Nick Hagglund – 45+4′ (foul)
PHI: Julian Carranza – 63′ (foul)
PHI: Kai Wagner – 74′ (foul)
CIN: Yerson Mosquera – 83′ (foul – second yellow/red card)
PHI: Tai Baribo – 85′ (foul)
PHI: Jack Elliott – 90+4′ (foul – second yellow/red card)


  1. The bigger problem is that we can’t be expected to beat Cincinnati in the playoffs. They tied us in Chester missing their best player. So we’ll be hard pressed to beat them in the playoffs in Cincinnati. Also, they bring big money international signings off the bench. We bring Chris “I can only play in the Delaware Valley” Donovan off the bench. Oh, and Matt Miazga is an asshole.

    • So Donovan coming into play in the 90th minute is to blame for the draw?

      Frustrating draw no question. Blaming the one substitute of the game is not the answer.

      • The Union did bring on an International Striker in the second half too. Yai Baribo plays for Israel.

      • I didn’t blame him. I indicated he’s not good enough for a team trying to win MLS cup. Argue with me with a straight face. Go on, make me laugh.

  2. This should come as no surprise… if I comment –beyond this sentiment- on a game like that I am complicit and condone it even exists at all— and I can’t do it. It is shameful.
    Eagles Bengals ends in a tie. That’s it. That’s the post for the dreck of soccer we are forced by policy to accept as Division I. Ugly and Unacceptable.
    Vision. Philosophy. Plan…. had nothing to do with the American version of the NFL game.
    F’off tonight… both of you kissing cousins.

  3. First half was good. That second half? Yikes!
    Ugly game. The defense just hasn’t been up to the standards they set from 2020-2022. They just cannot keep a clean sheet or avoid self inflicted mistakes. They handed FCC their two goals tonight.
    At this point, the Union are a good team, but aren’t going to win MLS Cup unless they suddenly find last season’s form down the stretch.
    Anyone else catch the error on the substitution name on the scoreboard in the second half? Said the Union was subbing on G. Bello. Hmmmm… I wonder if Ernst has a transfer in the pipeline to replace Kai in the winter? George Bello would make a good replacement.
    To the fans chanting “Pay Kai Wagner” tonight….. IF the Union make Kai a DP, how do they replace Carranza? Unless the rumored rule changes happen, it’s difficult for the Union to justify paying Kai DP money when they’ll need to find a replacement for their DP Striker.
    The Union will also need to go and find some upgrades at Centerback to pair with Glesnes. Elliott just hasn’t looked the same this season. Lowe is too mistake prone amd inconsistent.

    • I think there’s a reasonable debate if Kai is worth a DP spot, but it’ll be a crime to let the guy walk AND keep the third DP spot empty.


      I think we’ve seen the ceiling of the Union’s moneyball approach. It was great and got us 90 seconds from a cup. The league has evolved over the last year and it’s ownership’s duty to evolve too.

      • John P. O'Donnell says:

        Carranza is a young DP and gives the Union the ability to sign U22 players with one already on the books and two more still available as long as they have one young DP signed on the roster.

    • I’m sorry everyone, It’s all my fault they gave up 2 goals in the 2nd half. I missed the first half because I was taking my granddaughter back to college in Philly. By the time I got home it was halftime. I had the game on and grabbed a beer planning to enjoy the Union beating Cincinnati and as I sat down, I see the ball going in past Blake. shite! I was tempted to turn it off, but I didn’t, and the mess continued. so again, I’m sorry for jinxing the match.

  4. The Union are who we thought they were. 2022 was a one-off mirage and their window of op is now slammed shut.

  5. No muscle on the bench. …. Wagner is the most valuable ” offensive player on the team “. Direct Kicks corner kicks. vision, calmness on the ball leadership Assists over the last 3 years. He has it all . He must be resigned or this team drops to mid table at best . I don’t like playing with 3 CBs in the back. None of them have the quickness to track a speedy wing or forward with skill and pace. The move for Baribo will not payoff until next year when Caranza leaves. I think Caranza has too much ambition and ego to stay in the MLS. The Unions best hope for a run in the playoffs is to hope that Martinez recovers quickly and Bedoya stays healthy.There is nobody on the bench to do the dirty work in the midfield. Tanner was looking too far in the future for me when he picked up Baribo. I am fine with Glesnes and Elliot. Lowe is a good CB back up. Losing Flach for the season is already showing that the Union can not play the diamond when both he and Bedoya are not there. The Union must sign another strong defensive mid over the off-season if they are committed to the Diamond. Baribo will replace Caranza next year. The Union should receive plenty of money to find a quality defensive midfielder from some where.

  6. MLS typical match… expected nothing less, even if Acosta played… Martinez and he ‘dislike’ each other, would neutralize, no impact, still a tie at home, minus 2 points… another game losing points at home.

    And AGAIN I ‘blame’ Curtin.

    Half time leading 2-0, they come out FLAT, lack motivation and FCC substitutes made a HUGE difference…. something Curtin just doesn’t seem to be able to accomplish against the best league squads.

    OK, I admit it now… NO WAY can this squad host MLS Cup 2023 this year… sadly typed. It’s doubtful now we’ll even have a home playoff game, the way things are trending… with ATL, Columbus and Orlando superior performing squads than we are. Just depressing.


    • If you finish in the top 8, you get a home playoff game no matter what this year, with this year’s format. But of course you want to finish top 4, to have home field advantage. Union are still 3rd in PPG with games in hand and 4 out of last 7 at home.

    • Just want to point out that with ¾ of the season done, the Union are the 3rd best team (on PPG) in a 29-team league. Also, they got a CCC slot. I am very frustrated about last night’s second half too, but the pessimism seems misplaced.

      • Ok… yup, 2nd half against a Padowan, and all the ex’s in attendance, sorry… sitting in a beach front bar in St Pete’s beach didn’t even soften the blow. Have been the only one pushing for hosting MLS Cup 2023 in Chester since last winter….. just bummed. Thanks for the snap out….

        But that still does not excuse the complete lack of motivation, nor defensive lapses.

        Still… POOP.

      • From the greatest WW2 movie… Kelly’s Heros!…. “…the negative waves Moriarty”…

        Here’s to hosting MLS Cup 2023 in Chester! DOOP!

        Thanks again!

  7. While injuries are part of the game, it’s still surprising to me how limited the Union’s roster becomes with just a few players missing. We definitely could have used Perea or Odada last night to shore up the midfield last night. The team looked terribly imbalanced late with 3 strikers and an attacking midfielder in Gazdag. Very one dimensional with only McGlynn and Wagner seeming capable of delivering a final ball.

    I would have preferred a much earlier ditching of the 3-4-1-2 for the diamond and perhaps using players like Mbazo, Real or Sullivan in wider midfield areas. It’s not ideal, but you have to be creative in situations like that. It would never happen with Curtin as I think that he feels vulnerable to the other team’s aerial prowess on set pieces without having Bedoya or an extra CB on the pitch.

    Whether it’s Curtin’s lack of trust in playing anyone outside his core 15 (I categorize that as any player who has played 1,000 min or more this season per Transfermarkt, oddly enough Bendik is the 16th highest in min) or Tanner missing on some of his recent bets (Torres, Perea, Odada), this hasn’t been a great season for the club, despite the competitions that we’ve played well in. I hope that we can kick on and make a playoff run, but I remain skeptical that it’s in us this year.

  8. Everyone should remember we took points off the best in the league last night. Yes, that’s not us. Yes they were without their best player. But I consider it a compliment that they came here with a plan to foul us and make the game ugly, and the first half performance was almost enough to get the job done anyway. What happened was during half time, Jim said “keep doing that” whereas Pat told his team “let’s try something different”. Jim didn’t plan for or adjust for it.
    I’m still kind of betting on the Supporters Shield curse knocking Cincy out in the first round of playoffs. So we might host a final still. (But chances remain that it is Miami that takes them out and then we are in trouble.)

  9. Union can’t continue with the three back system with Lowe. He got yanked at half time with Miami. His whiff on the first goal was the start of a miserable day. He gifted Cinci’s first goal crashing into Elliot’s play at mid field, turning that game around before he got yanked again. He needs to start on the bench.

    • Lowe is definitely a defender who is more comfortable playing deeper and then closing down the space in front of him. A front foot defender.

      Where he really struggles is in space, tracking runners and defending in transition which is problematic. Union central defenders have to be adept in not only playing on the front foot with everything in front of you as well as in transition (both Glesnes and Elliott are capable in those areas).

  10. Droppin’ a Deuce says:

    You are not the team you were a year ago.
    Shot your wad
    2 criminal windows
    Had a chance to walk away from clown ….didn’t take it.

    MLS told you the truth preseason. You raged rather than consider the veracity.

    The league has evolved -again-for the better. The ass-ball you play is now passe’. Winning takes real commitment, which means real money.

    You will win nothing, and be happy.

    • Now someone finally getting it. 1 correction. 3 criminal windows. Where’s that youth development. No more coattails to ride. Open your eyes everyone.

  11. Clear highlight from last night’s game was allowing the girl who is almost through with her cancer treatment to bang the drum before the match. Pretty much downhill from there.
    On a side note, maybe my memory is faulty, but wasn’t it Carranza rather than Bueno who gave the ball away in the leadup to the second Cincinnati goal?

  12. It would be nice to have a pacy player somewhere on the pitch. Their skill players like Gazdag, Sullivan, McGlynn, Bedoya, Wagner and Elliot (sort of ..winner a header) lack athleticism.

    Their athletes like Martinez, Uhre, Donovan, and Lowe, lack skill. Mbaizo might be the exception, having both. Flach may have neither.

    FCC quick passing from the 18 to midfield was giving the Union fits in the second half. Union were stagnant in lines and has no answer for Boup.

    Need to upgrade a bit more to play with the top tier.

  13. Having thought about what I observed Saturday night, here are my observations from Section 105:

    1) The Union played an excellent, spirited first half. In order for them to win anything, even one round of the playoffs, they need to play this way on the front foot.
    2) I did not realize how big and how physical Brandon Vasquez is. Cincinnati were wise to play through him. In the first half, either Lowe and Elliot were mostly marking Vasquez man to man, which seemed to work pretty well. In the second half, Vasquez was able to free himself, which created chaos in the Union’s defensive end.
    3) This is not the first time the Union have suffered an early second half let-down. Even when they don’t give up an early second half goal, I have noticed that they often play poorly the first 10 minutes of the second half. When there is a pattern of negative play, coaching is implicated. Need I say more?
    4) Jose Martinez had one of his best matches, and he seemed in good emotional control. His rocket was a thing of beauty. His absence in the second half was conspicuous because he is such a defensive force. The Union have no one to replace him, and they will not go far in the playoffs unless he is on the field.
    5) I know that referee Ismael Elfath was “chosen” to ref at the World Cup, but this match was one of a series in which he presided over a sh*tshow. In case it was not obvious, Carranza gets no love from Elfath, and Cincinnati was allowed to persistently foul him. To be sure, Carranza’s emotional reactions to Elfath did not help him get any calls, but I am not sure that there was anything he could have done. True, both the Union and Cincinnati play phyically. But I suspect that the players had as much difficulty as I did figuring out what was a foul and what was allowed.
    6) This draw felt like a loss, not just because the Union let the lead slip away, but because the reality is that the Union no longer have any shot at the Supporters Shield, much less a bye in the first round of playoffs for winning the East.

    • The chance of a bye in the first round of the playoffs for winning the conference went out the window when the league expanded the playoffs so 9 teams get in. All of the top 7 teams get a bye, nothing special for winning the conference except that the conference winners play a team that has already played and is match ready.

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