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Match report: Philadelphia Union 0-0 Nashville SC

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

On an autumnal fan appreciation night at Subaru Park, the Union played Nashville SC to a scoreless draw in a physical and defensive affair. Nashville came into this game failing to record a shot on target Wednesday vs. Orlando City. And Nashville SC will be disappointed, only mustering one shot on goal to Philadelphia’s five tonight.

The night marked the Union’s final regular season home match, and Alejandro Bedoya was honored for his 200th MLS start. It also could mark Kai Wagner’s last regular season game in front of the home faithful at Subaru Park, as he hinted in a social media post this past week.

Manager Gary Smith opted to change things up tonight for Nashville – with a 3-4-3 that seemed to have Nashville playing inspiring football early. With not much free space for either team to work with, Nashville saw the lion’s share of possession in the early stages of the match.

The match proceeded in a very “staccato” fashion. Twenty-eight foul calls and two yellow cards were issued to each team on the night – indicative of a match where neither team could generate any clear-cut scoring opportunities.

The first opportunity came inside of ten minutes, after the ball pin-balled around the Union 18 yard box and found the feet of Teal Bunbury who fired a shot into the outstretched leg of Glesnes. The play was later blown dead for offside.

Five minutes later, the Union worked the ball to Jack McGlynn at the top of the Nashville 18 yard box, where he fired an ambitious a shot high and wide.

Off of the ensuing breakout, Bunbury found himself with another opportunity that he lashed off the ankle of Martinez, who was shaken up. Martinez briefly exited the pitch before coming back on.

The first card of the match came in the 19′ as Jack Maher held up Julian Carranza, denying the Union on a quick counter opportunity.

The Union slowly but surely worked their way into the game, with McGlynn playing a cross into Daniel Gazdag for a header at the 20′ mark. The chance was easily dealt with by Joe Willis who watched it calmly into his mitts.

Jose Martinez was shown a yellow card in the 24′, after his elbow came up into the face of Dax McCarty while shielding his reception of a pass around midfield. This means Martinez will be out for the decision day match in two weeks.

Alejandro Bedoya had a big chance parried away in the 27′, as he tried to drive a shot from just outside the 18 yard box into the far panel of the net. Willis was there to to meet it, diving and pushing the shot away.

Seconds later, as “Pay Kai Wagner” chants rained down from the River End, Damion Lowe displayed his speed to shut down a Mukhtar opportunity handily as Nashville tried to catch Philly sleeping on the counter.

A 10 minute period where neither team looked particularly threatening, led to McGlynn finding himself with space down the left flank in the 38′. McGlynn carried the ball into the Nashville penalty area but couldn’t quite find Quinn Sullivan with his crossing pass driven low.

44 minutes in, Nashville had a quick spell of inspiring football. Mukhtar patiently worked his way around the Union penalty area, putting two shots into Union bodies, ultimately ending with the Union unscathed.

Into first half stoppage time, the Union had an opportunity just before half, where another Bedoya blast ear-marked for the low far-post was saved frantically by Willis. The half came to a close with both teams’ defenses being the major story of the first 45′.

Nashville came out of the gate dangerously as Bunbury carried an early second half chance into the Union penalty area, where the ball ricocheted around, and a Martinez clearance deflected off of Mukhtar and almost put Nashville ahead. The ball eventually found its way to a Nashville foot, where the attack fizzled out as a shot was hastily blasted well-wide.

Nashville had another a chance four minutes later, where a Shaq Moore cross found Bunbury’s head, but was calmly dealt with by Andre Blake.

Bunbury was active early in the second half – finding himself at the center of an opportunity just a minute later, after being played through by Randall Leal. Bunbury took Lowe on 1v1, cut inside on his left foot, and fizzed a chance just over the bar.

A well worked Union build up in the 55′ found its way to the feet of Harriel who won the team a corner. The ensuing corner saw a set-piece play straight from the training ground find McGlynn’s feet, who blasted a shot off a Nashville body, winning the team another corner.

This time, the corner swung in by Kai Wagner was won by Bedoya at the near post who glanced it smoothly into palms of Joe Willis, who squeezed it tightly with a sigh of relief.

Caranza was at the forefront of a Union counter in the 71′, where he held up the ball and found Bedoya on the touchline. Bedoya deftly found Uhre on a one-touch pass before getting laid out by Walker Zimmerman, who was later carded. Bedoya’s touch played Uhre behind the defense, but the chance fizzled out as Nashville regrouped to cover it well.

On the same play, Gazdag was involved in a collision in the box on the play and the referee seemed look the other way.

Gazdag was fouled in a very good position just outside the 18 yard box after a quick counter attack. Carranza ripped the ensuing free kick off the wall and out for a corner kick, which was dealt with cleanly by Nashville.

Things held pat for the next fifteen minutes, when Jim Curtin opted to make a defensive substitution, bringing on Jack Elliott for Bedoya.

Nashville generated a flurry of chances in second half stoppage time that went to waste, and things ended all square in a scoreless draw at Subaru park.

This match marks the tenth draw for either side in 2023.

The Union now head into an international break period – where they will get some much needed rest prior to their regular season finale in two weeks time. North is the direction, as the Boys in Blue are set to face Eastern Conference foe New England Revolution in Foxborough on October 21st at 6 PM EST.

Three Points
  • Unbeaten in 8 straight – The Union have drawn 6 of their last 8 matches, though remain unbeaten in those 8 games. The team will want to make the most of the regular season finale to try to lock up some additional playoff games at home by securing 3 points on the road.
  •  Defense coming up big – Damion Lowe and the Union backline looked frantic at times, but ultimately held one of the most dangerous players in MLS off the scoresheet, while only giving up one shot on target. This performance will be vital to build on heading into the playoffs.
  • Wagner’s last regular season match at the Soob? – “Pay Kai Wagner” chants rang down from the River End tonight as Kai could potentially depart Philadelphia at the end of the season. The twenty-six year old Union stalwart has yet to be locked up long-term by the Union front office, much to the chagrin of the Union faithful

Philadelphia Union 

Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Damion Lowe, Jakob Glesnes, Nathan Harriel, Alejandro Bedoya (Jack Elliott — 89′), Jose Martinez, Jack McGlynn, Daniel Gazdag, Julian Carranza, Quinn Sullivan (Mikael Uhre — 57′)

Unused subs: Joe Bendik, Matt Real, Leon Flach, Chris Donovan, Tai Baribo

Nashville SC

Joe Willis, Jack Maher, Shaq Moore (Alex Muyl — 67′), Josh Bauer, Taylor Washington, Walker Zimmerman, Dax McCarty, Randall Leal (Luke Haakenson — 77′), Hany Mukhtar, Teal Bunbury (Sam Surridge — 67′), Sean Davis

Unused subs: Fafa Picault, Jacob Shaffelburg, Laurence Wyke, Anibal Godoy, Brian Anunga, Elliot Panicco

Discipline Summary

NSH: Jack Maher — 18′ (foul)
PHI: Jose Martinez — 24′ (foul)
NSH: Walker Zimmerman — 71′ (foul)
PHI: Jakob Glesnes — 90′ (foul)


  1. One. Done. There will be no repeat of the great run of 2022. Let the recriminations and consequences from this failure begin.

  2. Eh, we’re 3rd in the east. It could be worse.

    Wagner though… We gotta do anything we can to keep him

  3. A couple of corrections. I believe that they announced Bedoya’s 200th start was September 27 (the Dallas game). While the Union are indeed unbeaten in 8, they only have 6 draws, they beat New Jersey and Atlanta.
    This was the 5th scoreless draw at home this year (KC, DC regular season, DC Leagues Cup, LAFC, and Nashville). They also had one on the road in CCL. Given the increase in goals against from last season, it’s tough when so many of their shutouts result in draws rather than wins.
    At least this time the card that led to Martinez getting suspended was during the run of play rather than during a dead ball situation like the last 2. If Bueno’s not healthy for New England, they will probably need to go with 5 in the back.
    I thought Lowe was the best player for the Union tonight, really shutting down Mukhtar.
    Union can no longer finish in 2nd. They’ll be 3rd, 4th, or 5th. If they win their last game, it’s 3rd. If they draw, it’s no worse than 4th unless New England beats Nashville by at least 5 next Saturday. Inter Messi won’t be an issue in the playoffs as they were eliminated (DC has also been eliminated even though they are currently in the last playoff spot – once again, MLS show what a shit league it is for having an odd number of teams so one team doesn’t play on decision day.)

    • Yes, Lowe.
      Ate Hany’s lunch, especially in first half.
      A stellar performance.

    • It’s a shit league because no one watches it. Thanks apple!

    • NE laid an egg against Nashville. That means a win or a draw next weekend by the U guarantees a top 4 spot. We still secure top 4 with a loss as long as it is less than 3 goals. If we lose by 3, then NE would leap frog us in the table on the third tie breaker – Goals FOR; we’d be tied on points, wins and goal differential. No matter what happens, we are still in the top 4 if Columbus lose. No other team is in striking distance.

  4. Other than “control Hani,” I’m struggling with the game plan tonight. Namely, was there one?
    Why Sullivan and not Tal, for example.
    I don’t see a deep run this year, and not looking forward to the offseason churn.

  5. John P. O'Donnell says:

    I like Kai, but if he leaves I think it’s time to rebuild the team as it may have hit its ceiling. This doesn’t look like a Cup team with the offence to inconsistent.
    They only hit on one of three players they acquired before the season started in Lowe. Also I be surprised if Carranza is here next year. This might be the end of the widow for this group.

    • “This might be the end of the window…” — which was foreseeable after they lost MLS Cup, and it’s so frustrating that they did nothing to strengthen the team after having come so close. As long as cheap Sugarman is the owner, I don’t believe they’ll compete for the title.

      • Sugarman isn’t the problem. He gives them enough money to compete. Look at the player moves in and out in 2022 and 2023. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss. Miss.

        That’s your answer. Last dance.

  6. Just three days since the last game so I appreciate the fatigue and yes there’s been a glut of games which like a whetstone has grinded this season along as our world class goalkeeper let MLS know this week…
    That said.. I did happen to go to Finneran Haley today…
    … grabbed an eggshell white base coat for the low traffic portions of my house- slapped that stuff up —- grabbed a stool and watched it dry.
    That was more interesting then the Union game today… I rest my case.
    In other news, I think I’ve come full circle to a realization. If they let Kai Wagner walk- I am very nearly convinced to rescind my 13-14 year loyalty and fandom. This is very serious and no small thing. From my angle it would be an egregious choice by Jay Sugarman and or Ernst Tanner.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      This game went exactly how I expected it to. Nashville and Union always tight affairs. Last season I recall we beat them 1-0 only because their own goalkeeper put it in his own net.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        That was Columbus that happened with last season. Against Nashville, the Union gave up a late PK for a 1-1 draw in the first game in Nashville’s new stadium. (Nashville was in the Western Conference last season so they only played once.)

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        Ah! You’re right. Yellow vs yellow. Mistake is easy. Lol. I stand by the sentiment.

  7. If at the beginning of this season I told you that the Union would finish with more points than LAFC, you probably would have thought the Union would have had a successful season. And yet, this season has been a grind with the Union being not quite good enough to win hardware. I hope that the Union are practicing PKs because if recent form is an indicator, that is what we are going to see in the playoffs. The Union can compete with all of the top clubs in MLS. That said, MLS expansion has created a monster of mediocrity, and the Union sometimes play down to the level of their opponents. Injuries, travel and suspensions have played a role. Let’s remember that last years MLS Cup run included two OT wins on PKs.

    And yes, Damion Lowe was MOTM last night as Nashville basically parked the bus.

    • Last year’s cup run had two regulation wins. It was 2 years ago that they beat NJ on Glesnes 123 minute winner and then went to PK’s against Nashville (another tight game against Nashville) before getting beaten 2-1 by COVID.

  8. Sorry… but again, no subs at 60 minutes when the offense was sputtering again… and coming down the left side is non-existent with Jack somewhere else and Kai always alone and forced to cross back to the right side… and Nashville simply stacked defenders WITHOUT ANY FREAKIN’ changes in any way, right Jim?

    And then there is half time motivational moments, which unlike Jack Handey, just do not happen. Maybe Curtin puts them to sleep at halftime and even the spiciest Preimo won’t wake them up?

    Look, I’m just sick and tired of ‘tired excuses’… or that we are better than LAFC… or in 3rd place… this season was a disappointment.

    This squad has sputtered all year and the simple fact is Curtin & Tanner allowed it all to happen.


  9. I love Kai Wagner. I hope he stays. But if he doesn’t, well, it’s always been inevitable; only a matter of when. I was miserable when Fafa left. It was dreadful saying goodbye to Jamiro. I was lost when it was Le Toux (the second time). Every time we had real questions about who or how we could replace them. But ultimately we got through. It will be the same. There’s someone else out there who will want to come here and will do the job his way. It’ll be different but not necessarily worse.

    • The difference is that Kai is probably the best left back that MLS has ever seen (other top players have been at the end of their careers rather than hitting their prime like Kai). Whereas a Jamiro can be replaced by a Gazdag because there are plenty of playmaking midfielders around the world, their aren’t very many left backs who are strong defensively AND assist machines the way Kai is.
      So while they will replace him in some way shape or form, it is likely to be not as good as he is.

      • +1

      • John P. O'Donnell says:

        I read this and think why has no one made a serious offer for him? I think as fans we over value players when they play for the Union. Wagner was also on every team that hasn’t had a breakthrough in big games lately. Last year he had 15 assist in MLS games, this year only 7. Gazdag also has 7 less goals and most are from the spot. Maybe teams have figured out don’t let Wagner pass the ball to Gazdag.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        Alphonso Davies has to be in that discussion. He actually did go to Europe on a big money deal.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Davies has the opposite issue from other left backs. He was still pretty raw. He had about half as many games as Kai and was only 15-17 years old at the time. So just looking at his MLS time, the nod has to go to Kai.

  10. If union were a stock, I’d be selling now. Can anyone sell me a reason to be optimistic about the next month, year, 3 years? Aging D, GK and midfield…. What’s the future?

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      You would sell a low cost investment that’s outperformed the broader domestic market every year for the last 6 while paying enormous dividends in sales to Europe along the way?

  11. Das Gaffer Jurgen says:

    Fair points, Chris, but I don’t have the Union in my 401k or trying to beat the returns of the S&P 500.
    I am a very loyal (at least I thought) long time STH who was very excited about this season. Ever since The Capitulation in Chester (a.k.a. the Miami Leagues Cup match), I have just been idly waiting for this season to come to its merciful conclusion. Nothing about this side excites me, aside from the occasional Jack McGlynn pass that looks on the level European domestic league. Maybe they’ll make a playoff run, but probably not.
    Last season was clearly the peak, which makes that result all the more painful. I agree that what lies ahead does not do much to capture the imagination – an aging core, no real clear successors in the lineup or the academy pipeline, AND a business model that appears woefully outdated.
    Exactly the question above – what’s the future?

    • So Bueno as a possible successor to Bedoya doesn’t count? Or Sullivan? He doesn’t count? Harriel came up through academy. Craig as well. He will probably be a successor to either Elliot or Glesnes. What are you talking about?

      • I hope you’re right. I don’t want my team in the gutter for the next 3-7 seasons either. It’s just looking like they’re trending in the wrong direction.

  12. Union fans are spoiled.
    (Probably) 4th place in supporters shield
    Champions league semi finals
    Leagues cup semi finals
    Finishing above LAFC (!!!!!)
    Great young players that stepped up their game this season like Bueno and Mcglynn.
    Let’s say we had a season like this 5 years ago everybody would insanely happy.
    We’re spoiled from recent years and everybody is saying the season is over before the playoffs have even begin.


    • A draw in NE guarantees a top four finish. We could still do it with a loss if other results go our way, namely NE’s game in hand. That’s most likely home field advantage for the three game round one. The U are 10-1-6 at home. And there’s no facing Messi. So we’ll have a solid chance at a run. I bought my playoff strip already.

    • PaulContinuum22 says:

      Not enough.

  13. soccerdad720 says:

    I know we all want to win. Just win baby. And I see passion, pain (and perspicacity) in almost every posting here. I really like coming here and reading this forum.

    I’ll just say that we have the personnel to make the run again. It (MLS Cup) most definitely could still happen for us this year. That’s what I will be hoping for.

    That…and that these players know how well they entertained us this year. And last….

    because in the end…that’s all this is, entertainment.

    May God bless you all.

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