Match Report / Preseason / Union

Preseason match notes: Philadelphia Union 0 – 2 Flamengo

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union Communications

Sunday afternoon in a preseason friendly the Philadelphia Union lost to Brazilian giant Flamengo at Al Lang Stadium in St, Peters burg, FL 2-0.

The Brazilian side’s striker Pedro scored on a penalty kick in the 13th minute while Everton curled a hot gorgeously from the left front of the box in the 42nd just inside the right stick.

2024’s version of the Union played on the eighth day of its preseason. None of its three regular attackers from the last two seasons played, Mikael Uhre, Daniel Gazdag or Julian Carranza.

Chris Donovan played the full 90 at striker. In the first half Joaquin Torres and Jeremey Rafanello played the right striker and attacking midfield respectively. In the second half, after having played the first half as the right midfielder, Quinn Sullivan played striker opposite Donovan until the 85th minute when he was replaced by academy senior Francis Westfield.

Unverified internet reports suggest Uhre and Gazdag have not yet arrived in camp, perhaps because they are trying to acquire green cards. Pictures of Carranza from Clearwater have been published by the Union itself but the Argentine did not play.

Newly announced Bolivian signing right back Jamir Berdecio started and played the first half  less than a week after joining. Unsurprisingly, Flamengo and Everton targeted his inexperience.  As illustrated by the Union’s lineup in each half (given below), Jim Curtin could not play his regulars so he mixed his squads with mostly reserve players.

In addition to Berdecio and left midfielder CJ Olney in the first half, sixteen-year-old Neil Pierre started at right center back in the second half. He was joined by attacking mid David Vazquez, left mid Sanders Ngabo, and right mid Nick Pariano – three players brand new to the club at the three forward vertices of the narrow diamond backed by Jose Martinez, namely . The youngsters gave consistently determined efforts to play the Union’s system of pressure in a midfield block. The dearth of strikers meant there was not the usual high press from the attackers when defending.

Holden Trent played the second half in goal making a  handful of saves with a confidence that was distinctly absent from his play at this time a year ago. So far no more obvious backup for Andre Blake has appeared in camp.

The Union’s next preseason match is Tuesday the 22nd against Austin at the DiMaggio complex in Clearwater at 6:30. Many of those who did not play against Flamengo might get their preseason debuts then.

Played  – or did not – against Flamengo 
First Half Second Half
Player Mins Player Mins
GK Andre Blake 1-45 +3 Holden Trent 46-90
LB Kai Wagner 1-45 +3 Matt Real 46-90
LCB Olewethu Makhanya 1-45 +3 Jack Elliott 46-90
RCB Jakob Glesnes 1-45 +3 Neil Pierre 46-90
RB Jamir Berdecio 1-45 +3 Olivier Mbaizo 46-90
DM Jesus Bueno 1-45 +3 Jose Martinez 46-90
LM CJ Olney 1-45 +3 Sanders Ngabo 46-90
RM Quinn Sullivan 1-45 +3 Nick Pariano 46-90
AM Jeremy Rafanello 1-45 +3 David Vazquez 46-90
S Joaquin Torres 1-45 +3 Quinn Sullivan 46-85
S Chris Donovan 1-45 +3 Chris Donovan 46-90
Subst Francis Westfield 85-90

These are the other currently rostered — or intended to be rostered — players  who are either not in Florida or did not play. We give our best guesses why.

GK Andrew Rick  
GK Fancesco Montali

in camp, unsigned draft pick

LB Isaiah LeFlore  
CB Brandan Craig

Returning from trial at Everton

CB Damion Lowe  
RB Nathan Harriel

Returning from USMNT v Slovenia match

LM Leon Flach  
RM Jack McGlynn

Returning from USMNT v Slovenia match

AM Daniel Gazdag

In Hungary, ?Green Card?

S Mikael Uhre

?In Denmark?, ?Green Card?

S Julian Carranza  
S Tai Baribo  
S Jose Riasco With Venezuela U23s, PreOlympic quals


  1. While he had a couple of poor clearances under pressure, I thought Trent looked pretty good…probably better than Blake on the day (although part of that was the Trent had tougher saves to make than Blake did). After all, he didn’t commit a foul leading to a PK the way Blake did. The Everton goal just goes under the unstoppable category.

    • The contrast in confidence against his first professional start for Union II at roughly a month later than this time last year was striking to me.
      Full marks to coach Wheddon, his goalkeeping staff, and Trent’s goalkeeping colleagues last year and this. Same to Trent himself.

  2. My overreaction from one pre-season game is that Ngabo is my pick for breakout young player for the Union this year. He has some skills.

    • I liked him, too. I did notice late in his half that he may need to improve his all-out fitness level. Recovery runs when not immediately under pressure seemed a bit more labored than they should’ve.
      as I said above, I liked the trio of rookies that played the midfield in front of El Brujo. They seemed to be coordinated in executing the mid-block press better than the starters had been coordinated in their efforts. Of course Jim Curtin may have had a point to make at halftime on the subject.

      • Agreed on fitness. I noticed that with several players. But of course, that’s what preseason is for.

  3. For my money, the best showing of any Union player was Joaquin Torres. Thought he looked really sharp. Hope Jim gives him the space to find himself this season. I think he could have been better last season with more chance to settle in.

    • I agree that Torres didn’t get a fair shake. Jim has a lot of great qualities as a coach, but his dog house is real hard to get out of. Torres had some bright moments in the — can’t recall if it was Leagues Cup or the CCL. A little bit too eager to hold on to the ball to long, but a player with quality.

  4. I just realized I made a bad mistake of omission. 10:43 am.
    I omitted Tai Baribo from my list of those who did not play.

    I will fix that ASAP.

  5. Further gleanings courtesy of Union club digital reporter Sage Hurley.
    Berdecio arrive in Florida sometime on Friday the 19th and had his first day of practices on Saturday the 20th, plural because they go twice a day.
    Baribo, Carranza, and Flach are mentioned by her as missing the match due to injury.
    That leaves Lowe, LeFlore, Rick and Montali unaccounted for. I am guessing that perhaps the two keepers might get pieces of the Austin game. I say pieces because both Austin and Philly are EARLY in the conditioning and evaluating process, and the two coaches could easily agree to accommodate each other with a time structure more accommodating of their needs than two 45s. I would expect the periods might be 45s or 60s, but there might be a mixture and more than just two. Of course we have no idea who came out of the Flamengo event nicked up. That will affect any pregame time agreement.

  6. Little late here, but here are my takeaways from the game.
    Obviously it’s one preseason game so don’t take any of this incredibly seriously
    1. Sanders Ngabo looked really decent and very comfortable in the union midfield. I actually have decent expectations for him. According to transfermarkt he has been described as the next gnabry???
    2. Holden Trent looked really good and got himself a clean sheet for when he was playing. Better then Bendik?
    3. Joaquin Torres looked like one of the most skilled and experienced players on the field when he was playing. Ive always liked Torres and I have always tried to defend him even when he plays like crap. Could this be his year?

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