Union match reports

Match report: Deportivo Saprissa 2-3 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

The Philadelphia Union opened their 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup play on Tuesday evening in San Jose, Costa Rica with a 3-2 triumph at Deportivo Saprissa.

The setting: a gusty Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma in front of a raucous 23,000 Saprissa faithful.

As expected for the opener, the affair was sloppy early. The weather appeared to have a clear impact on the flight of the ball, forcing Philly into some uncomfortable situations.

The Union found themselves on the back-foot early as they conceded chance after chance off of their own giveaways. Three corners surrendered in rapid succession around the 15th minute led to a Saprissa chance that fizzed narrowly over the bar. Another corner around the 20th  minute led to a clear header sent just wide by Saprissa’s Madrigal – a chance he will want back.

As the crowd grew into the game, so did Saprissa, with the Union looking two and three steps slower the vast majority of the first half. It was only a matter of time before a Union error led to a Saprissa tally.

Around the 28th minnute, Glesnes, tracked back and blindly played a tough long ball back to Blake who couldn’t do anything but jump to helplessly try to bring it down. But it resulted in the ball settling in the back of his own goal.

A flurry of yellow cards dished out in the 37′ to Carranza, Martinez, and Saprissa’s Orlando Sinclair seemed to calm the teams down for the remainder of the first 45′.

The second frame started with the Union showing a hint more pep. At minute 55, a broken down Union attack found Wagner, who clipped a cross into the box. It precisely found the head of Carranza who finished it well, down and to the keeper’s right.

The Union started to force the issue. A chance four minutes later just missed the low corner. Five minutes after that, Carranza slid a ball into the path of Uhre who chipped it just over the bar.

After Bedoya and Bueno were subbed on, the Union began to look more fluid. Two beautifully worked team goals finished off by Carranza found twine on separate occasions. Both goals similar in nature and coming off primary assists from Gazdag and secondary assists from Sullivan.

The speed of Quinn Sullivan was on display for Carranza’s third tally. He chased down a Union clearance and found the feet of Gazdag who quickly played it onto Carranza – to the audible dismay of the crowd.

Saprissa were able to respond late, getting one back in the 90th minute, sparking a bit of life and a few unconverted scoring chances throughout stoppage time.

Things ended 3-2 Philly, with the Union gathering three important away goals. All eyes now shift to the home leg a week from today (on Tuesday February 27) in Chester, PA at 8:15 p.m..

Before that though, the Union return to Chester to begin their MLS campaign on Saturday against Chicago Fire. Kickoff at Subaru Park will be at 7:30 p.m.

Three Points
  • Midseason form v. fresh legs. The Union were noticeably and expectedly rusty to start things off, with spells of dangerous attacking play here and there. Philly were able to claim a bit of possession in the second frame – showing marked improvement as they grew into the game. The conditioning will improve in the busy stretch of games ahead.
  • New formation unlocked? FoxSports lineups showed the Union playing an unlikely 4-3-3. The new formation could explain some of the disjointed play early on, but the shape in possession and out of possession did not look far off from the 4-4-2 diamond, and I question whether the FoxSports stream had this wrong.
  • A tale of two halves. The squad responded well to the first half woes. Jim Curtin’s side made adjustments to avoid carrying over their nightmarish first 45 into the second frame. They also accomplished more than expected in doing so, picking up a one goal lead on aggregate, and three important away goals.

Philadelphia Union 

Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, Damion Lowe, Nathan Harriel, Quinn Sullivan (Markus Anderson — 90′), Jose Martinez (Jesus Bueno — 67′), Jack McGlynn (Jeremy Rafanello — 90′), Daniel Gazdag, Julian Carranza (Chris Donovan — 85′), Mikael Uhre (Alejandro Bedoya — 67′)

Unused subs: Oliver Semmle, Holden Trent, Olwethu Makhanya, Sanders Ngabo, Jeremy Rafanello, Tai Baribo

Deportivo Saprissa

Kevin Chamorro, Pablo Arboine, Joseph Mora, Jefferson Brenes (Ariel Rodriguez — 81′), Luis Diaz (Eduoardo Anderson — 70′), Yoserth Hernandez (Luis Paradela — 70′) , Mariano Torres, Fidel Escobar, Orlando Sinclair (Javon East — 56′), Gerald Taylor, Warren Madrigal (Ulises Segura — 70′)

Unused subs: Esteban Alvarado, Jefry Valverde, David Guzman, Douglas Sequeira, Jorkaeff Azofeifa, Kilver Gomez, Abraham Madriz

Scoring Summary

Saprissa: Jakob Glesnes (own goal) — 28′

PHI: Julian Carranza — 55′

PHI: Julian Carranza — 75′

PHI: Julian Carranza — 79′

Saprissa: Gerald Taylor — 90′

Discipline Summary

PHI: Julian Carranza — 38′ (foul)

PHI: Jose Martinez — 38′ (dissent)

Saprissa: Orlando Sinclair — 38′ (dissent)

PHI: Damion Lowe — 67′ (foul)

PHI: Kai Wagner — 87′ (foul)


  1. kids are looking good

  2. This will be Quinn Sullivan’s breakout season. Write that down.

  3. Nice win under very adverse conditions. Clinical passing setup all 3 Carranza goals. Great patience and vision from Gazdag. Just wish a bit of Julian’s finishing prowess would rub off on Uhre. The frustration continues.
    Have to say I liked the subs and thought they were well timed. It’s nice to have a presence like Bedoya to bring off the bench.

  4. In my 15 years as a Union fan, I’ve learned that they always start the season slow. You never judge them too harshly from the first couple of matches.

    From that vantage, I will not get overly worried about the horrible defense we showed in the first half (and the final 5 minutes), especially that absolute howler from Glesnes & Blake. They will get that together.

    Dropping 3 goals on the road in CONCACAF is a meaningful achievement. Not only should they easily take care of business next Tuesday, but they’re making me excited to see Quinn Sullivan mix it up with the rest of the front line. This is gonna be a great season.

    • That was 99.9% Glesnes and 0.1% Blake (who could have opted to handle it and give up the indirect free kick from about 6 yards out).

      • Goal either way, most likely.

      • If you notice that play in slow motion, the ball hit the ground and ‘slipped’ to Blake’s right…. the field conditions were terrible… caused that goal.

        Also, the final goal… bad form, but by that time it was over. Lost focus, but with 3 away goals and next Tuesday at S-Park, we got this.

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    All three goals were just beautiful. Well worked and finished. Sullivan and McGlynn, but especially Sullivan was just excellent. I realize it’s game one – but Uhre really needs to find that ability to, you know, score, again. The subs were very good last night too. Curtin got that right for sure. Great to get 3 away goals. Shouldn’t be too difficult to close this out next week. See everyone Saturday!

  6. The good:
    1) Scoring 3 goals in that environment given the weather conditions and hostile crowd.
    2) Getting the win on the road. Hopefully they can be better on the road this season.
    The bad:
    1) Giving up the late goal. A 2 goal win would have allowed the team to rest starters next week. Given their crowded early schedule, squad rotation will be necessary and being able to do it in the second half of a home and home would have been nice. Also, they have had a bad habit of giving up late goals the last couple of years.
    2) While I agreed with Curtin’s subs, I would have liked to see the ones after the first pair come earlier, especially Donovan for Carranza. As soon as they went up 3-1, Carranza should have been off, given the combination of the upcoming schedule and the fact he was on a card.
    The Ugly:
    1) Blake potentially picking up a non contact injury and not being able to take goal kicks for much of the second half.
    2) Glesnes having multiple lapses. He needs to get his head back in the game.

  7. Glesnes had a shaky match, but hopefully he’s just shaking off rust. A good win. Looking forward to second leg in person.

  8. I thought it was an excellent performance. Hope this is a springboard for the season. I still say the team is more fluid without Uhre in the game. He makes big runs which stretch out the defense but doesn’t have a finisher’s touch. I was also a little worried with an all Mexican set of referees. This is CONCACAF after all. As expected, lots of Union yellow cards and one for Saprissa? I was worried they would load us up in preparation for Pachuca. Yep.

    • The yellow cards were reasonable (although as usual Martinez’s was due to his stupidity and could easily cost them in a future round if he picks up another and gets suspended).
      I did NOT think the ref called a fair game, though, from the standpoint of he let a lot more go in the way of calls against Saprissa compared with the Union.

      • How many times did he put the whistle to his lips, and then think better of it?

      • I beg to differ. There were at least 4 times he could have shown a yellow card to Saprissa and didn’t. Also, notice who on the Union got one. Kind of important players. Why didn’t Harriel get one? What about the elbow into the back of Damian when the guy didn’t even try to jump?

  9. Quinn was getting a little tired of all the Cavan talk. He wanted to remind everyone that there is already a Sullivan on the first team!

  10. That was Glesnes’s worst performance in a Union shirt – just awful. There is no excuse for that much “rust”. Uhre blew a golden chance. He has to play better.
    Overall, they did more than they needed to do. Saprissa looked gassed at the end. More chances would have come the they continued to play.
    The referee had a solid evening – lenient but consistent. It is no surprise that he probably works in Liga MX.

  11. Welcome back Union!
    As expected, some early rust. Glesnes and Martinez in particular had a rough first half. But the whole team was slow on the ball. That will improve, and in fact DID in the second.
    Its hard for me to say whether it was the conditions, sloppiness, or just tough pressure that led to the own goal. Perhaps all three. Saprissa is no pushover, and that was a difficult first match. Jacob looked much tighter second half.
    Bedoya, perhaps expected with a shortened preseason, looks not quite fit.
    I thought Uhre had a pretty good game. Yes, he missed his one clear chance, but his movement was good, energetic, and he created space for Carranza. He started this season better than last, and that may be a sign of good things.
    But the best part, for me: the Union only *allowed* one goal. (An own goal like that cannot plausibly be credited as a chance created by the opposition.) Some nervy moments. Some misses that could have been goals. This has become standard operating procedure. The defense does just enough to put strikers off. That is a good start.
    Gazdag already looks sharp. His vision. Key passes. One-twos. It is looking excellent already.

  12. Secondarily, Saturday is going to be frigid. I am not looking forward to being frozen. Thinking I might wear snowpants and feet warmers.

  13. On the 4-3-3 formation unlocked a trident of attack which in my opinion kept the integrity for the game…that was the plan to use a high press, kudos to Curtin the team even got four goals out of it!

  14. paulcontinuum2022 says:

    The UK Guardian website: One bold prediction …The Jim Curtin era in Philly will come to a shuddering halt.
    “Continuity is generally considered a good thing in soccer, but there is a point at which it leads to staleness. The Philadelphia Union might now be at that point. There were signs of sagging last season. Their underlying numbers dropped significantly from 2022 to 2023. 2024 could make the end of the Curtin era at Subaru Park.”

    • Boy you are just a bundle of fun.
      That was one person’s prediction in an article with many other predictions.
      Instead of your incessant complaining (after a solid road win in Concacaf), what is YOUR prediction? No whining, no complaining – just give us your prediction for the season. W-L-D… or where they finish in each competition. Let’s see how accurate your whining actually is.

      • PSP needs to write an article titled: One hopeful prediction…The paulcontinuum2022 era on PSP comes to an end.
        “Repeatedly complaining about the same things over and over again even after a road win in one of the toughest stadiums to play in leaves other fans exasperated”

  15. Hey…at least he’s not Happy Bob bad. Remember that guy? Every inquirer article about soccer his only comment was:” Soccer blows”

    Paul paid his money…he gets his say. (No one is compelled to read it…AND he has to live with himself).

    • paulcontinuum22 says:

      Just about every team in the East and MLS improved. The U stood pat. They’ll squeeze into the MLS playoffs, then get bounced in first round. No silverware. Anywhere.

      • Fair point. But Tanner found Wagner, Gazdag, et. al., and not many thought they were the big piece to get us over the hump. Let’s see if Ngabo, Anderson, etc. are as good as Tanner’s other finds. Let the season play out.

  16. Love it that PSP is still alive and that we have a nice match report and funny comments! Thank you all who stepped up!!

  17. Darn Tootin’ says:

    A Glesnes golazo and a 2nd half Natty by 9.

    Can’t ask for more – though I’m personally thrilled with the sock choice.

  18. I thought the own goal was more Blake’s fault and field conditions than Glesnes’ fault. Glesnes was under pressure and sent a ball back to his keeper. Blake’s jumped and the ball went to his right, NOT over his head. He just clear missed it. He could have easily chested or headed it but the field was wet and he misjudged it.

  19. Welcome back everyone!! Most definitely a tail of 2 halves! The boys looking like the preseason never happened in the first half! The own goal was just awful! Truly looked like the ball moved and Blake had already committed to his jump! The wind was howling so I really don’t think either player counted on that happening! Good response in the second half! 3 very well worked goals! Gonna be tough for them at the Sube! See you all there on Saturday!

  20. for my money…that OG is a Blake mistake. Certainly got served a tough ball to handle, but guess what? Pros handle tough balls. I’ll give him a pass of course, but if we have to assign blame….it was not Glesnes’ fault.

  21. Great comeback by the U. Hopefully they can keep up with the movement. That will be a huge factor going forward. They really need to find their touch/first touch. I’d also like to see them focus on possession more this year.

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