Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 0-0 Toronto FC

Photo Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Another home game, another rain cloud over Subaru Park.

And yet, even though it seemed this scenario had played out a thousand times before, the version of the Boys in Blue tonight was new.

Energized. Determined. Perhaps even, dare I say, reminiscent of the Union of old?

Philadelphia  made one change to the Starting XI with forward Julian Carranza absent after picking up an injury on Tuesday. Mikael Uhre, Quinn Sullivan, and Daniel Gazdag served as the attacking trio, while Jack McGlynn, Alejandro Bedoya, and Leon Flach were in midfield.

Meanwhile Toronto FC was missing Lorenze Insigne, who flew to Naples to be with his wife for the birth of their third child.

The defensive structure that seemed to be missing of late for the Union held there own against a Toronto attack registering 13 goals in their last five games. While Federico Bernardeschi had the opportunity to put Toronto on the board in both halves, uncharacteristic mistakes–and a couple of amazing saves from Semmle–kept the Reds scoreless.

Offensively, despite the absence of Carranza, the Union’s attack found ways to chip away at Toronto’s backline throughout the 90 minutes of play. While an overly aggressive Toronto defense did everything they could (and even some they technically shouldn’t have) to throw the Union front 3 off balance, the Union found space to exploit. Time and time again, however, the Union’s offensive tactics were disrupted and they found themselves unable to capitalize.

A rare triple substitution by Jim Curtin in the 78th minute momentarily sparked fresh energy into a Union team that ultimately fell short despite an electric final rally. “Our season has been too extreme”, Curtin remarked in his postgame presser. “I think our guys are a little bit nervous at home to make mistakes, and that’s not a way to play.”

The Union take on Montreal at home on Saturday for the last game before the international break.

Three points

  • Flach is back: Say what you want, but the Leon Flach who came back after injury isn’t the same from before. Flach’s presence has seemed to bring an aura of calm to a Union defense who has scrambled to fill in the gaps in midfield this season.
  • Three in a row: It seems Oliver has gotten comfortable in goal, registering his third clean sheet in a row and keeping Bernardeschi off any “Goals of the Week” montages.
  • Progress, not perfection: It’s no secret that many Union faithful are ready to jump ship due to their unhappiness at the current run–but there have been glimpses of what this team could be throughout the last few games that prove to me not all hope is lost. It won’t be pretty, it won’t be immediate, but this team has shown they won’t go down without some sort of fight. With the defense seeming to get on track, all eyes are on the offense to start firing on all cylinders.


Philadelphia: Oliver Semmle, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Nathan Harriel, Kai Wagner, Daniel Gazdag, Alejandro Bedoya (Chris Donovan–78′), Jack McGlynn (Jose Martinez–78′), Leon Flach, Quinn Sullivan, Mikael Uhre (Tai Baribo–78′)

Unused subs: Jeremy Rafanello, Olivier Mbaizo, Damion Lowe, Jesus Bueno, Markus Anderson, Andrew Rick 

Toronto FC: Sean Johnson, Kevin Long, Nickseon Gamis, Sigurd Rosted, Raoul Petretta, Matty Longstaff, Derrick Etienne Jr., (Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty–79′), Alonso Coello (Kosi Thompson–85′), Jonathan Osario, Deandre Kerr (Deybi Flores–67′), Federico Bernardeschi (Tyrese Spicer–86′)

Unused subs: Aime Mabika, Cassius Mailula, Kobe Franklin, Charlie Sharp, Kosi Thompson, Luka Gavran

Scoring summary


Misconduct summary

PHI — Alejandro Bedoya (foul) — 25’

TOR — Matty Longstaff (foul) — 87′

TOR — Tyrese Spicer (foul) — 90+3′


  1. paulcontinuum22 says:

    Another 2 points down the toilet. But pretend nothing’s wrong, by all means.

    • TFC are good this year, are you still stuck in 2022?

      • paulcontinuum22 says:

        They’re a .500 team. And these 2 pointers the U are donating to the ether are gonna add up. Not in a good way.

    • Bingo. We’re 4-4-7 now and remain below the playoffs just like our last draw a few days ago.
      . . .
      Minnow New Zealand can always brag about being the only undefeated in the 2010 WC. That deserved kudos given the power group they were in. The problem is that they never advanced from group stage because they never won. A draw drops more points than it earns. To be a contender, you have to rack up wins.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    I thought I had outsmarted the team by going out to dinner Saturday rather than watching the Union game and then finding out I didn’t waste two hours watching it. Unfortunately, they got their revenge by taking four hours tonight that I’ll never get back.
    Offense looked completely stagnant with a grand total of 1 shot on goal. Typical attack was a long pass from Elliott or Glesnes followed by 3 back passes to get the ball right back where it started. Union dominated everything that was within 10 yards of the center stripe but couldn’t really do anything constructive outside that area. I remember one sequence in the first half where they got it deep up the right side and had a series of give and goes with each pass winding up a little farther back until it ended up back at midfield.

  3. Well… kept a clean sheet !

    Some good saves by Oliver.

    What happened to Carranza? I’m not buying the ankle…

  4. For some positivity… Flach is something else. The guy is looking 2022 flach, maybe better! Healing that injury must have been important for him. Semmle is one of the most capable backups this team has had, along with McCarthy and freeze. I could seriously see this guy being a starter for a lot of MLS teams. Baribo and Dono getting 20 minutes is VERY important for the confidence. And I realize I don’t have much real proof for this but I could swear we looked much more attack minded and creative once those 2 came in. Donovan is just full of energy and can really inject some life into the team and Baribo is… he passes good I guess? He and dono had one great moment of good passing with each other in the attacking half. But in the end, it’s 0-0 draw. Nothing to ride home about

  5. If a lackluster Wed game happens and no one watches it, did it really happen?

    Man, I feel for anyone going to these home matches. My 2014 STH card is laughing at me from some drawer

  6. Gruncle Bob says:

    A boring-ass but effective playing style is now simply boring-ass. I yearn for the days of Dozkal and Medunjanin. They might not have been that great, but they were interesting and fun to watch. This is just dreadful.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      To your point, don’t I miss Noguiera and Chaco Maidana can someone say The Calm, Tranquillo? The halycon days of actual FOOTY in this city. And now to see Earnie Stewart finding league championship success in Holland. So hey, we ditched the Dutchman for the ‘gengenpressing’ forward forward forward German.
      I’ve long long…… long been on the record for detesting the style of play but was remanded to a forced acquiescing of it… then the few years where they were lethal on the counter and stoic defensively started to win me over a bit.
      But yeah… watching this team can be absolutely fucking gruelingly boring and bereft of aesthetic, class and style.
      Here we are. Awaiting what we used to recognize as a late start Jim Curtin team. Are they going to turn it up in June and gain some momentum? Or is this just who they are?
      I wait. You wait. We all just seem to be waiting.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Well I guess in retrospect, the Dutchman ditched us. We didn’t have to ditch the philosophy.

      • paulcontinuum22 says:

        The 2024 Union are who we thought they were; just… there.

      • Exactly, kick and run soccer will never win you championships in the MLS …and your two strikers are hardly mediocre. Baribo and Andersen must see more of the pitch, but hey, Curtin has had his starting line since day one and we know he won’t budge until opening day kickoff of March 2025. Union soccer under Jim is the most panicked, middle school kick and run ugly soccer I’ve ever seen.

  7. el Pachyderm says:

    Yet again I have had another game only able to train one eye on the 90 minutes relative to life requirements.
    Seems my other– busy eye— is not missing much. Waiting.
    What are you going to be?

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      To discuss on the ride home:
      The U attack is inversely proportional to the defense currently.
      One gets better, the other worse.
      But I’m all for the plan. Fix the D, then sort the attack. Plenty of opportunity to run the table in the second half of the season.

  8. This is not a serious MLS team. You can’t trot out Quinn Sullivan, a 37 year old Bedoya and Uhre and call yourself a serious team. And on top of that have McGlynn play his worst game of the season. Just brutal. What on earth has happened to Gazdag? 2022 seems so long ago.

  9. Same tired game plan, same tired subs, same tired result. I sure wish this teams leadership had some ambition…

  10. Das Gaffer Jurgen says:

    Zzzzzzzz. . . . So glad I gave up my season ticket last year. What a brutally boring team.

  11. Deez Nuggs says:

    I for one appreciate the defensive positioning from the view in the stands. Granted a coop would be more fun, but the defense pattern is locking in. Few mistakes and none of consequence.

  12. First and foremost, it is really a delight to read Anna’s pieces for the site; kudos for the quality of the flow in your prose. And while I am at it — thanks to the site for continuing to exist (I though it was going to end after last season and I look forward to reading the content here every week).
    As for the match itself, Anna is right that there is hope — we increasingly know where our strengths lie, while seeing ever more clearly where change is needed. The defenders last night were excellent, as was Semmle (who I think should start given Blake’s alarming dip in performance over the past year) and Flach, the Energizer bunny. We desperately need to offload a bunch of attacking players, as scouting of Uhre and Baribo was clearly mistaken, and replace them with talent that will keep Gazdag and Carranza inspired. McGlynn and Quinn are ballers too, so there are 4 of 6 starters to build a scary attack from.

  13. I, too, long for those heady days of possession. There was a period with Tranquillo and the 4-2-3-1 where we could possess the ball and look good doing so. At that time, I thought our biggest deficit was always a finisher with a clinical nose for goal.

    In 2022, at its most ruthless, the Union were a killer counter attacking side, Quickly gobbling up errant passes in the midfield to punish on the counter. Now (and I don’t have the stats in front of me) it feels like a lot of teams are happy to cede us possession because they’ve realized we don’t know what to do with it. Toronto gave us the ball just about 50% of the time. And we couldn’t get much out of it. Just a lot of frantic running without result.

    Not sure how this squad remedies that. When the top striker available on your roster is running balls down the wing for crosses, your attack is not focused. I don’t know. The squad could really use a little shake and reset in the summer.

  14. All3Points says:

    Keep Flach at the 6. Martinez instead of Bedoya at the 8. McGlynn on the left. Uhre to the bench. Sullivan next to Carranza.

    • SoccerDad says:

      Or do we bring back the 4-2-3-1 with Jose and Leon as the double pivot, Jack, Danny and Quinn as the midfield 3 and Julian up top. Jose having a bit more freedom to push forward with Leon mostly being defensive coverage.
      While Leon played well defensively in this game, the fact that Toronto was happy to let him have possession as the 6 and would just drop off waiting for him to try to pass tells me that they aren’t afraid of what he can do with the ball at his feet.

      Biggest problem with that is the bench being overloaded with strikers.

      • All3Points says:

        Never gonna happen while Tanner is still here. They’ll die on the 4-4-2 hill at this point.

  15. Jim’s like, you think you figured us out? go ahead, press all you want, you’ll get tired, and the team from TO did appear to weaken in the second half, but not enough to allow a goal, and I can’t help but wonder if the 4 4 2 is holding our guys back at this point. I also would like to officially disagree with all the bored supporters: this is proper football to my eye. This game is often not dazzling. Clean sheets are good performances. The goals will come.

    Anna: this is solid coverage. You are good at this. Thank you.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      The goals will come IF they attack when they have the chance rather than continuously cycling the ball back from the attackers to the midfielders to the defenders. They need to occasionally go the other way with it.

  16. So Toronto came to the Soob and played for the 0-0. They had 9-10 guys behind the ball all game. For those longing for the “Halcyon” days of possession soccer….. or as most of the fanbase likes to call them “The Dark Days” of finishing below the playoff line…. the Union “won” the possession battle last night.
    The Union are who they are. When fully healthy their top 11 can play, and beat, every team in the league and the region for that matter. When they are missing 1 or more key players, and one or more players have an off night they are going to struggle. Quite frankly that’s the reality for nearly every club in the world outside of the very best clubs (Real Madrid, Barca, Man City, Bayern, PSG…).
    Never thought I would say this, but if Leon was healthy last season……they probably win a trophy. He’s that important to the defense for this team. His play allows Jose to be El Brujo. His defensive cover allows Wagner to get higher up the pitch more frequently.
    Getting back to last night, the Union lacked that final ball. Toronto was organized on defense, and played defense first. I thought Uhre didn’t have a terrible game. Sullivan had a decent game, just lacked that final pass. IMO Sullivan has a greater impact playing in midfield. I give the Union credit for not just thumping crosses into the box like Toronto was trying to force them to. The Union actually tried to work the ball around. Toronto doubled McGlynn and Gazdag nearly every time they got on the ball. Toronto executed their game plan and the Union didn’t have the answers last night. The cold reality is that the Union don’t have anyone to bring off the bench to provide that change either.
    Looking ahead, the Montreal game should at least be more open. Montreal plays a lot like Columbus does so the Union should get more clear chances on goal.

    • Union have one of the best benches in the league…you have plenty offensively to work with off the bench , but in the game of MLS soccer, you usually need more than 15 mins of play to make an offensive impact. Sub Jim, sub!

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Best benches in the league? Not sure where that idea came from. How many trophies have the Union lost because another team was able to bring someone off the bench to beat them?

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      I want to second your comments about Leon. Notice how when Martinez strolls forward to play his line breaking game it’s Flach who recognizes and covers. For all McGlynn’s skill with the ball, he doesn’t. And when he does he’s just not as fast or as good at a tackle. That lack of support is a large part of the defensive problem we’ve had. There’s a reason why we had the best defense the league had ever seen in 22. The two of these guys on the field together.

    • Eddie Would Go says:

      Montreal vs. Philly. Bobby Clarke vs. Guy Lafleur. Cannot wait!

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I’ll be watching the Rangers-Panthers game on my phone while at the Union game Saturday night.

    • I think that you are right that Leon is a key piece, but I like him more at the #6 – with a huge caveat.
      Leon doesn’t get sucked forward like Martinez and that discipline has helped the D enormously.
      BUT the caveat is that Leon is not yet comfortable enough to turn with the ball or pass it forward. I would love to know how many passes he made last night and how many went forward. We have 3 good midfielders that can get open for a pass from him if he can buy them a minute and look up. But every time he got the ball, it immediately went sideways or backwards.
      That said, developing Leon’s passing is probably easier, more valuable and more probable than developing Martinez’s defensive discipline.

  17. I have 0 knowledge of soccer tactics or anything but I’m wondering, would it be ridiculous to play a 4-2-3-1? I think it’s obvious by now that coach should be starting but so should Mcglynn and Sullivan. Start Martinez and flach at the cdm, Sullivan can play out wide, Mcglynn can… try and Gazdag can play the cam. Then play carranza at the striker. Teams have been letting us have possession because they know we can’t do anything with it. Why not embrace that and use it for good? It seems like flach provides some real defensive stability, and Martinez is surprisingly creative for the attack. Play Sullivan naturally and have carranza be the lone striker. We don’t press anymore anyway, so why play a pressing formation when we don’t press?

  18. I have to say that was the most sleepy game in… maybe ever! There was very little attacking, no real press. My bride commented that it looked like a 90 minute passing practice! Yeah the defense looked better, but goodness the attack was lacking any teeth! Pretty poor performance at home. I know that that isn’t the kind of play we have come expect at home! I’ll hope for better!

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