MLS / Union match reports

Match Report: Philadelphia Union 0-2 Charlotte FC

Photo: Ruairi Rossi

Philadelphia (4-9-6) met Charlotte FC (8-6-6) at home Saturday evening for their second regular-season meeting, looking to end a seven-game winless streak at Subaru Park. Despite multiple players out on international duty, Jim Curtin’s squad was the favorite heading into the matchup. In the wake of a frustrating last-minute loss to FC Cincinnati earlier in the week, the Boys in Blue gave up another three points to The Crown in front of a frustrated audience. 

18-year-old homegrown Andrew Rick saw his first start for the senior team, leaving Oliver Semmle on the bench. Curtin reverted to the Union’s signature 4-4-2 diamond with rotated personnel of Leon Flach at the six, Jesus Bueno and Quinn Sullivan on the outside, and Jeremy Rafanello seeing his third consecutive start at the ten. CJ Olney was once again called-up on a short-term loan from Union II –  coming on in the 72nd minute to make his senior team debut.

First Half

Tai Baribo dispossessed Charlotte keeper Kristijan Kahlina outside his box early in the half, but his shot on goal wasn’t strong enough to cross the goal line before a defender could collect it. Baribo worked hard on both sides of the ball throughout the half to maintain possession. Despite this only being his second start for the Union, he seemed very well-integrated with the rest of the squad. 

Jakob Glesnes attempted another long shot, which was barely tipped over the bar by Kahlina for a corner.

Andrew Rick had his first real test of the night later on in the half, where he cleared the ball away from Charlotte’s Patrick Agyemang on a pass back from Kai Wagner.

The Union held the majority of possession and kept the clean sheet through the first 45. Overall, they played well and as a unit on both sides of the ball to keep Charlotte at bay. 

Second Half

Philly came out of the locker room determined to open the scoring but failed to convert their possession. 

Charlotte opened the scoring in the 56th minute after strong build-up play which led to Patrick Agyemang placing a header in the back of the net. He pushed through Jack Elliot to place the ball past Andrew Rick, who was not expecting the shot to come off from such a close range.  

Soon after, Agyemang scored again on a breakaway following a mistake from Wagner. He beat Glesnes on the dribble to earn the brace. 

Charlotte’s keeper made multiple impressive stops to keep the 2-0 lead alive for The Crown, his performance in goal stopped a number

Rick made a miracle save to keep the Union from falling any further in the 74th minute – luckily the Union’s defense was able to clear the ball for a throw.

Charlotte dominated possession in the second half and could have easily scored more than two.

Three Points:
  •  Tai Baribo: Baribo worked hard to give Philadelphia chances throughout the match. He rotated back on defense when he could, and certainly made an impact. With a little help from his teammates up top, he could have easily added another to his total this week. 
  • Defensive errors: The Union’s back line has been caught sleeping multiple times in the last few matches. Fatigue may be a factor, given the condensed schedule amid international competitions leaving the U short-staffed. Either way, the little mistakes continue to cost them. 
  • Falling into old habits: Philadelphia has not lost three consecutive matches in the regular season since May of 2017. If that doesn’t ring some alarms, what will?

Andrew Rick, Kai Wagner (Olivier Mbaizo 77’), Jakob Glesnes, Nate Harriel, Leon Flach (CJ Olney 72’), Jesus Bueno, Quinn Sullivan, Jeremy Rafanello (Jack McGlynn 57’), Mikael Uhre (Chris Donovan 57’), Tai Baribo

Unused subs: Oliver Semmle, Owelthu Makhanya, Sanders Ngabo, David Vazquez, Markus Anderson, 


Kristijan Kahlina, Jere Uronen, Andrew Privett, Adilson Malanda, Nathan Byrne, Brandt Bronico, Ashley Westwood, Ben Bender (Djibril Diani 72’), Kerwin Vargas (Brecht Dejaegere 90+1′), Patrick Agyemang (Iuri Tavares 72’), Liel Abada (Tyger Smalls 90+1′)

Unused Subs: David Bingham, Jaylin Lindsey, Nikola Petkovic, Bill Tuiloma


Scoring Summary:

CLT- Agyemang 56’

CLT- Agyemang 63’


Discipline Summary:

CLT- Bender ‘68 (Yellow Card)

CLT- Diani ’87 (Yellow Card)

CLT- Westwood 90+8′ (Yellow Card)

Referee: Alexis Da Silva


  1. Flat. Cooked. Blame it on international break absences? Don’t think so. Whole system is stale. If MLS had relegation, Jim’s already gone Squad needs a complete overhaul. We’re looking at a lost season, I think. Team is unwatchable at the moment.

    • Agree. This was our first year as season ticket holders. Hard to justify renewing at this point.

    • +1. About 10 matches ago, I wrote that I thought the window was closing and I wondered if Andre Blake could save the season. It is now too late. We need to find out who can play and who can’t. Though I very much appreciate what Jim Curtin has done here, unless he can adapt to his personnel instead of trying to fit the personnel to his system, he may need a change of scenery, too.

    • paulcontinuum22 says:


  2. Lordy. You’re a young player —whose fault this isn’t— and you have to hear boos and “sell the team” chants rain down on you.
    I’m all for the IRE… and it is well deserved- but it’s not these kids fault.
    Earmuffs for children who read here and for posters who are sensitive—- It’s all a goddamn fat fucking mess.

    • + 1 As Wagner said you cant depend on mostly untested kids to take you to the next step. Sugarman must open up his pocket book. Barnetta and Doakal type players are prime examples of how this team made improvement with seasoned players. I am sure Tanner could find that type of player age skill and experience for under 4 million. Will Sugarman give him the green light is the question?

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    Union did a great job at killing the clock from about 75 minutes on as they continually rotated the ball back rather than putting any offensive pressure on Charlotte. I think their mindset was still on the 0-0 draw in Charlotte last month.
    I’m going to single out Jesus Bueno for having a particularly no bueno game. He was supposed to be on the left side of the diamond but was constantly playing in the center of the diamond leaving Wagner completely out to dry and no one to make the short pass too. This allowed Charlotte to focus on shutting down the right side of the Union attack and was also directly responsible for the second goal as Wagner was pressing forward while Bueno was just standing around in the center of the field. As soon as it was turned over, I thought that there was a good chance the score would soon be 0-2. When Olney came in and Bueno moved to the number 6, the team was much better positionally on the left, but by then it was too late.

  4. Keeping with the “poor defending from union players” theme….Mexico and Jamaica were 0-0 close to the 70th minute….Lowe came on for Jamaica and 30 seconds later, Mexico scored.

  5. I’ve been saying for a while this season is over and I feel for anyone who is attending these home matches. This deservedly earned the SELL THE TEAM chants

  6. Did anyone see that lineup and think win?
    Maybe at this point it’s best to play the kids see what you got and rebuild in the off season.

  7. Darth Harvey says:

    Best Highlight of the night for me…
    My 6 year old inadvertently dubbing Tai as “Tai Burrito.”
    That is all… that is the only positive to take from the team tonight.
    We have a burrito playing for us.

  8. Wither Canada ?

    (Monty Python)

    Brutal match to watch.

    Baribo played well.

  9. 6 points from a playoff spot. 2 points off the cellar. Trending the wrong way and no turn around in sight.

    • 6 points? Try 1 point from a playoff spot. Though I really doubt they’ll make it, then again the teams right around and below them are just as bad and inconsistent.

  10. Do we have a spot in the 2025 super draft? Or did we trade that away?

  11. John P. O'Donnell says:

    We need an attacking number 10. So many times if someone would make a run they could have caused some chaos. I don’t even think Charlotte felt threatened at the end because they constantly go backwards almost every time.
    Has someone thought of some kind of exorcism at Union Yards? Maybe a witch doctor or sacrifice a Rais Mbolhi jersey? The team has the lowest number of home wins in all of MLS this year.

    • All3Points says:

      The thing is, the back line seems focused only on lumping balls forward. They wouldn’t even see the 10 checking into space in the first place.

      • Eh, if their other option is Leon Flach standing still with a defender on his back I’m not sure I can blame them…

    • +1. I think we need to invite Jason Sudeikis to bang the drum and conduct the exorcism (but I have a feeling he is a Sporting KC fan).

    • It Is Cursed !!!

    • The Union have an attacking #10, he’s just so happens to be away on international duty at the Euros currently. He’s also the team’s all time leading goal scorer. What they don’;t currently have is a MLS caliber backup for Gazdag. Rafanello clearly is not a MLS level player.
      Ir was disappointing that Vazquez didn’t make his debut last night. The Union desperately needed someone in that middle attacking spot. Rafanello was so timid that Bueno had to constantly drift that way.

  12. MLS says there were 18,762 in attendance last night – full house. Didn’t look like it did it?

    • I think it’s like when the Phillies were in the final days of their sellout streak. They could fudge the math to say so but in practice weren’t.
      I know I have been getting calls from the team recently to try and get me to games/buy season tickets. And anecdotally I have been seeing more billboard on 95 promoting the team.
      You don’t need to do that if you are selling out.

    • It was definitely a full house. The standing sections even had fans in them. I was even able to sell three of my four seats.

  13. Speaking as an original and continuous season ticket holder, this point is as low as I have felt about the Union. I can’t even give the old coaching sandwich type of commentary (a criticism surrounded by two compliments). Here, the defenders are unable to recover from their high press and Tai Baribo has the high energy motor that he apparently failed to show Jim Curtin until recently. There’s no second positive to identify. The youth of that group that was fielded yesterday isn’t a positive on its own, since it carries the inexperience of that same group as a counterweight. The formation seems both stale and to be failing, since there are doughnut holes appearing too regularly. I cannot imagine that Jim is sleeping well and, by the way, Jay Sugarman is trying to build an international presence ion a foundation of a club that can’t carry it. Maybe the SOBs were right.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      100% agree on all counts. I was originally planning to come home from my 4th of July weekend party early in order to go to the New Jersey game. Now I’m thinking of staying away and giving my tickets to some New Jersey fans as they will be more likely to enjoy it.

  14. The wheels have come off the cart of this season. Everyone else has said most of it, so I will just add here that Baribo’s play in the last couple matches has made Jim Curtin look like an absolute dunderhead. Clearly he puts players in the penalty box who could be helping the squad. He is not the source of our problems by any means, but is surely not getting the best out of what he’s been given either.

  15. Thanks for all of your observations and sympathy. I have lived long enough to have experienced cycles in most every aspect of my life, including sports teams like the Union. Here are my observations from Section 105:

    1) I was surprised at the attendance last night on the hottest night I can remember at the Sub. It looked to me to be about 14-15K, Kudos to the fans.

    2) Charlotte played a high line, and in the first half, the Union tried to attack vertically with long passes to Sullivan, Baribo and Uhre. Of the three, Sullivan tried, but was thwarted, in his first half one on one attacks. That is going to happen against quality defenders. I am OK with that–I applaud that attacking spirit.

    3) As for the other so-called attackers, by the second half, no one seemed to want to try to attack one on one except for Sullivan, who, to his credit created the Union’s best scoring chance of the night in second half stoppage time when he (finally) beat his defender on the right side of the box and slotted a cross to Donovan who deflected it slightly wide.

    4) I think that the team are playing “not to lose” instead of being attack-minded. There is way too much timidity out there.

    5) After Charlotte’s first goal, there was booing and people started to leave. After the second goal, there was an exodus. By the time the game ended after 8 minutes of stoppage time, the majority of the crowd had left so that the boos and shouts of “Sell the team” were not very loud. We have grown used to excellence, and this is not it. We are now seeing mediocrity, and it is galling.

    6) My grandchildren and their friend were mostly bored by the game. We had a discussion about how often even good players like my grandson and his friend get dispossessed when they attack. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try to get past the defender. I think the crowd rightly booed the Union for starting an attack then stopping and back-passing the ball. It reminded me of Italian soccer of the 1980s. Do you remember that? No, you don’t because (Be honest, now.) you (and I) fell asleep in the middle of the matches.

    7) Runs of poor play test a team’s leadership, both coaching and on the field. Right now. both forms of leadership are lacking. [Note: Ale Bedoya did not dress last night.].

  16. Joe from Media (old name, not there anymore) says:

    Been years since I commented. Life happens. All good. I was an original SOB, sending letters to the governor in 2007-08 and all that. Been reading this page almost daily all along though.

    I can’t help thinking it’s more than what we saw last night. I think assistant coaches matter. The 2022 year, and those building to it, I think were heavily related to guys like Noonan and that offensive coach who left after 2022 for Europe, and Albright and the rest. A good head coach has great assistants until they leave to become good head coaches themselves, and then the good head coach gets new great assistants.

    I think the assistants who came in after the coaching exodus just aren’t at the same level as a few years ago. We give/blame Curtin, (and all head coaches) but I think the Union right now are demonstrating that behind the Curtin (forgive the pun) is where the Union is failing. Curtin really matters with the hiring of good assistants and letting them do their thing. The owner really matters when he lets the whole team (coaches too) do their thing. Right now, I think the assistants are not up to snuff. We’re back to playing the way before the great assistants arrived around 2016.

    And yeah, I think a bigger budget is needed too. Maybe that is partially why we don’t have the same good assistant coaches now? Great assistants want to get paid too.

  17. paulcontinuum22 says:

    The Union are the most compelling argument for MLS relegation.

  18. Well the era of home field being a fortress is dead and buried! Have to agree with all the comments above! Wow that was bad! Just stunned by the defense, or lack there of! Baribo(Burtito) , looked decent. The young guys are just untested. Shame they are feeling the ire of the fans. We have seen and expect a lot more from this club. The shame is also MLS for the schedule. The World Cup is coming to our soil and the league seems to not have a clue how to grow interest other than Messi everything up.

  19. Andy Muenz says:

    So Hungary scored in overtime to beat Scotland and finish 3rd in their group. They may or may not qualify for the knockouts but there is a decent chance they won’t know for sure until Wednesday night which would mean Gazdag probably won’t fly back until Thursday for the game in Montreal Saturday (assuming Hungary doesn’t qualify…if they do, Hungary plays sometime between next Sunday and the following Tuesday).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *