The Philadelphia Union began their season in style as they thumped Columbus Crew 4-1 at Subaru Park. Despite falling behind to Jakob Glesnes' early own goal, Philadelphia bounced back in style. They were awarded a fortunate penalty at the end of the first half for a handball, which Daniel Gazdag calmly converted. Julian Carranza got his season off to a great start as his quick thinking made it two before Gazdag added a third from the penalty spot. Carranza capped off a memorable evening with his second and the Union's fourth, thanks to the incredible skill of debutant Joaquin Torres.
It was an opportunity for Jim Curtin's side to prove that there would be no MLS Cup final hangover, and they did exactly that. As expected, some players stood out, but some were underwhelming in their season debut and left much to be desired.
Andre Blake- 7
Blake did not have much to do throughout the match. The Crew only had two shots on target in the entirety of the game, and the goal they scored was an own goal. Beforehand, Blake was called into action to deny Lucas Zelarayan as the forward's free-kick from distance seemed as if it may be bending into the side netting of the goal. However, Blake did well to get across and make what was a testing effort look comfortable. He was unlucky to keep out Jakob Glesnes' own goal as the touch at the last second took it beyond his leg. After that, the Jamaican international did not have much to do. He did well commanding his penalty area when called upon.
Olivier Mbaizo- 6
Jim Curtin opted to start the season with the Cameroon international at the right-back position. However, Mbaizo was pretty quiet on the night. He was unlucky to not have a fantastic goal-scoring opportunity as he made a smart run into the penalty area, which would have seen him in acres of space. Unfortunately, Gazdag opted to shoot.
Jakob Glesnes- 6
Glesnes was unfortunate with the own goal. It was a smart ball by Cucho Hernandez, which Alexandru Matan tried to flick goalward. He missed the ball, and it bounced off the foot of the Norwegian, who had no chance of reacting to the situation. Following that moment, he had a solid game and did well in keeping Columbus limited with their chances. A memorable moment was a good ball directed towards Cucho, which Glesnes did well to get across and prevent him from shooting towards the goal.
Jack Elliott- 6.5
Elliott had a quiet game, which somewhat reflects the pattern of the game from a defensive standpoint. After the opening 25 minutes, in which the Crew applied pressure to the Union penalty area, they struggled to maintain a consistent threat. For a central defender, the quieter the game, the better you played and in Elliott's case, that rings true. He did not have much to do and did not make a mistake that stood out.
Kai Wagner- 7.5
Following another offseason of transfer speculation, it was good to see Wagner back in a Union jersey. The left-back started 2023 as he ended the previous season; as a key outlet in the Philadelphia attack. He played a great free-kick into the penalty area, which Carranza got on the end of but could not score. It was Wagner's strike from around 20 yards which hit the arm of a Columbus defender, which was ruled a penalty after a VAR review, despite how harsh it appeared.
One negative about Wagner's performance was the lack of consistency with his set pieces. Excluding the free-kick for Carranza's opportunity, he did struggle to cause a threat from them.
Jose Martinez 7.5
We did not hear much when it came to Martinez in the game, similarly, Zelarayan was very quiet as well. That is a testament to how the Venezuelan played because he did great in denying a fantastic offensive player from taking over the game. Martinez also played a massive part in the second Union goal, as he did an excellent job in outmuscling Zelarayan near the halfway line before playing a strong pass forward.
Ale Bedoya- 7
The 35-year-old could be in his final season as a pro, but he started the 2023 MLS season with a strong performance. Bedoya was constantly involved with Philadelphia's offense throughout the game and was unlucky to only have one assist.
He made a good run down the right and saw his attempted cutback towards Carranza cut out with the Argentinian in a great position. He showed good vision to fizz a pass inside to Gazdag when stood on the right touchline.
Bedoya got the assist for what proved to be the winning goal as he put in the effort to ensure he was part of the Union's break forward for Carranza's first. He ran into the box with plenty of space to run into as Gazdag played the ball in his direction. Bedoya then squared it first time for Carranza, who put the ball into the back of the net. Bedoya also proved that his fitness levels were still high as he played 90+ minutes and was replaced by Andres Perea during stoppage time.
Leon Flach 7-
One player that many fans felt could have started among the substitutes, but Flach proved that he deserved to retain his place in the Union's starting XI. His defensive effort and work rate were as good as ever, as he provided adequate cover for Wagner. However, his play and confidence around the 18-yard box are what impressed the most.
Flach played a great cross into the box with his weak foot, which found Carranza during the first half. Unfortunately, he could not make the most of the cross. It was Flach's shot at the end of the first half, which was blocked by the hand of a Columbus defender, that allowed Philadelphia to get back onto level terms. Another good sign that he's comfortable shooting because he would have panicked and possibly taken a touch and thought about the situation in previous seasons. Another moment that stood out was in the second half, as he found himself on the right and was buzzing around, trying to get the ball around the penalty area. He then played a great pass, which led Carranza into space and away from his marker.
Daniel Gazdag- 8
Gazdag, who had a sensational 2022 season, continued his stunning form in the season opener. He showed great composure to score two penalties in either half, sending Patrick Schulte the wrong way for both. Having missed a penalty in the MLS Cup final, it is good to see that it has not impacted his confidence when it comes to spot kicks. The one frustrating moment came during the second half when he had the chance to put the ball on a plate for Mbaizo to try and score. He instead opted to shoot and saw his effort blocked.
Mikael Uhre- 5.5
It was Uhre that disappointed the most in the season opener, as he struggled to be involved with the game. The Dane had few touches but did not cause any issues for the Columbus defence. Apart from a few offsides, Uhre's name was rarely mentioned. He will need to step his game up with the trip to Inter Miami coming up next.
Julian Carranza- 8.5 MOTM
After a slow start, the Argentinian grew into the game and opened his 2023 season emphatically. During the first half, he struggled to stay onside and was lucky that the linesman's flag was raised as he hit the outside of the post with an open goal in front of him from the edge of the box.
However, Carranza looked like a different player in the second half as he caused Columbus Crew plenty of issues. Before he scored his first, he made a great run from Wagner's free-kick, as he got into the box undetected before failing to hit the target with his effort. However, he made no mistake in the 52nd minute. The 22-year-old did an excellent job adjusting his body on Bedoya's pass to him as he stabbed the ball into the bottom corner from six yards out with his left foot. His run across the defender for the second goal allowed him the time and space to set himself before shooting first time. He did well to get plenty of power behind his low-driven effort as he thumped it past Schulte.
After the game, Jim Curtin admitted that Carranza had received interest from teams outside of the MLS. If the Argentine can keep the level of his performances to that standard, not only will he cause the MLS problems, but he could earn the Union a hefty transfer fee.
Joaquin Torres- 7.5
Torres made an immediate impact as he was quick to show Union fans what he could do. Having come on in the 79th minute, Torres set up the fourth goal 30 seconds into his competitive debut. He did an incredible job getting beyond two players, using his incredible skill and close control to move past them before playing a great through ball for Carranza.
If that is just a glimpse of what Torres can do, he will quickly become a fan favourite among the Philadelphia faithful. The 26-year-old will be a nightmare for opposing teams in 2023, and he could be the x-factor that gets Jim Curtin's team over the hump.
Jack McGlynn- N/A
McGlynn replaced Leon Flach in the 89th minute with the game in the closing moments.
Quinn Sullivan- N/A
Sullivan replaced Julian Carranza in stoppage time and was not given enough time to make an impact.
Andres Perea- N/A
Perea replaced Ale Bedoya during stoppage time and did not have enough time to get into the game.