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Union Squeak by Saprissa. Advance in the CCC 6-5 on Aggregate.



Photo: Mike Barrera of AAT Sports Network


Wow...what a match to digest. The Philadelphia Union were forced into extra time, and Mikael Uhre sent the Blue and Gold into the next round of the CONCACAF Champions Cup.


I left Subaru Park around midnight, and I took my enjoyable car ride back home to South Jersey. My music was at its usual high volume, but I could still hear my phone buzzing from the Twitter notifications that were continuing to come in. Like me, Union fans had a lot to talk about but needed to find a way to get some decent sleep.


I got back home just before 1am. I said hello to my cat, made sure my daughter was still asleep, and immediately propped open my computer. After a night like that, I needed to vent it out and comprehend what a chaotic match that was.


Saprissa Supporters

Let's start with the fans. Union fans were great, but kudos to the away side. I know some of you were lucky enough to be at Subaru Park when Club America came to town. It was one of the loudest matches I can remember at Subaru Park (including the Eastern Conference Final win), and the away fans poured in from each corner of the stadium. Although the Saprissa fans were not as prevalent as Club America, they were noticeable throughout the stands on a Tuesday night, and they were LOUD. I loved it. Whether you are a Union fan or not, seeing passion for the sport in our stadium is a great thing to watch, and I applaud the Saprissa fans for proudly supporting their club. You can check out some of Jose Nunez's footage of the fans in the away section.



Newcomer Makes a Good Impression

We have to acknowledge a young player tonight. A quick shoutout to Markus Anderson who made his first Union start and played in both legs against Saprissa. We have some questions into Tai Baribo's status, and it's clear from last year that the Union needed depth at the forward position. In my opinion, Anderson gave us exactly what was needed in those first 45 minutes. He was aggressive, relentless, and showed a lot of confidence in a difficult matchup. Also, he helped kick start Quinn Sullivan's goal. As you can see in the video below, Markus' ability to force the Saprissa keeper into a save led to a pair of deflections in the box. Thankfully for the Union, Quinn was able to seal the deal. After the match, Curtin complimented Markus on a solid performance. He also mentioned that he would have left Anderson in the game if the score had been more favorable for Philly. Alejandro brought in stability and calmness, which is what the Union desperately needed after their first half performance.

Video: Philadelphia Union's Twitter page via Fox Soccer.


Semmle Steps Up

It was hard to gauge Oliver's first performance against Chicago. He had no shot at saving the first goal, and overall, he wasn't tested much against the Fire. He did have a big save at the end of the game, however, which kept the Union alive. Tonight was a different story. Oliver was forced into several difficult situations, including a PK, several punch outs, and a few 1 v 1s, two of which were called for offside (although he still made the save). No moment was bigger than this one in extra time. The Union fans suffered through the Joe Bendik experience last year, and with all due respect to Joe, I cannot imagine him making this type of save for us. We all want Blake back in net, but for now, Oliver is proving himself as a valuable asset.


Video: Fox Soccer


CONCACAF'd

I don't even know where to begin, or how to rationalize this portion of my report. The officiating was .... something. Five Union players were booked tonight: Semmle, Bedoya, Mbaizo, Lowe, and Jack Elliott. Only one Saprissa member was given a card, and it was not until later in the match. Jack Elliott also received a straight red when he brought down East from behind, which forced the Union to a 10 man lineup for extra time. As you'd expect from CONCACAF, the calls were questionable. What really annoyed me was the extensively long VAR checks. For Julian's goal in particular, the match came to a stand still for what felt like three minutes. I'm all for the use of VAR when needed, but if something needs to be looked at for more than 30 seconds, then maybe there's a problem. Overall, the Union survived the night, but they're now forced into some difficult decisions with card accumulation and rotation.


Quinn Sullivan

Entering the preseason, we were wondering who was going to be the next young player to have a breakout season. We saw Bueno, McGlynn, and Harriel arrive on the scene last year, but Sullivan rarely saw minutes. Even so, we saw glimpses of his potential throughout the year. In three games so far, Quinn has been absolutely phenomenal. He contributed to two of the three goals at Saprissa, he earned an assist against Chicago, and he finished tonight with a goal and another assist. Sullivan has shown his versatility with playing in the diamond and as a forward, and he is playing at the level we all hoped for. After the match, Curtin praised both Quinn and McGlynn, and he mentioned that Sullivan is the most fit player on the team. With that, Sullivan has never been heavily involved with the rotation, and Curtin mentioned the caution they will use in making sure he's not overworked. So far so good for the 19 year old.


Mikael Uhre

Out of all the players from last season, you could argue that Uhre underperformed the most according to fans. We expected Mikael to have a breakout season in 2023, but we were all left wanting more from the Danish striker. This year, Curtin praised Uhre for coming into camp in great shape, and it's been a nice start for Mikael. He notched his first goal against the Fire, and he kicked in the game winner on Tuesday evening. For any striker, confidence is key, and Mikael getting on the board early can be huge for the Union. We know that Uhre can find the back of the net, but now we want to see it at the level we expect. I'm happy for Mikael and know how important he will be for Philly if Julian is gone by the summer. Let's hope this is finally the big season we've been waiting for.



Defensive Woes

Let's not sugar coat this. The Philadelphia Union have been scoring the ball, but they've also been giving up more goals than you'd expect. Jim Curtin mentioned the frustrating miscues that have been present over the last three games, as they've given up multiple goals to each of their opponents. In regard to Tuesday's match, East really gave Glesnes and Elliott problems. Speaking of Jakob, he had a CCC round he hopes to forget soon. The own goal was bad enough at Saprissa. Tonight, he fouled East in the box to force the Saprissa PK, and his handball led to the set piece for their third goal. Curtin has preached that the Union are a defensive first club, and they're not built to get into a shootout each week. If that's the case, then this team needs to start fixing that soon. Maybe it's the early season form, maybe it's the congested schedule, I'm not quite sure. All I know is that the Union are shooting themselves in the foot, and it's becoming a bit too prevalent to keep calling it "uncharacteristic".


What's Next?

The Union travel to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night for their first road match of their MLS season, and we should expect to see more rotation. The Union have their home match against Pachuca next Tuesday, and Curtin cannot risk running his main starters into the ground on Saturday. I am expecting a "B Team" lineup on Saturday, and I'm hoping players like Baribo and Makhanya see considerable minutes. The only way this club has a shot of winning a trophy this year is if Jim keeps them healthy each week.


...and now it's time to sleep. DOOP!


Mike Barrera (Mbarrera1323 on Tik Tok and Twitter)






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