Match Recap

Carranza’s hat trick guides Union to Concacaf Champions Cup victory at Saprissa


Julian Carranza turned in another remarkable road performance on North America’s biggest stage as his hat trick led Philadelphia Union to a 3-2 win at Deportivo Saprissa.

The Boys in Blue showed their resilience in difficult conditions with heavy rain and a packed crowd in Costa Rica cheering on their home side in the first leg contest of the Concacaf Champions Cup. After conceding an own goal midway through the first half, Philly battled back with precision passing and patience to grab control of the Round One series. The Argentine forward found the back of the net for the first time of the night 10 minutes into the second half to change the tide in favor of the Union. Carranza then took advantage of back-to-back combinations from homegrown Quinn Sullivan and Daniel Gazdag in a three-minute span to complete the first Union hat trick in CCC play.

Philadelphia Union returns to Subaru Park to open its 2024 MLS slate on Saturday, February 24th, against Chicago Fire. Three days later the Boys in Blue will then look to secure their spot into the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16 when they host Saprissa in the second leg on Tuesday, February 27th.

How it Happened

Unseasonably heavy rain and wind welcomed Philadelphia Union to Estadio Ricardo Saprissa for their opening Concacaf Champions Cup match on Tuesday night. The Boys in Blue under the direction of Head Coach Jim Curtin turned to a lineup that featured a true mix of youth and seasoned Major League Soccer veterans. Homegrowns Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan made up the sides of the 4-4-2 diamond. With Jack Elliott and Olivier Mbaizo absent from the matchday roster, the backline was comprised of Damion Lowe paired with Jakob Glesnes while Nathan Harriel was opposite Kai Wagner at outside back. Up top it was Philadelphia’s lethal front three in Mikael Uhre, Julian Carranza, and Daniel Gazdag was back together up top as expected.

It was early-season soccer for both teams in a chippy first half showing which saw Saprissa earn a first half lead. It was a up-tempo opening 10 minutes with the Union starting with Mikael Uhre's strong sixth minute run toward the net – he nearly beat his defender on the right side, but slipped down on the wet turf while attempting to muscle past the Saprissa player marking him. Saprissa grew in confidence after the early chance from Philly with the hosts nearly converting off a set piece at the back post in the 19th minute.

An uncharacteristic error saw Saprissa grab the first goal of the 180 minute series via a Union own goal. The unfortunate goal came with a quick press from the Costa Rican side as pressure from Orlando Sinclair forced a difficult back pass from Jakob Glesnes that caught Andre  Blake out of position. With wind and rain blowing right into the Union net, the Jamaican keeper tried to collect with his chest, but it snuck though and sent the  Saprissa fans into a frenzy. 

After the opening goal the North American rivalry started to show with Carranza, Martinez and Saprissa’s Sinclair issued yellow cards within a matter of seconds. Despite the one-goal deficit, Philly tried to bag an equalizer with a late set piece but Wagner’s connection was just over the group of Union players in the box.

Philadelphia stuck with its starters to change the momentum of the match in the second half and they did just that with the equalizer 10 minutes after the start of the final half. Wagner was pinpoint perfect after the Union regained possession at the edge of the Saprissa box where the left back picked out an unmarked Carranza for a header on target. The goal injected energy back into the Union and had the opposite effect for the home crowd.

With an all important road goal on their side, Curtin turned to Jesus Bueno and Alejandro Bedoya in the 66th minute to bolster the midfield and allow Sullivan the opportunity to get forward into a more offensive role. The adjustment from the Union paid dividends twice in a three-minute space as the blink of an eye saw a 1-1 match become 3-1 in the road team’s favor. With strong counter pressing to keep Saprissa near the the sideline, a quick interception saw space open up at the edge of the box for the Union. McGlynn flicked over the top to hit Gazdag in stride for a quick one-two sequence with Sullivan. The Hungarian received the pass and drove in toward the near post before laying off a perfectly squared ball in front of goal for Carranza for the lead in the 75th minute. Philly made Saprissa pay a few minutes later on the counter as Harriel read a soft pass and delivered a sliding punt forward that had Sullivan in behind the Saprissa defense. Two dribbles saw the 19-year-old inside the box before cutting it back for reinforcements that centrally in the form of Gazdag. Sensing the back post run by Carranza, Gazdag one-timed it to the penalty spot for the smooth hat trick finish from the Union forward.

Saprissa battled back in front of their home crowd however with a 90th minute goal late to make it a one-goal deficit ahead of the second and final leg at Subaru Park next Tuesday evening.