Jakob Glesnes' ironman streak reaches century mark


When the opening whistle rang out on Saturday night Philadelphia Union centerback Jakob Glesnes etched his name in the Major League Soccer record book as he achieved a rare feat within the sport, becoming the second field player in the league’s 30-year history to start 100 consecutive matches.

He joins the likes of league legends, namely Luis Robles. Chris Klein, David Ousted, Kevin Hartman, and Steve Clark who’ve reached the milestone ahead of him, but his accomplishment is unique, as he’ll be the first defender on the list.

Glesnes’ strenuous 100-start campaign began a month short of three years ago on October 18th, 2020 – his first year at the Philadelphia Union. Since his arrival stateside from first-tier Norwegian league Eliteserien, he’s been a pillar of the team’s defensive backfield, supporting the Boys in Blue through their most successful seasons in club history.

“Ability is one thing, right? And he has incredible ability. I think the accolades that he's won and the respect from the league that he's gotten shows that, “ Head Coach Jim Curtin during his pregame press conference on Wednesday.

“But a lost art in this game is your durability. Durability is just as important, being on the field every day training, getting the continuity, the reps with your teammates is so important. For Jakob, 100 consecutive [starts] in the league is a pretty special mark to hit.”

Following the 2022 regular season that laid the groundwork for Union’s historic playoff run concluding in their first-ever MLS Cup appearance, Glesnes was voted MLS Defensive Player of the Year. The honor came after months contributing to Philadelphia’s nearly impenetrable defense that allowed a staggering league-low of 26 goals. He led the crew with 57 interceptions while aiding the team’s attack, recording a personal high of three assists. All the while, he started every game and played every minute, earning an Ironman title for the second year in a row.

He’s done the same so far this year protecting the net every moment of the 2023 season.

“He plays through soreness and pain as well as anybody. I've relied in some ways probably too much on him this year to start games because we are just better when he's on the field,” Curtin said.

Glesnes impact on the club’s recent success is indisputable, as told through the armful of honors, awards, and titles he’s compiled through his four seasons in Philadelphia. His stat sheets show it too – he’s won 56.13% of his duels, tallied 180 interceptions, and supported 40 clean sheet games through four years and 107 MLS regular season matches.

While the distinctions are well-deserved, his influence on the squad spans far outside the confines of the pitch and the numbers he’s amassed. His even-keeled, pragmatic, and driven disposition has allowed him to grow into a well-respected leader in the locker room, and it has not gone unnoticed by Curtin and his staff.

“His vocal leadership, his willingness to train hard every day and show young players the way… He doesn't let them have days off on the training field. I believe if you work hard on the practice field, you do the honest work in the weight room, these are the types of players that – knock on wood – don't need the load management or the off days or the rest,” Curtin said.

“He's a real testament to the old school defenders that like to defend first and are so vital to our team. His leadership in the group has been incredible. A player I respect a ton, I think he might have almost 40 starts already this year, which is an insane number. Great season so far for Jakob, he wants to end it the right way.”

The team’s recent slate of games has likely been Glesnes’ most physically taxing yet; the Boys in Blue have played more games so far this season than they did through the entirety of 2022 due to their Leagues Cup and Open Cup campaigns. Through the inevitable woes of a long season, Glesnes has been both an unshakeable force on the field and an admirable leader in the locker room, playing an unrivaled role in the Union’s continued success. On Saturday, he’ll add another honor to his ever-growing list, further cementing himself as one of the most impactful players in team history.