Preview | Philadelphia Union kick off preseason schedule against CR Flamengo


Philadelphia Union’s first matchup of 2024 is on the horizon, and since landing in Florida on Monday, Head Coach Jim Curtin’s squad has been hard at work at Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex in anticipation.

On Sunday, January 21st, the team will take on Brazilian side Clube de Regatas do Flamengo in the first fixture of their five-game preseason schedule.

The Rio de Janeiro-based team has established itself as one of the top clubs in South America through its more than a century-long history, and for the Union, a challenge like the one presented before them will be paramount in their preparations for the season to come.

“We’re just looking to show our quality, and everything we've been building on since day one of preseason, grab some moments, and build off that,” said 23-year-old Homegrown forward Jeremy Rafanello.

“I think it's a building block more than anything else, but also, we want a result and we want to come out and win because we're Philly. We want to win everything.”

The game will be the club’s first-ever meeting against CR Flamengo, but some veterans on the field might recognize a familiar face in Léo Pereira, who had a brief Major League Soccer career in 2017. He played in just 10 games for Orlando City SC that season while on loan from Atlético Paranaense, the last of which being a 6-1 loss to Philadelphia in Chester on Decision Day.

Alongside Pereira, Philadelphia Union can expect a cast of South American talent on the opposing side, including Pedro, Everton Soares, and Guillermo Varela, who each scored a goal in Flamengo’s most recent victory against Audax Rio on Wednesday.

“Flamengo will be a great challenge, they’re a team that is a very famous, prestigious club,” Curtin said.

“Back in my day, we used to play college teams to prepare in the early stages. But to play Flamengo, which has about $200 million in players, that will be a really great test for the guys.”

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Preseason | January 18, 2024