Match Recap

Union fall at home to Charlotte FC, 2-0


A pair of second half goals from the visitors proved the difference as Philadelphia Union fell to Charlotte FC, 2-0, on Saturday night at Subaru Park.

Saturday night’s match marked the team’s third in eight days, and facing high temperatures at Subaru Park, Head Coach Jim Curtin made some eye-catching changes to his starting lineup for the clash against Charlotte. After playing in a 5-3-2 on Wednesday, Curtin reverted back to a 4-4-2 diamond that featured Tai Baribo and Mikael Uhre up front, Jeremy Rafanello back in the starting group as the No. 10 withQuinn Sullivan, Jesus Bueno and Leon Flach rounding out the midfield. After scoring their first-ever MLS goals against Cincinnati, both Baribo and Bueno each earned another chance to start, marking their second and fourth this season respectively.

The defensive lineup wasn’t at all unfamiliar with Nate Harriel shifting back to his natural right back position opposite Kai Wagner on the left, then Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes paired at centerback. The big change came in net – Andre Blake has battled injury all season, and in his first year in the league, Oliver Semmle stepped into the starting role, playing 16 games so far in 2024. But on this particular night, 18-year-old Homegrown goalkeeper Andrew Rick took over net-protecting duties, experiencing his Union debut just two weeks after his high school graduation from YSC Academy.

The young keeper is the ultimate example of a Union Homegrown, hitting every stop of the pathway. He developed his craft from the Philadelphia Union Youth level up through the Philadelphia Union academy, Union II, and now the first team.

Despite the scorching temperatures and little wind from the riverfront, the Union started off aggressive on both sides of the ball. The action game through the homegrowns, with Sullivan and Rafanello creating chances on the attack while bothHarriel and Rick each made big stops on the other side of the field the opening three minutes.

Philadelphia was just shy of claiming an extremely early lead by way of Baribo, who snuck up behind Charlotte keeper Kristijan Kahlina readying for a goal kick outside of the box. He stole the ball from him, immediately sending it toward the net, but defender Adison Malanda was just quick enough to stop it from going over the line and becoming a goal.

Patrick Agyemang found Rick for a 1v1 in transition, but excellent defensive footwork halted his effort. The moment was a full circle one, though, as both Agyemang and Rick were MLS NEXT Pro standouts while playing for their respective clubs reserve team’s in 2023. The 23-year-old scored 10 goals last year for Crown Legacy FC, but none of them came against Union II.

The Union was firing on all cylinders even before the 10-minute mark, their determination to score the first goal of the match showing when the team’s Norwegian rocketman answered the crowd’s customary demands for him to, ‘Shoooooot’, taking an uncontested blast from distance. Glesnes’ shot nearly went over Kahlina’s reach, but the Charlotte net-protector just barely got a hand on it.

The opening 15 minutes saw the Union dominate possession for almost 75% at one point with the squad attempting five shots to Charlotte’s three in that span. Neither team had any attacking luck before the mandatory cooling break in the 30th minute, intended to keep players safe and hydrated in the more-than-90-degree climate.

After the one-minute break, Rick was called upon to make another save in the 34th minute, calmly collected a line drive to the chest from Liel Abab. The Union found a chance of their own in the following possession, with swift passes between Baribo and Harriel connection giving the Homegrown defender a chance to score, but his effort was stopped by a Kahlina dive.

With the halftime break approaching, both teams made one final push for the opening goal. Charlotte offered the first attempt as Agyemang found his closest chance of the half in the 38th minute, heading the ball off a corner kick but sending it over the net. Philly kept pushing on the other end when Baribo dribbled out of a three-man crash in the box to find Sullivan, who took a shot with too much lift went over the net. Just before the whistle, Uhre earned a dangerous free kick opportunity from 22 yards out but Rafanello’s attempt at a hard curler had too much weight behind it.

The first half ended scoreless, which was reminiscent of their Memorial Day Weekend match that finished 0-0 by the 90th minute. With the shutout at the break, the visitors earned their league-best 14th first half shutout.

With defense at the forefront for the opposition, they had to make the most of their limited attacks when they broke forward and converted in the 56th minute. Finnish defender Jere Uronen found space out on the left side sent a pass into the box that found Agyemang, who headed it into the top right corner despite Rick’s attempt to save it.

Moments after the goal, Curtin made his first changes of the game, replacing Mikael Uhre and Jeremy Rafanello with Chris Donovan and Jack McGlynn. Despite the fresh legs on the field, Agymenag quickly scored another for the away side. After the Union launched an attack, Charlotte FC quickly countered with the ball getting punted up the pitch to their playmaking forward. The 23-year-old turned to a pair of stepovers to pull the Union’s Glesnes to his left and that’s all it took as the forward notched his second goal in seven minutes.

Trailing by a pair of goals, the Union continued to battle in hopes that eventually the dam would break on the Charlotte goal. McGlynn took a pass from Flach just outside the box and shot a stepver to get the ball onto his right foot. With the defense focused on the homegrown, he flicked a pass to fellow homegrown Quinn Sullivan for a one-timer but saw the shot saved by Kahlina.

At the 71st minute and down two goals, Curtin turned to the bench, calling on Philadelphia Union Academy and Union II’s CJ Olney to replace Flach, who was holding his calf in pain. The substitution marked the 17-year-old’s first team debut, coming on the same day he earned just his second appearance on the matchday roster. Charlotte Head Coach made two changes around that time as well, replacing Agyemang with Iuri Taveres and Ben Bender with Djibril Diani.

The score remained the same until the 90th minute, when the official announced that there would be an added eight minutes of stoppage time. Smith added new faces to his group for the final stretch, sending in Tyler Smalls and Brecht Dejaegere.

The Union will have a full week to recover from their hectic slate of matches with their next contest rounding out June with a showdown at CF Montreal. The match in Canada not only ends the month but again kicks off anothe congested schedule with July. Kick off from Montreal is set for 7:30PM ET on Saturday, June 29th, with the action on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

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Every match matters! In 2024, you do not want to miss your favorite matchups as the Union take on the best MLS has to offer! When we score, make sure you are there to get Subaru Park shaking!

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