Three Takeaways: Philadelphia Union’s First Five MLS Fixtures

MLS: Chicago Fire at Philadelphia Union as Part of the

It’d be harsh to suggest that Philadelphia Union’s MLS Cup final defeat to LAFC is hanging over them. But the Union set such a high standard in their last campaign that this season is proving something of a slow burner so far. Here are three takeaways from the Philadelphia Union’s first five MLS fixtures in the 2023 Major League Soccer season.

Union’s First Five MLS Season Games Overview

Andre Blake’s the Best Around

It’s obvious to say that Union is conceding too many goals. Although when you consider that they’ve conceded nearly a third (8) of last season’s tally (26), it shows an alarming rate of defensive decline.

The same back four of Olivier Mbaizo, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, and Kai Wagner have been named in every game so far. However, in their last two league fixtures, Joe Bendik has been between the sticks after Andre Blake was injured against Chicago Fire in their third league match this season.

Despite keeping a clean sheet against El Salvador’s Alianza FC in the CONCACAF Champions League, the 33-year-old has conceded five goals in two matches. Two goals in added time against Montreal and two in the first ten minutes against Orlando have been hurtful early on.

READ MORE: How Does the Union’s Eastern Conference Success Rank?

It makes the Union grateful for their first-choice goalkeeper, arguably the best in MLS considering he was one of last season’s Major League Soccer MVP nominees. Additionally, there is also hope that he returns on Saturday for the Union but this seems unlikely with reports he’s out until mid-April.

Struggling to Combat Three Fixtures per Week?

Professional soccer players should be capable of playing numerous matches in midweek and at weekends, it’s often a reward for being successful. Yet, for Philly, they were somewhat fortunate to record three points against the Fire with the visitors passing up three huge chances.

However, the defeat to Montreal showed severe lapses of concentration in the latter stages. Is that down to fatigue? Or is that an easy excuse? Perhaps but travelling to El Salvador, Montreal, and Miami so far appears to be taking its toll on the team.

It’ll be interesting to see if Philly can pick up points against Cincinnati and Chicago Fire after playing Mexican side Atlas home and away in the Champions League. Future fixtures will depend on if they can progress but it’s proving more of a hindrance rather than a help.

Not Enough Offensive Signings?

Other than attacking midfielder Joaquin Torres arriving from CF Montreal, the only addition in offensive areas was turning Julian Carranza’s loan signing into a permanent one. Perhaps they’ve been found out somewhat and need some freshening up in attacking areas.

READ MORE: The Union’s Kai Wagner would leave for Leeds United a legend

That being said, their defensive recruitment has been good. Damion Lowe has come in to do a job when needed, even scoring against Alianza and helping shut out their opponents over 180 minutes. Andres Perea netted against former employers Orlando City and is pushing for a permanent spot on the side.

It’s funny how statistics can be bent to look bad or fixed to put a positive spin on things. Perhaps it’s simply a case of suffering from a hangover after a successful season despite no silverware last year.

They’re a goal worse off than in their first five fixtures last year but given they won four of those five, it isn’t highlighted as much as the sluggish start that they’re enduring so far this season. Get back to their best defensively and it’ll give them a great base to build from.


Photo Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports on March 11, 2023, of Philadelphia Union’s Headshot.