Jakob Glesnes plays a big role in Union run

Philadelphia Union runs out of time in MLS Championship game against LAFC

Photo: Philadelphia Union
Jakob Glesnes (left) jumps on Jack Elliott to celebrate Elliott’s second goal of the Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup final. The goal in the 124th minute gave the Union a brief 3-2 lead on Los Angeles Football Club. Glesnes, a center back from Bergen, Norway, was the MLS Defender of the Year.

Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

On the sideline, Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin put out four fingers and said, “Four minutes.” Curtin is a Philadelphia-area native and ardent Philadelphia sports fan. He understood that his team could become MLS champions and add its names to the city’s short list of titlists in four minutes on Nov. 5.

It was four minutes too long. Gareth Bale, former Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur star and an in-season addition to Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), known for late-game heroics, entered the game for superstar Carlos Vela in the 97th minute. Bale headed the ball past goalie Andre Blake in the 128th minute, the latest goal in a MLS playoff game, to tie the match 3-3.

LAFC won on penalty kicks 3-0 to capture the championship, shocking the Union and adding to Philly sports disappointments. LAFC was playing with 10 men when Bale scored. Bale was scheduled to play for Wales against the United States in a World Cup opener Nov. 20.

The match, though, is being referred to as the best MLS game ever. There were many storylines. It was the first time the top teams in each conference met in the final since 2003. Both teams had finished with 67 points, but the tiebreaker was most victories and that gave LAFC home field, Banc of California Stadium filled with more than 22,000 fans. The second tiebreaker was goal differential, which is usually the first in Europe. If it had been first, the Union (+46) would have hosted at Subaru Park.

The Union showed their own resilience rallying from a 1-0 halftime deficit. In the 28th minute, Kellyn Acosta placed a free kick between the Union wall. Jack McGlyn leaped and the ball glanced off the 19-year-old’s head, misdirecting the ball past three-time Goalkeeper of the Year Blake.

The teams exchanged ooh and ah moments and saves by the Jamaican Blake and Canadian Maxime Crépeau. Jakob Glesnes, the 6’ 2” center back from Bergen, Norway, and MLS Defender of the Year, made a key defensive play.

In the 59th minute, the Union leveled when Hungarian Dániel Gazdag, the Union’s leading scorer, took a long feed from Venezuelan José Martinez and right footed the ball past Crépeau. When the game reached the final seven minutes, it got more exciting and tense. In the 83rd minute, Jesús Murillo’s header off a corner kick from Vela gave LAFC a 2-1 lead. Just two minutes later, Jack Elliott, a 6’ 6” English defender, headed the equalizer off a Kai Wagner corner kick.

To extra time they went. In the 116th minute, Crepeau came running out of his net to stop a Corey Burke breakaway. Crepeau took the brunt of the collision, carted off with a broken leg, red card, and out of playing for Canada in the World Cup. The injury added a lot of stoppage time that worked to the team’s advantage.

Elliott scored his second goal in the 124th minute on a deflection off Philadelphia native and former Union goalkeeper John McCarthy’s hands for the Union’s first lead. Now, they just needed to hold on for four minutes.

McCarthy was known for his ability against penalty kicks, and he blanked the Union 3-0.

The Union had a monumental season with their most wins (19), goals scored (72), least goals conceded (league-record 26), goal differential (+46). The defense was due in no small part to Glesnes, Wagner, and Elliott, and of course, Blake. Glesnes, Blake, Wagner, and Gazdag were named to the MLS XI team.

Glesnes, 28, played every minute of all 37 games, 34 regular season, three playoffs (3,360 minutes). His long pass led to Argentinian Julián Carranza’s equalizer in the 65th minute in the Eastern Conference championship against New York City Football Club. Two minutes later, Gazdag scored, and Burke topped things off in the 76th for a 3-1 victory, avenging the loss to the Pigeons in the 2021 conference title game when 11 Union players, including Glesnes, were placed in COVID protocols.

In the championship game, he completed 78.8% (41 of 52) passes, 82.5% in three combined playoff games (80 of 97). He completed 98% (51 of 52) against Houston on July 30 and exceeded 90% six times. He finished the season at 81.1% (1,002 of 1,225, 131 long passes, 871 short). Glesnes won 110% of his head duels, 132.6% of overall duels, had 52 interceptions, just nine turnovers, and two yellow cards.

This article originally appeared in the December 2, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.