Jakob Glesnes' spectacular goals, strong defense leading Philadelphia Union

CHESTER -- Jakob Glesnes does not need the Philadelphia Union fans inside Subaru Park to implore him to shoot.

Long before the Philadelphia Union defender scored his first wonderful goal for the club, his mother started telling him to shoot.

Glesnes' mother reminded him of that before Saturday's 1-0 win over the New York Red Bulls in which Glesnes' parents were in attendance for. Glesnes scored a game-winning goal from distance in the 123rd minute.

"It's of course amazing for me. My mom is always saying to me before the games, 'You have to shoot because if you don't shoot you don't score.' She was saying that before the game. It was special to have them in the stadium. The moment at the end of the game was special with the whole crowd going crazy. It's absolutely one of my best moments in my career," Glesnes said.

"The family is always doing that and saying, 'If you don't shoot, you don't score.' It's almost always the same. They have told me that for many years. It's a little fun when they are saying that before the game. After the game, (my mother) said 'I told you, if you shoot, you will score'."

Glesnes' game-winning goal against the New York Red Bulls was his third spectacular strike in two seasons for the Union.

The Norwegian's first goal came on a thunderbolt of a free kick against Los Angeles FC in the second game of the 2020 regular season.

Glesnes struck again on June 20, 2021, when he unleashed a powerful shot that bounced off the top part of the crossbar and into the net against Atlanta United.

"I feel like it just happens in the moment to be honest," Glesnes said. "Of course, we are shooting a bit in training and stuff like that but the ball is not always going like that so I was really happy when I saw the ball was going in at the perfect angle over the goalie."

"(The goal against Atlanta) was more power, but (Saturday's) was more technique," Glesnes said. "I was just trying to get the ball down. The ball can go far over when you take the ball like that. I was just trying to get it over the goalie and down again. When I saw the goalie was in the air and the ball was going over him, I was just running."

Glesnes noted that the celebration that ensued after his goal was one of the best moments since he joined the Union and that it was a welcome reward for a crowd that has been supporting him all season.

"That was amazing," Glesnes said. "The (fans) were so good all game and the entire season. To give them that moment was brilliant."

While Glesnes jumped into the spotlight with his highlight-reel goals, he has been fantastic in the back line all season long. His achievements at the back are understandably shrouded by his stunning attacking movements.

"Jakob's been incredible," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "Often times when center backs aren't talked about it, it's a good thing. In Jakob's case, he doesn't get talked about as a Defender of the Year candidate, which I believe he is, but where he does draw attention to himself is the goals that he scored.

"People like goals. People remember goals. But what they haven't realized over the years is just how good he has been defensively shutting down other teams' attacks. I would put Jack Elliott in that same category.," Curtin said.

Glesnes formed a strong partnership with Jack Elliott at center back. The two helped the Union hold the Red Bulls to one shot on target over 120 minutes in Saturday's playoff opener.

"It's been amazing playing alongside Jack," Glesnes said. "He's a great player and we also work really well together. But it's also (Andre Blake) behind us and (Jose) Martinez in front of us. We've said all season that it starts in the front and then it goes all the way back to us. Of course, we are getting a lot of honor because we had a good year defensively. but it's the whole team and what we have done together."

"Of course (the one shot on target) is great, but we know that game was going to be how it was," Glesnes said. "They are almost just waiting for a mistake from us because they are pressing so hard the whole time and they often score a goal after a mistake. I felt like we followed the game plan perfectly from the start to the end. Of course we want to score before extra time, but how it happened, it was an epic moment."

The focus for Glesnes and Co. is now to defend well against Nashville SC in Sunday's Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Union and Nashville had two of the three best defensive records in the East during the regular season.

"We know it's a great team," Glesnes said. "They are a great defensive team, but they also have some really good quality in attack. We have to be ready for a fight from the first second to the end because it will be a really tough game again."

Coverage of Sunday's match begins at 5 p.m. ET on The Gambler with the Union Pregame Show presented by DraftKings with Sean Brace and Joe Tansey. The radio call can be heard starting at 5:30 p.m. ET. The Union Postgame Show with Brace. Tansey and Kevin Kinkead.

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