As one of the most sports-crazy cities in the world, it’s no surprise that the Union have found a vibrant fanbase in Philly. The success of smaller teams like the Union is a big deal for the MLS, which only recently started receiving major coverage from broadcasting groups and sportsbooks.
For example, Betway sports betting markets offer some of the most varied football (soccer) lines in the world, and now cover the MLS. The group currently lists the Union with odds of 10.00 to snag the national title, behind the Revolution, Rapids, and Sounders.
Still, the Union haven’t always seen such favorable odds. Before they ever took first in the league, the Union had only two bronze finishes, one in 2011 and the last in 2019. What came between were multiple seasons without playoff runs or an MLS Cup, aside from the US Open.
While all fans are holding out for seasons like the Union’s 2020 first-place finish last year, the rough years weren’t without a few gems as the team battled to make playoffs. In fact, some might say that the big wins from the pre-Santos years might be sweeter because they were fewer.
Let’s look back at some of the Union’s best franchise wins.
2013 Playoff Dreams
Union 1-0 Toronto
Though the Zolos weren’t destined for the playoffs in 2013, hopes were still high during the late-season battle against Toronto FC. For 80 minutes, the Union’s attacking efforts fell flat. As the game entered stoppage time, one of the team’s most acclaimed and inconsistent players, Kléberson, took the field.
What came next was one of the most exciting moments in Union history as Kléberson sank a free kick goal in added minutes. The shot was perfectly curled, sending the stadium into a mad frenzy. It wasn’t the team’s cleanest win, but it was one of the most unforgettable.
The 2014 Counter-Attack
Union 4-2 San Jose
Following a rough season start, the Union were pulling back into the realm of playoff contention in August 2014. Despite the early losses, the Union had one of their best offenses to date, with Sebastian Le Toux at the forefront.
This mid-season game was the pivotal point when the team’s momentum changed, which would ultimately lead them to a US Open Finals run —the first in club history. To thank was Le Toux, who notched three assists and a goal, accounting for every point in this win over the Earthquakes.
David Accam Showing Off in 2019
Union 3-0 Columbus Crew SC
Union 2-0 FC Cincinnati
Following Le Toux’s departure, CJ Sapong took over as the team’s star. In 2019, he was replaced by Sergio Santos and, more recently, Ilsinho. But not every performance has been a playdate for the Brazilian stars. Back in 2019, David Accam was busy making a name for himself as one of the MLS’s most dangerous strikers.
First, he nabbed an award for Player of the Week after scoring twice and notching an assist for Ilsinho against Columbus Crew SC. The next week, Accam was back at it again, assisting a goal for Fabián before taking the reins ten minutes later with another goal. Though he’s since moved on, few will forget the early days of Accam’s time with the Union.
Ilsinho Leads a One-Man Comeback in 2019
Union 3-2 New York Red Bulls
As mentioned above, Ilsinho and Santos have helped invigorate interest in the club. Back in 2019, with Accam still on the roster, there were more than a handful of unforgettable wins. But none were quite as rewarding as a solid win over sometimes-rivals, the New York Red Bulls.
During a mid-season faceoff, the Red Bulls looked to have the upper hand on the Union. The game was gritty, with three yellows handed out, and two first-half goals from the Red Bulls. But the Union rallied in the second half, with Ilsinho deciding a loss wasn’t on the docket.
At the 60-minute mark, he notched an assist for Monteiro before going on to finish the game himself, scoring at 61’ and then again at 72’ to lead the Union to a 3-2 win. The best part? Ilsinho was doing it for a sold-out Talen Energy Stadium to a roaring crowd.