Union manager Jim Curtin summed up the wild ending to Sunday’s 2-2 tie at Atlanta United as well as any of the professional scribes on his postgame Zoom call could.
“We pride ourselves on being an analytical club,” he said, “but sometimes the expected goals get thrown out.”
The stat Curtin referred to is a percentage that measures the odds a shot will end up in the net. And the moment he referred to was Jakob Glesnes booting the calculator from Mercedes-Benz Stadium to the Alabama state line.
Glesnes’ goal in the 93rd minute that stole a point wasn’t just a dramatic late equalizer. It was a 35-yard blast that bounced off the crossbar, landed over the goal line, and bounced up off the bar twice more before settling in the net.
“I would rate it up with the goal against LAFC last year,” Glesnes said, referring to his similarly-smashed long free kick in the Union’s last game before the pandemic started. “Both of them are really high up my best, not just goals in the career, for sure.”
You don’t often see a 6-foot-2, 185-pound centerback doing a Diego Maradona impression with a charge up two thirds of the field with the ball at his feet. But that was Glesnes, and not just on the goal. He did it multiple times in the game, and he’s done it in past games this season, too.
“It’s something that we do work on: we have several exercises that we do during the week that have our centerbacks advance the ball,” said Curtin, who was rarely given the privilege in his playing days at the position and who nearly lost his glasses in a mass celebration of Glesnes’ goal.
“I do love, in the modern game, centerbacks that will drive forward with the ball and not just drive forward slowly. He had a charge to him.”
Glesnes has earned the right, though Curtin admitted that he sometimes still has the same Is he really doing that? reaction as everyone else.
“Look, am I encouraging him to dribble 40 yards like he did about eight times tonight? Probably not. You can lose the ball and get countered and get punished,” Curtin said. “But as we’re desperate as we’re down a goal, he does have the green light, because he does have good feet. And when he gets a head of steam, he can pick teams apart and can play a pass.”
Curtin could tell that Glesnes was going to shoot, but he hoped Glesnes wouldn’t do so from quite so far away.
“I wanted him to take at least 10 more yards before he shot,” Curtin said. “I know he can shoot. I see it in practice a lot. But to pull up from where he did was a bit audacious, and he shut me up real quick.”
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Though the goal was an individual highlight, there was teamwork involved that deserves highlighting. Glesnes doesn’t have the freedom to run forward if Jack Elliott doesn’t stay back, and if Leon Flach doesn’t retreat to cover the space that Glesnes leaves vacant.
“Leon ran. I can’t wait to see the physical data because he must have ran maybe a record for us in terms of distance covered,” Curtin said. “And the sprinting that he did when I thought he was cramping up with 20 minutes left, he just kept going. Tons of heart from him. Jack Elliott obviously has to stay home and be disciplined when Jakob goes on these runs. But both of them are playing at an incredibly high level.”
The result was a play that Union fans will remember for a long time, and another terrific chapter in the budding feud between the Union and Atlanta.
“It’s the only ball I think I’ve ever seen hit the crossbar three times in one play,” Curtin said, a sign of how hard the ball was smashed. “It’s a memorable one for sure on the road. When you make a crowd go silent, it’s the best feeling in the world, and Jakob did that tonight for us.”