The Philadelphia Union beat Costa Rica's Saprissa, 1-0, on the road in its debut in the Concacaf Champions League.
Kacper Przybylko, whose status for the game was uncertain due to back spasms, scored the game's only goal in the 34th minute off a cross from Cameroonian defender Olivier Mbaizo.
The Union became just the sixth MLS team to win a Concacaf Champions League in Costa Rica and just the second MLS team to win at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa -- known as “The Monsters Cave” -- in 12 games. (The Columbus Crew won a group stage match in 2019.)
The Union qualified as the 2020 MLS Supporters' Shield winner but was missing four starters from last season: Mark McKenzie and Brenden Aaronson, who were transferred to European clubs, Raymon Gaddis, who retired, and Sergio Santos, who is injured.
“We worked really hard last year to get this opportunity,” said Union coach Jim Curtin. “We’re not going to just sit in and absorb pressure. Oftentimes, that backfires, especially in tough environments like this."
Coached by former MLS player Roy Myers, Saprissa has won 35 Costa Rican league titles, but it came into the game with a seven-game winless streak in league play.
The game marked the debut of 20-year-old German-American Leon Flach, acquired from St. Pauli, in midfield. Quinn Sullivan, 17, made his first-team debut off the bench in stoppage time.
April 7 in San Jose
Saprissa 0 Philadelphia Union 1. Goal: Przybylko 34.
Saprissa -- Cruz; Blanco, Espindola, Watson, David; Hernandez (Cortes 86); Barrantes, Torres, Bolanos; Marin (Ballestero 85), Colindres.
Philadelphia Union -- Blake; Mbaizo, Glesnes, Elliott, Wagner; Martinez; Monteiro, Bedoya, Flach (Real 63); Przybylko (Sullivan 90+4), Fontana.