Jakob Glesnes - Philadelphia Union - celebrates his 40-yard free kick vs. LAFC
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA Today Sports Images

Meet Philadelphia Union free-kick sensation Jakob Glesnes, scorer of the goal seen around the soccer world

CHESTER, Pa. — If you didn’t know who Philadelphia Union defender Jakob Glesnes was before Sunday, there’s a good chance you’ve been introduced to the 25-year-old Norwegian this week.

For good reason. Glesnes rocketed a free kick from 35-plus yards out in the Union's 3-3 draw against LAFC that was such a feat it’s already being talked up as an MLS Goal of the Year candidate two weeks into the 2020 campaign.

It was literally a shot heard round the world of football.

“When the free kick was there and I was going forward, I said to Jamiro [Monteiro], 'If there is just two in the wall I want to try to shoot,' and he said, ‘Are you sure?’” Glesnes said. “When I saw the ball was going in the air and it was a good shot I was so happy when I saw it go in the goal. I knew it was a good touch but it was far away so I didn’t know what would happen.”

The game was just his second in MLS after being acquired from Norwegian first division club Stromsgodset in late January. The Union used Targeted Allocation Money to acquire the Stromsgodset captain but as a relative unknown on these shores, a logical question was whether he would be a day-one starter or be an option in the rotation with Jack Elliott and Mark McKenzie.

He’s answered that so far paired with McKenzie in games at FC Dallas and LAFC and will now have a chance to pair with Elliott the next few weeks with McKenzie away for Olympic qualifying.

“I think my reaction was the same as everyone else’s...speechless,” said Elliott, who was part of a separate celebration of the goal on the bench. “It doesn’t matter if it’s from a defender or not, you can’t say anything about it, it’s just incredible skill.”

The 6-foot-2, 193-pound center back spent his first decade in professional football in his native Norway, working his way up to the top flight, first moving from his home on the island of Sotra on the western shore to the city of Bergen and then to a couple stops on the eastern side of the country. Leaving was always something in the back of his mind, something he said every young footballer in the country dreams of doing.

“When I was 16 I moved from my home and lived with my older brother in the city one hour from our home,” he said. “That was a big choice for me because I was going from a safe place to move to the city because I really wanted to be as good as possible.”

During his teenage years he was invited to trials with English Premier League teams Liverpool and Arsenal but it wasn’t until last December when he visited the Union that the opportunity to open a completely new chapter in his career in another country started to come into focus.

“I had been in Norway for some years and I feel like I had to try something new and go out from the country,” Glesnes said. “When Ernst was calling us and when I was over here in December I feel that they really wanted me and did good research about me and knew me well. It was very easy for me to take this choice to come over.”

His reputation did somewhat precede him as a captain — an honor he first earned as an 18-year-old — but he impressed almost immediately in his first preseason training session with a long ball he hit “on a rope” that had head coach Jim Curtin bragging to reporters a few days later. A center back for nine seasons in MLS, Curtin’s early evaluation of his new defender, who he inserted into the lineup for a preseason match the very next day, was telling.

“He’s a special player and one fans are really going to love,” Curtin said this week.

Curtin of course couldn’t have predicted what would happen when Glesnes called off Monteiro on a free kick near midfield and hit a laser beam to beat Netherlands international goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer.

“I would like to say we worked on that one in training [but we didn’t],” Curtin said. “It was one of those ones where it actually gained speed later on as it went. It kept picking up speed. It was a world class shot, a once in a lifetime hit and the kind of goal you need against a really good team in LA.”

Fans back home in Norway were a little less surprised given a goal he scored from a similar spot from the run of play for his former team.

“It’s a little bit different but it’s in a similar space so Norwegian fans were tagging me on Instagram saying, ‘It’s almost the same,’” Glesnes said.

Glesnes' phone has been blowing up in the days since the goal, but he’s already looking ahead to the next contest and the first in front of home fans after taking two straight road trips that far exceeded any he took in all of his years playing in Norway.

“In Norway the longest trip is two hours [by air travel] so it’s very different here but it’s nice,” Glesnes said. “I get to see things I’ve never seen before.” 


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