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Jakob Glesnes caps off hectic week with Philadelphia Union debut in preseason win

New signing stepped into a short-handed starting XI and played 45 minutes in a 3-0 scrimmage win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday

Photo by Brian Hattab

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Saying Jakob Glesnes’ last few days were hectic might be selling things short.

The 25-year-old center back’s week began in his homeland of Norway, when he was still a member of Strømsgodset.

By Wednesday, as rumors were circling that he was close to joining the Philadelphia Union, Glesnes was actually in the City of Brotherly Love.

The next day, he was in Florida, and by Friday, after the deal sending him to MLS was finalized, he was training with the Union for the first time.

And, oh yeah, to round out the week, he played the first 45 minutes of the Union’s 3-0 exhibition win against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

“It’s been a good week,” Glesnes said. “Of course, a little bit tired because of the jet lag.”

At the very least, he saw the move stateside coming for a while. Glesnes and his girlfriend traveled to the U.S. in early December to visit the Union’s facility, with the two clubs finalizing the transfer this week.

Glesnes could tell early on that the Union really wanted him, too.

“When I was there in December, I was feeling that they really want me,” Glesnes said. “And that was important for me to take this step to move now — it was because I was feeling that they really wanted me.”

Once things finally calm down and the jet lag has some time to wear off, Glesnes will have to acclimate himself to his new club, new league — and new country as, up until this point, he’s played his entire career in Norway.

“I’ve played a lot of games in the top division of Norway,” Glesnes said, “so [playing in MLS] will be new because it’s new people and a new language and maybe a little bit up in tempo as well. So I have to use the next week to learn the players and everything.”

Although the different language may not be as big a concern, at least when it comes to playing the game itself, according to Union coach Jim Curtin.

“He showed [Friday] in training that good soccer players, the transition is seamless,” Curtin said, “because the game kind of speaks one language — whatever team he’s on, he can figure things out pretty quickly.”

The quick turnaround from signing to playing was because of some missing faces on the Union backline. Philadelphia is missing center backs Jack Elliott (finalizing his green card) and Mark McKenzie, who made his U.S. Men’s National Team debut in a friendly against Costa Rica on Saturday.

“It’s no secret we’re missing McKenzie, we’re missing Jack Elliott — we’re missing two center backs that aren’t here right now,” Curtin said. “Just numbers wise, maybe it was a little bit quicker than we wanted, before we maybe could get him acclimated with the group.”

McKenzie also stands to miss time as the U-23 MNT participates in Olympic qualification from March 20-April 1, and, assuming the U.S. qualifies for the first time since the 2008 Summer Games, from July 23-Aug. 8, making the addition of Glesnes a big one for Curtin.

“Jakob’s going to play a lot of games for us, that’s for sure,” Curtin said. “We obviously have lots of competitions that we’re in. We have a 34-game season. We have Cup play — we’re going to use our entire roster and Jakob’s going to push to be a starter on our team.

“Jakob brings a real quality and professionalism to our group and has played in big games.”

The professionalism he brings not only includes 113 appearances in Norway’s first division and seven appearances for Norway’s U-17 and U-21 teams, but also the experience of being Strømsgodset’s captain for the last two years.

“It speaks a lot if you can become a captain of any club in Europe at that young of an age,” Curtin said. “Usually the captain role, when you think about it, is given to the experienced guys — guys who have been through the battles, guys that can pass things on to the younger players. So to grab a hold of that at 25 speaks highly to what kind of a player he is, but also what kind of a leader he is, which is important.”

But there’s no settling into camp just yet.

Before Glesnes can officially display that professionalism in MLS and show why he was named captain of his former club at such a young age, he’ll have to get over jet lag again as he has to return to Norway next week to finalize some paperwork.

“It will be a little bit of flying,” he joked.