Philadelphia Union left back Matthew Real started off the 2021 campaign with an eventful appearance in the team’s first ever Concacaf Champions League and ended it not even being in the 18 with 11 teammates in Covid-19 protocol.
Real came off the bench in the game against Saprissa in Costa Rica in April and earned a yellow card for a flying tackle in what ended up being a tight 1-0 win for the Union. He followed that up with two appearances off the bench in the quarterfinals against Atlanta United but was shown a yellow in the second leg that earned him a suspension for the first semifinal match.
The Drexel Hill native earned his only start of the season in a 2-0 loss to NYCFC on May 1. The 61-minute appearance ended up being his longest run out of the season, which saw him log 199 minutes in 11 appearances across all competitions.
With All-Star left back Kai Wagner having another consistently solid season, the minutes were always going hard to come by for Real, but his appearances in the CCL showed there were ways head coach Jim Curtin could get his reserve fullback into matches off the bench.
Real ended up earning 8 substitute appearances over a string of the next 10 games but after subbing in late in a 3-3 draw with Chicago Fire on June 26, it would be a little over three months until he saw the field in a match again. That came October 9 against FC Cincinnati and very may have been his last for the Union.
All told, Real was in the 18 each of the first 18 games of the season, then went nine straight games being left off the 18, played against FC Cincinnati on October 9 and was in the 18 for the last time against CF Montreal on October 16.
Real didn’t dress for the final five regular season and three playoff games that followed, even in an Eastern Conference Final with Kai Wagner among 11 Union players in Covid-19 protocols. Real, who wasn’t seen training with the squad a couple days before the game, was never listed as being in health and safety protocols or unavailable with an injury.
Real’s status for 2022 is up in the air — he received a “bonafide” offer along with Anthony Fontana — but given the way things ended it would be surprising if he’s back in Chester.