The Philadelphia Union are hoping Jakob Glesnes' success from Norway can transfer to the USA. Free use photo from pixabay.

The Philadelphia Union’s transfer window during the offseason saw talents that came from overseas, such as Jakob Glesnes. And due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Union media and fanatics alike could not see much of his talents while on the soccer pitch. Nonetheless, it is important to get to know the new Union player in Jakob Glesnes.

Jakob Glesnes in Norway

Jakob Glesnes hails from Sotra, Norway, a large island west of the city of Bergen and roughly 300 miles west of the Norwegian capital of Oslo. Glesnes began his youth career at the local club of Skogsvåg IL before transferring to Hald. Glesnes then made his move to Løv-Ham Fotball in 2010, a team that was based in Bergen. While Glesnes was there, Løv-Ham discussed and ultimately merged with Fyllingen Fotball to become FK Fyllingsdalen in late September of 2011; the two clubs had been going back and forth on negotiations to merge the two clubs since 2007. Glesnes made 83 league appearances for Løv-Ham/Fyllingsdalen all while finding the back of the net seven times. During his tenure there, FK Fyllingsdalen competed in the Oddsen-ligaen (now known as PostNord-ligaen after 2015), the third tier of the Norwegian soccer league system.

Glesnes joined Asane Fotball in July of 2015 but was only with the club for less than six months and made just 14 league appearances. At the time, the club was promoted to the OBOS-ligaen, the second tier of the Norwegian soccer league system, after gaining promotion by finishing 1st  in group 3 of the Oddsen-ligaen in the 2014 campaign. After playing in the fall with Asane, Glesnes had multiple trials for Scandinavian clubs like F.C. Copenhagen in Denmark and Lillestrøm SK in Norway during the winter transfer window. Glesnes even had a trial with English soccer giants, Liverpool F.C.

Moving to the top tier

Glesnes joined Sarpsborg 08 FF, a club playing in, what at the time was, the Tippeligaen (known as the Eliteserien after 2016), the top-tier of the Norwegian soccer league system on New Year’s Day, 2016. For the first time in Glesnes’ young career, the Norwegian international was going to play in the top-tier league of Norwegian soccer. Though, Glesnes just could not seem to find a “fit,” as he only made 14 league appearances once again. It was not until Glesnes joined Strømsgodset Toppfotball during the summer transfer window in 2016 that he had found a “fit.”

Finding a home

In retrospect, Glesnes found a home when he joined Strømsgodset, making a total of 98 league appearances while finding the back of the net three times from 2016-2019. Strømsgodset is one of the better clubs in Norway, having won the league in 2013 and placing second in 2012 and 2015. This happened after the club recovered from nearly filing for bankruptcy in the mid-2000s. While Glesnes proved defense in the backline, Strømsgodset finished 7th in 2016 and 4th in the 2017 but failed to seek consistent results as they finished 13th in 2018 and 11th in 2019.

After the 2019 season, Glesnes made a move to an unfamiliar setting across the Atlantic: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Glesnes joined the Philadelphia Union on January 31st of this year. It was the first time Glesnes had left his home country of Norway to continue his professional career abroad.

From that time till now, Glesnes has shown promise to the Union faithful. Early on, he showed how good he can be. On March 8th, Glesnes scored a freekick from nearly 35-plus yards to put the Union ahead 2-1 at the start of the second half in what resulted in a 3-3 draw against Los Angeles F.C in LA. The goal is an early candidate for MLS Goal of the Year.

It is sufficient to say that the Norwegian international has hit the ground running for his new club. Glesnes’ early success comes despite the Union only finishing with one point via their first two games.

Norwegian soccer’s past talent

When it comes to European powerhouses in the realm of soccer dominance, many look to countries like England, France, Germany, and Italy to find the best talent. When it comes to Scandinavian countries, many know the names of Swedish international and former Los Angeles Galaxy striker, Zlatan Ibrahimović and more recently, Finnish international and striker for Norwich City, Teemu Pukki. Pukki has scored 11 league goals for the newly-promoted Norwich side in the English Premier League before the league play came to a halt due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, Norway should not be overlooked when it comes to their talent. Norway has had notable players in the past, like that of current Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Ole Gunnar Solskjær played in Norway before he transferred to Manchester United in the summer of 1996. The Norwegian forward made 235 league appearances for the Red Devils and is best remembered for scoring the late match-winning goal in the 1999 Champions League Final at the Camp Nou in Barcelona against Bayern Munich, leading United to their first European title in the Champions League format.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær capped 67 times for the Norwegian national team, scored 23 goals, and played in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. He partnered with Tore André Flo on the national team as the two became a well-known striker duo. Flo capped 76 times for the national team and scored 23 times from 1995-04, a similar span to that of Ole Gunnar Solskjær (1995-2007).

The recent state of Norwegian soccer

From that time to now, Norway has been able to produce talents, such as AFC Bournemouth striker Joshua King. King played for Manchester United as a part of his youth career but never made a league appearance for the club. Nonetheless, King found success in the English Premier League for A.F.C Bournemouth by scoring 46 league goals from 2015 to now. King represented Norway 46 times, finding the back of the net 17 times from 2012 to now. Even with King’s goal-scoring and the help of other Norwegian talents such as Tarik Elyounoussi and Omar Elabdellaoui, Norway has not taken part in any major tournaments since Euro 2000. But that could change due to the rising star of Norwegian soccer, 19-year old Erling Braut Håland.

Norwegian star

Håland plays for Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga but made his name known during the 2019-2020 Champion’s League group stage when he played for American coach Jesse Marsch at F.C. Red Bull Salzburg. Håland hit the ground running, scoring a hat-trick in his Champion’s League debut against K.R.C. Genk of the Belgian First Division A. Salzburg won the game 6-2 in Salzburg. While many players use the entire span of the game to score their hat-tricks, it only took Håland the first 45 minutes to do so.

He would not stop there as he scored against current Champion’s League holders, Liverpool F.C., in a 4-3 thriller loss in Liverpool. Håland would go on to score twice against Napoli in a 3-2 loss in Salzburg. Two weeks later, Håland scored against the Italian side once again in a 1-1 tie in Naples. The 19-year old finished his Champion’s League group stage scoring performance by notching against Genk once again in a 4-1 win in Genk. Håland became just the sixth player to score in five consecutive Champion’s League matches and finished as the top goal scorer in the group stage phase with eight goals and one assist in 374 minutes of playtime.

Håland then got transferred to Borussia Dortmund during the January winter transfer window. He continued to display his dominance there as he scored twice against Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of the Round of 16 knockout phases. Dortmund won the match, 2-1 in Dortmund. PSG would come back to win the second leg in Paris, 2-0, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament. Nonetheless, Håland put on full-display that Norwegian soccer is up and coming with him at the helm for their young talent.

Jakob Glesnes joining him next?

Jakob Glesnes is yet cap for the national team, while Håland has already made his debut in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying matches against Malta this past September. But who is to say that Glesnes will not get the chance? If the Norwegian international continues to perform well for the Union, as he already has, it is safe to assume that his time for the senior team will come. And when it does, with him in the backline and with strikers like King and Håland as the striker duo, as well as young players like Alexander Sørloth of Trabzonspor in the Turkish Süper Lig and Sander Berge of Sheffield United in the English Premier League, the future looks bright for the Norwegians moving forward.