Union

C.J. Sapong, Union topple Revolution with dominant shutout win

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C.J. Sapong, Union topple Revolution with dominant shutout win

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. -- C.J. Sapong and the Union took two minutes to claim the lead and didn’t look back, punishing the shorthanded New England Revolution, 3-0, Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium.

“All 11 players and substitutes that came on, they all contributed to the three points,” Union center back Oguchi Onyewu said. “It’s a testament to our growing as a team and our toughness in terms of playing against us. I don’t think that any team can say we’re an easy team to beat or play against.” 

Before fans settled into their seats, the Union took the advantage. Breaking down the left side of the Revs' box, Sapong’s attempted cross hit the extended left arm of Benjamin Angoua on the line. Without hesitation, referee Chris Penso pointed to the spot for the fortunate Union penalty kick.

Lining up, Sapong stutter-stepped before pounding a rocket high and down the center past Cody Cropper to make it 1-0. It was Sapong’s team-leading and career-high ninth of the season, along with his first in four games.

“I’m seeing my battling throughout the game is paying dividends for myself and my teammates around me,” Sapong said. “So I just want to keep doing that.”

Still, the visitors pressed. 

With the Revs controlling play throughout the first half, Union goalkeeper Andre Blake was called upon once again to play the savior. In the 12th minute, off a midfield turnover, the Revs gained the Union box and on a two-on-one, Teal Bunbury slid the ball over to Kei Kamara for a right-footed shot which Blake bodied away. 

“It was a turnover and I just tried to get a read on it,” Blake said. “I saw he was gonna pass to him so I knew I just had to get out and make myself big and to hopefully see if I can get a piece of it. That’s what happened.”

Blake finished with the three-save shutout. It was his seventh clean sheet of the season.

“I think there was a few instances where they got in behind us,” Onyewu said. “But that’s why we have a world-class goalie like Andre to do his job and do what he’s paid for.” 

The save loomed large, as three minutes into the second half the Union doubled their lead and put a chokehold on the match. Pushing down the right side on a fast break, Fafa Picault stopped and flipped a pass to the streaking Ilsinho, who split defenders and took a shot off the bounce that found the top of the net. 

“Haris found Fafa for a through pass, and Fafa found me and I took a good shot,” Ilsinho said. “Thank God, I scored my second goal of the season.

“When I was running, I read it so fast and I didn’t see anyone inside the box. I tried to shoot and score or the keeper saves it and someone else takes the rebound.”

The dismantling of the Revs continued in the 78th minute, when Roland Alberg, moments after entering the game for Ilsinho, ripped a rocket from around 30 yards out that beat Cropper and into the top right corner for the 3-0 win.

“To score the goal that Roland did, how quickly he releases that shot is world class,” Union manager Jim Curtin said.

Without midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, who is away with the U.S. Men’s National Team for Gold Cup duty, the Union have registered back-to-back wins to move their record to 6-7-4. Meanwhile, the Revolution entered Sunday’s match without leading scorer Juan Agudelo and key midfielder Kelyn Rowe, who are both working the Gold Cup with Bedoya. The Revs, who are now 5-8-5, were also down suspended Diego Fagundez for the match.

“We’re not perfect and we’re not going to win the rest of our games, but at the midway point now, we’ve put ourselves in a spot with a couple games in hand on a lot of teams,” Curtin said. “We have to take care of business with those games in hand.”

Union believe they found their missing piece

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Union believe they found their missing piece

David Accam is a dream come true for the Union.

“At the end of the season, we talked about adding players and David was at the top of our list,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “I didn’t think that would be a real option. When it comes along, it’s incredible.”

Shocking as it was for Stewart, the Union pulled 27-year-old Accam from the Chicago Fire for allocation money at the 2018 MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 19. With his ability to create one-on-one opportunities and punish teams on the counter-attack, Accam, who had 14 goals and eight assists last season, is a perfect fit in Union’s 4-2-3-1 system, and the exact type of “difference-maker” the team was looking for.

“David is known in the league for his speed, but when we scouted him we noted just how good he is on the ball,” Union manager Jim Curtin said Tuesday at the official introduction of Accam at Talen Energy Stadium. “The space he creates for others because he is so dangerous. When he gets one-on-one, his quality will take over games and it’ll create a lot of space for the rest of our players.”

From Accam’s perspective, he’s joining an established attacking group. Specifically mentioning Union leading scorer C.J. Sapong and winger Fafa Picault, Accam expects to have space to work.

“We have enough quality on this team already,” he said. “I just have to do my part.”

On top of his offensive acumen, Accam knows MLS. What attracted the Union to the speedster is not only his skill but his familiarity with the league. Unlike European players that take time to adjust to the climate, travel and style of play, Accam should make an instant impact on the Union.

“He’s been now, for multiple years, a top attacking player in our league,” Curtin said. “He’s got the statistics to back it up. The fact that he has a familiarity with the league, he knows the defenders will be grabbing and kicking him for 90 minutes, and that matters a great deal. It makes the transition more seamless. 

“He’s a great fit for us.”

But snagging that perfect fit wasn’t free. Acquired in one of the largest trades in Union history, the attacker was moved by the Fire in exchange for $1.2 million in combined allocation money. According to Stewart, the speedster, who was ripe for a new deal, signed an extension with the Fire before the team moved him to Philadelphia.

“Our understanding is that David has an obligation now with the Union through 2020,” Stewart said.

Despite scratching out a significant name off their wishlist, the Union aren’t quite done adding players, with the expectation that they bring in a playmaking midfielder. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be going on a shopping spree.

“I think we are in a better place than we were last year with the acquisition of David,” Stewart said. “There will be a little more happening but not much more because I believe the foundation is solid. With the acquisition of David and one more player in the near future, we’ll be in good shape to compete for the playoffs.”

Union acquire electrifying winger in major trade

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Union acquire electrifying winger in major trade

The Philadelphia Union didn’t make a pick in the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft on Friday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

But the hometown team still made one of the biggest splashes of the day.

Between the first and second rounds, Paul Tenorio of ESPN FC reported that the Union had a trade in place for electrifying winger David Accam, sending a palpable buzz through the ballroom. Not long after, the move was officially announced and the Philly fans in attendance finally had something to cheer about after a quiet-to-this-point offseason.

“I know there was some impatience with the timing of things,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “But this is a special player we added — one that changes the whole dynamic of our team.”

The move wasn’t cheap as the Union dealt $1.2 million in allocation money to the Chicago Fire in exchange for the Ghanaian speedster, who’s bagged 33 goals and 15 assists over the last three MLS seasons.

But if he can stay healthy and keep producing at the rate he has been, the Union think it can be a bargain.

“A David Accam on the open market is significantly higher than what we paid today,” Curtin said. “I can tell you with confidence if we shopped around for someone of David’s quality and production, we’d spend a heck a lot more money than we did today.”

Accam will likely start on one of the wings opposite fellow burner Fafa Picault with leading scorer C.J. Sapong up top. That still leaves a hole in attacking midfield that the Union need to round out their offense — a position which Curtin and sporting director Earnie Stewart said the club is still searching for.

“With Fafa, with Accam, with C.J. Sapong, those guys will create a lot of space for whoever plays in that No. 10 spot during the course of the season,” Curtin said. “That’s something that makes other teams worry. When we get off the bus, you have to account for David Accam. So that’s a real positive.”

Accam has a unique backstory, playing at the Right to Dream Academy from 2004 to 2008 in his native Ghana, before moving to England on a student visa and playing for Ledbury Town and Evesham United. After taking part in “The Chance” competition, a Nike event to find undiscovered soccer talent, he moved to Swedish club Ostersund in 2012 and then to top-flight side Helsingborg later that year.

After starring for both clubs, he was signed by the Fire as a Designated Player and has been a consistent goal-scoring threat in Chicago. Since he came to MLS in 2015, Accam is one of just six MLS players to total at least 33 goals and 15 assists in league play, along with stars Sebastian Giovinco, David Villa, Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti and Kei Kamara.

“As we said a while back, we’re trying to find some difference-makers for our team to help us over those humps in certain games,” Stewart said. “We believe a couple of difference-makers can help that. And once David Accam came around, it was really clear to us that was a target that we wanted to make sure happened. And we as the Philadelphia Union made sure we stretched ourselves to make sure this player came aboard. We’re just very pleased that we were able to accomplish this.”

The Union also made a couple of other smaller moves leading up to the draft, signing defenders Matt Real and Mark McKenzie to Homegrown contracts.

Signing both players when they did was a good indication that the Union valued them both as much, if not more, as any guys they may have been able to draft had they not previously dealt away their picks.

And it’s even better than both Real and McKenzie came through the Union Academy and are more familiar with the club than a kid coming out of college would have been.

“Everybody has a different path,” said McKenzie, an 18-year center back from Bear, Delaware. “All of these guys that got drafted today are great guys. … But myself, coming through the academy and when I was at the pre-academy when I was 11 and 12 and worked my way up to the U-14s to the U-18s to the [Bethlehem] Steel, it’s been an absolute honor and a blessing. I’ve been pushed and challenged at each level, and I’m looking forward to the future and what that holds.”

“It’s a big moment for me,” added Real, an 18-year-old who played for USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel FC last year. “These last couple of weeks for me have been surreal. I’m still kind of soaking all this in.

“Mark is my brother. Me and him have been playing together since the academy started. We graduated together, we’re on the [U-20] national team together. So this couldn’t be any better for me to share a moment like this with him.”