Inside Doop: Although winless streak continues, Union get a positive result

Inside Doop: Although winless streak continues, Union get a positive result

If there's such a thing as a good way to extend a winless streak to 16 games, the Union managed to find a way to accomplish it.

Here's a closer look at their scoreless draw with the L.A. Galaxy on Saturday night and what lies ahead as they continue their quest for their first victory since last August:

Three thoughts about Saturday's game
1. Just like their season opener, the Union flew out early for a game on the West Coast, executed a cautious but effective game plan and walked away with a hard-earned point. Sure, there's nothing sexy about a scoreless draw — the same score as the Union's opener vs. Vancouver in their 2017 debut — but grinding out those kinds of points on the opposite coast are actually quite valuable. Of course, it means less if you don't take care of business at home — which the Union have decidedly not done through the first two months of the season.

2. A week after allowing three unanswered goals in a disheartening 3-3 home draw with the Montreal Impact, the Union's backline stayed mostly organized in their first shutout since the opener. The Union did luck out when the Galaxy's Joao Pedro struck both posts on a shot, but the Galaxy finished with only three shots on target despite controlling more than 60 percent of the possession. It was an important performance, particularly from rookie Jack Elliott and Ray Gaddis, both new to the starting lineup in recent weeks. But this team still needs Keegan Rosenberry (who's been benched for the last two weeks) and Josh Yaro (who's been injured) in there for those two guys to turn what feels like a patchwork backline into a potentially good one for this year and beyond.

3. As much as head coach Jim Curtin likes to say the Union are a great team, it's clear to most people that Philly doesn't have the same kind of talent as other teams, particularly with Yaro and Maurice Edu injured. But there are a few spots on the field where they do have an advantage: at goalkeeper with Andre Blake and in the defensive midfield with Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya. Against the Galaxy, Blake did his part with a couple of nice saves to earn the shutout while Medunjanin looked sharp with his passing and confident with some nice runs and shots from distance. If the Union want to get out of their rut, they'll need the closest things they have to stars to keep making plays like those.

Three questions for the week ahead
1. The Union will be happy to return home this weekend — but that happiness might not last for long. If they don't put forth a good effort on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls (7 p.m., TCN) after an 0-2-2 start at Talen Energy Stadium, things could get ugly in the crowd, especially when you consider the Red Bulls are the team Philly fans hate most. Will the Union be able to rise to the occasion and knock off their fiercest rival for their first win of 2017? Or will the weight of the winless streak continue to mess with their heads?

2. When Curtin benched Rosenberry against the Impact and spoke of how Rosenberry needed a spark, it seemed like it would be a short-term thing. But now that Rosenberry was benched for a second straight game over the weekend and the Union earned a shutout without him, could it last longer? Gaddis had a decent game against the Galaxy but did get beat by Emmanuel Boateng on at least one play that could have resulted in a goal. And if Rosenberry — who was one of the team's top players as a rookie last year — sits out for longer, is it possible the lineup move ends up being counterproductive in terms of his own confidence?

3. Another lineup move Curtin made over the weekend was inserting Fafa Picault on the wing in place of Ilsinho. That spot has been in flux this year with Herbers starting the first three games before giving way to Ilsinho, whose dynamic one-on-one skills failed to yield any goals or assists in four starts. All bring different skill sets with Picault best suited to use his speed to get behind fullbacks. It might become a situation where Curtin creates some sort of platoon, leading to the question: Who starts on the wing opposite Chris Pontius against the Red Bulls?

Stat of the week
The Union's 16 straight games without a win is tied for the third-longest streak in MLS history. The longest is 18 — held by the Colorado Rapids (July 30, 2014 to April 4, 2015) and Real Salt Lake (Aug. 10, 2005 to May 6, 2006).

Quote of the week
"We still haven't won, but the last two games we haven't lost. So there are still positives, and we've just got to keep going. Once we can start stopping teams from scoring goals against us, we're going to get our chances and we're going to get our wins."  

Union goalkeeper Andre Blake

Player of the week
In just his third career start, rookie center Jack Elliott did a fine job neutralizing the Galaxy's star-studded play and made a great defensive play in the final minute to clear away danger and preserve the shutout.

Union-Orlando City observations: Breaking records in season-ending rout

USA Today Images

Union-Orlando City observations: Breaking records in season-ending rout


CHESTER, Pa. —  In less than three minutes on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium, the match was effectively over. Ilsinho and the Union began their scoring assault in the third minute and didn’t stop until team records and Orlando City were thoroughly broken. The Union easily won the season finale, 6-1.

It was a impressive finish to an unimpressive season for the Union, as the club completed 2017 with a 11-9-14 record and 42 points - a mirror image of 2016. On the other side, equally disappointing Orlando City finished at 10-9-15 and more questions than answers.

• Before fans got settled into their seats, Ilsinho and the Union took the 1-0 lead. In the third minute, Alejandro Bedoya, off the rush, sent a trailing pass from the right side of the box that found a seam and Ilsinho, who easily placed the open shot past Earl Edwards Jr.

• Stunning Orlando City, the onslaught continued three minutes later. Breaking down the right side of the box, Ilsinho’s centering pass found Fafa Picault, who beat his man for a header that went bar-down and in for his sixth goal of the season.

• With the quick goal and assist on Sunday, Ilsinho was playing out of his mind. And while it may not make a difference regarding his future with the club, the second-year Union player treated Sunday’s match like a guy facing a team option on his contract at the end of the season.

• Continuing to dominate Orlando City, C.J Sapong produced in the 26th minute, when he buried a cross-box feed from Picault. The goal made it 3-0 Union, but more importantly, gave Sapong 15 goals on the season, setting the Union franchise record for goals in a single season.

• But he wasn't done. Sapong netted his second of the game in the 74th minute, cleaning up a Haris Medunjanin shot and rebound. Totaling 16 goals on the season, Sapong snapped his career high by seven. He was pulled in the 86th minute for the curtain call and ovation.

• Even with the three-goal lead, Picault showed no mercy to Orlando City. The speedster broke free in the 30th minute and fired a shot through the legs of Edwards, who didn’t stand a chance. Picault left the match at halftime with what was suspected to be a concussion.

• While that goal was Picault’s second of the game and fourth for the Union, it also set a record for most goals scored in a single half by a Union team.

• Like a U.S. Open Cup match against an amateur team, the Union made it 5-0 in the 63rd minute. Medunjanin captured his team-leading 12th assist on the season by sending Ilsinho on a clean breakaway for the goal. Sapong made it 6-1, a little over 10 minutes later.

• Orlando City’s goal in the 72nd minute, scored by Dom Dwyer, broke Andre Blake’s shutout and kept the goalkeeper’s 2017 total at nine for the season. That’s three above his career high earned last season when he won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Blake was outstanding on Sunday, making four stops.

• Chris Pontius, who came off the bench in the second half, found himself on a breakaway with minutes remaining in the match. His shot hit the post to perfectly sum up his forgettable season.

• Playing his final game in MLS, Brian Carroll, who announced his retirement from professional soccer earlier in the week, received a pre-game name chant and ceremony. Playing his final minutes of the season, the veteran of 371 MLS games, took the captain’s armband and entered the match at halftime

• With the win on Sunday, the Union pushed their record at Talen Energy Stadium to 10-4-3 — the best home record in team history. But with a putrid road record of 1-10-6, it’s easy to see why the club struggled in the Eastern Conference.

Union-Orlando City thoughts: Aiming to end season, Brian Carroll's career with a win


Union-Orlando City thoughts: Aiming to end season, Brian Carroll's career with a win

Orlando City (10-13-9) at Union (15-10-7)
4:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

After 33 games, the 2017 season finale is here as the Union return to Talen Energy Stadium for the last time on Sunday to host Orlando City. And although the match is relatively pointless for the two woeful clubs, both teams want to end with a win.

Here are some thoughts on the game:

•At this point, it’s all about pride. Coming off a horrendous regular season that includes just one road victory, a nine-game losing run to begin the campaign and no All-Stars, the Union want to bury their awful season with a win.

“It was a disappointing season,” said Union goalkeeper Andre Blake. “The aim right now is to finish the season on a high note at home. We want to give the fans something to cheer for.”

•With a win, the Union can finish the season with 42 points. That would match last year’s output, which was good enough for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Union are eight points out of the postseason prior to Sunday’s match.

•Brian Carroll will say goodbye to the Union and professional soccer on Sunday after announcing his retirement. The 15-year veteran, who played seven of those with the Union, will get on the field against Orlando City for one final run. Next up for the Virginia native? He’s moving to Indianapolis to begin a new career as a financial planner (see story). 

“There’s always a job here with the Philadelphia Union if he wants one,” Jim Curtin said.

•The quiet Carroll, who, at 36, hasn’t played a minute of MLS action this season, ends his career (not including Sunday’s match) fourth all-time in MLS with 370 appearances and sixth all-time in minutes played at 30,778. He’s won two MLS titles and four Supporters’ Shields.

He’s second on the Union’s franchise list for games played at 165, behind only Sebastien Le Toux. But Carroll owns the minutes played title at 13,818. Although it may not have shown through his quiet demeanor, he’s been a really good player for a long time.

•Though it’s the Union’s final match of the season, the club won’t dip into the youth pool. Curtin’s belief is that players who contributed minutes with the Steel throughout 2017 deserved to dress for the USL club’s first playoff game on the road against the Louisville City FC on Friday night.

If Curtin would have known the Steel would have been crushed, 4-0, things might have changed. Adam Najem, Derrick Jones and Auston Trusty made the start.

•One player who didn’t suit up for Steel but also won’t dress for the Union on Sunday is right back Keegan Rosenberry. Coming off a year in which he played every minute of the regular season and earned Rookie of the Year runner-up honors, Rosenberry was suspended by the Union for using social media to gripe about playing time.

The real issue was the timing. A subtle post, in which Rosenberry asked fans to caption an image of him on the bench with a disgusted look, came just hours prior to the Union’s match against the Chicago Fire last weekend. Curtin called it, “unprofessional” and “inappropriate.” Rosenberry ends his season with just 14 games played.

•Curtin and the Union can’t take much from the first time they saw Orlando City, a 2-1 loss on March 18. Cyle Larin, who probably won’t play for his team on Sunday, scored twice for Orlando, sandwiching a lone C.J. Sapong score. 

“That feels like forever ago,” said Curtin, whose club is 2-2-2 against Orlando City all time. “Both of our seasons have shifted, there’s been highs and lows.”

•As usual, Fabian Herbers, Maurice Edu, Josh Yaro and Ken Tribbett are out for Sunday. Right-winger Chris Pontius is questionable with an abdominal injury, which could open space for rookie Marcus Epps to earn significant playing time.

•If Orlando wants to take down the Union, it’ll have to do it without Kaka. It was announced by Orlando City that the legend, who isn’t renewing his contract, would not travel for the finale. So, if you wanted to see Kaka, you’ll have to go to Europe. 

•It may be meaningless for the Union and Orlando, but Sunday marks Decision Day around MLS, in which all 11 games are played at 4:00 p.m. In the Eastern Conference, four teams (New York City FC, Atlanta United, Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew) are eying a Knockout Round bye.