Union

Pressure growing as losses continue to mount for Union

Pressure growing as losses continue to mount for Union

CHESTER, Pa. -- Answers are evading the Union.

"Right now, it's the moment for each individual in the organization to take a look in the mirror and dig deep down and try to find an answer within themselves," said Union veteran Oguchi Onyewu following a 3-1 loss to the Portland Timbers on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium. "Because personally, I feel we have the clientele to get wins."

But those wins haven't shown up. Saturday's defeat, albeit to the top team in the Western Conference, was a low point for the Union, who are 0-3-2 on the season and one of only two MLS teams without a win in 2017. It marked the club's third consecutive loss.

"It's not the moment to put our heads down right now," Onyewu said. "It's a moment for everybody to be pissed off, be upset and to dig deep to rectify this and get a result."

The lack of winning has pressure mounting on manager Jim Curtin. Including a first-round playoff loss, the Union finished the 2016 season riding an eight-game winless run and four straight defeats. Add that to the Union's 2017 start, and the club has been defeated in seven of its last nine games and is winless in its last 13 dating back to Aug. 27, 2016.

"It's fine, I'm a big boy, I can answer that," said Curtin, when asked about his job security. "There's pressure in pro sports. Our players recognize that I recognize that, I feel that. I'm not scared of it because I still believe in the team. You can put it on me, that's fine. I take the blame."

So if Curtin is to blame, how does he fix it? It could be as simple as fighting off soft goals.

"We're not giving up a ton of shots on goal, but we are giving up big chances and we are giving up goals," Curtin said. "And it's a problem."

The players believe this is fixable, and that this issue does not stem from a roster or lack of quality, but rather a unique combination of making, and not taking advantage of, unforced errors.

"We gift goals," said Onyewu, whose club has allowed seven goals in their last three games. "We seem to be getting punished for mistakes. We haven’t been punishing the adversaries when they make mistakes, we haven't been scoring when we have our opportunities."

But despite the on-field issues plaguing the Union, the toughest adversary right now might be low morale. Even a tight-knit locker room could crack under losing pressure.

"To be honest, it's something we can't get too worked over because that's when chemistry falls off. That's when things really start going bad," Union center back Richie Marquez said. "We have to keep our heads up and continue to work."

Union reward Andre Blake with multi-year extension

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Union reward Andre Blake with multi-year extension

Updated 4:52 p.m.

Andre Blake will backstop the Union into the future.

The 27-year-old goalkeeper inked a multi-year extension Wednesday. The deal is expected to make Blake one of the highest paid goalkeepers in MLS and was completed using Targeted Allocation Money. 

Further details were not released.

“I am ready to lead,” Blake said. “I’ll definitely try to lead by my performance on the field and the way I carry myself off the field.”

While the extension was a no-brainer for the Union’s on-field success, the move was also an important one off the field. Historically, the club is known for its roster turnover and lack of continuity. Keeping Blake on the books for years to come gives the Union a well-respected face of the franchise that fans can appreciate. 

“It is a priority for us to build and secure the foundation of the Philadelphia Union, and Andre is as big a part of that foundation as any player,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “Ensuring he will be here for years to come is an important step for our club. We’re delighted to sign him to a new multi-year contract and would like to thank him for his dedication and hard work.”

Blake, a former first-overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and 2016 MLS All-Star, earned the 2016 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honor and claimed the runner-up spot for the award in 2017. He has proven himself to be one of the most exciting and productive goalkeepers in MLS, with 220 saves and 17 shutouts over 65 career matches.

Because of that success, and his heroics, while captaining the Jamaican National Team, Blake is viewed as someone who could transition to a European club. But despite the prospects and rumors, the Union claim there has never been a serious offer for the goalkeeper, making this extension a possibility.

“Right now my main focus is Philadelphia,” said Blake, who has never shied away from his interest in a European move. “I’m not worried about the future. I’m gonna live in the now and continue to work hard and make my performance speak for itself.”

Union's schedule sets team up for hot start

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Union's schedule sets team up for hot start

The Union’s 2018 season schedule was officially released Thursday and it revealed an advantageous start for the club.

After opening their season against the New England Revolution on March 3, the Union will have a week off before hosting the Columbus Crew on March 17. The club then visits the Colorado Rapids on March 31 but returns home to face the San Jose Earthquakes and Orlando City on April 7 and 13.

Five of the Union’s first seven games will be at Talen Energy Stadium, setting them up for important early success, as the team was an impressive 10-4-3 at home last season but went just 1-10-6 on the road.

But the Union’s early fortune quickly turns with five of their next seven games on the road. The team kicks off that crucial run with a three-game road trip starting on May 4 against the reigning MLS champion Toronto FC, and finishing against the Crew and Montreal Impact. That five-in-seven road set also includes the New York Red Bulls and a visit to the irreplicable home confines of Atlanta United.

Notable matches for the Union include the first-ever clash with expansion side LAFC at the freshly built Banc of California Stadium on June 30 and the Union’s first visit to D.C. United’s brand-new Audi Field (expected to open in June). The Union face the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday, Sept. 19 at CenturyLink Field. Minnesota United (2017 expansion team) will make its first-ever visit to Philadelphia on Oct. 6.

As far as national exposure, the Union will be shown on ESPN twice, April 14 vs. Orlando City and Sept. 23 vs. Sporting Kansas City, and on Unimas once on April 28 against D.C. United.