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Shorthanded Union fall to Red Bulls for 3rd-straight loss

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Shorthanded Union fall to Red Bulls for 3rd-straight loss

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CHESTER, Pa. -- Playing down a man and working through heat that required league mandated water breaks, the Union valiantly battled but were unable to overcome the obstacles as they fell to the New York Red Bulls, 2-0, Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium.
 
“We were playing short for 30-plus minutes, it was tough,” said Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, who finished with one save. “It was a hot day, but we will not let this affect us. We have to bounce back.”
 
While the contest was marred by referee decisions, the loss was still the Union’s third straight, dropping their record to a near Eastern Conference-low, 4-7-4. On the other side, the victory was the Red Bulls’ second in their last seven matches as they move to 7-7-2.
 
“We’ve been here before in the beginning of the season,” said Union captain Haris Medunjanin referencing the Union’s four-game losing streak in March and April. “We lost a lot of games. Like I said before when you play with 10 men, it doesn’t matter who you play, it’s going to be difficult.” 
 
The match changed drastically in the 53rd minute. It was scoreless when Union midfielder Derrick Jones, playing for injured Alejandro Bedoya, received a straight red on what was interpreted as a studs-up midfield challenge on Felipe that sent the Red Bulls player screaming and grabbing at his ankle. 
 
“I just think it was a little bit rushed,” Curtin said. “I don’t think it warranted a red card. I think maybe a yellow. But again, he made a quick choice and we have to live with it.”
 
Although Felipe wasn’t injured and on replay, the tackle looked more clumsy than aggressive from Jones, the rookie put the Union at a disadvantage. From there, it was the Bradley Wright-Phillips show.
 
“Felipe is a guy we talked about all week in terms of a guy that can get under your skin and frustrate you,” Curtin said. “Don’t fall into any of the fighting or any of that. I think he may have baited the ref a little bit, made it look a little worse than it was. He’s drawn five red cards this season on opponents. Not a surprise there.”
 
Wright-Phillips broke through in the 87th minute when a Kemar Lawrence cross from left to right found the scorer on the inside of his defender and able to deflect the helper past Andre Blake. Wright-Phillips scored again in stoppage time, this time from Sal Zizzo to cement the 2-0 victory.
 
“Today I was dreadful,” Wright-Phillips said. “I was dreadful. I hear I was close to coming out of the game. I did think I would get a chance. I wanted to stay in for that because I didn’t do much else in the game.”
 
But the Union did have their chances early. While neither team was particularly sharp in the opening 45 minutes of the scorching Sunday contest, the Union were the more dangerous side. Their best chance came in the 22nd minute when Chris Pontius outplayed Damien Perrinelle on a bounce into the Red Bulls' box. The veteran attacker flicked a quick shot targeted for the far side that Luis Robles gloved away miraculously. 
 
Pontius nearly capitalized again off a Ray Gaddis play into the box but headed it wide to end the half.
 
“Chris had two really good looks,” Curtin said. “Robles makes the save and then the header before the half. Obviously, it would have been better to get one of those. We didn’t.” 

Inside Doop: Lack of star power continues to doom Union

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Inside Doop: Lack of star power continues to doom Union

At long last, the Union’s season is coming to an end. Even better, they no longer have to play any games on the road this year.

In their final away match of a disappointing 2017 campaign, the Union let a lead slip away in a 3-2 loss to the Fire, finishing the year with a dismal 1-10-6 road record.

What went wrong? And what can we expect from next week’s regular-season finale at Talen Energy Stadium? Here’s a look in the final Inside Doop of 2017:

Three thoughts about Sunday’s game
1. The Union were once again reminded what star power can do for a team. On Sunday, the Fire’s Nemanja Nikolic put on a show with three goals — his 22nd, 23rd and 24th of the season — to all but wrap up a Golden Boot crown and put on his back a Fire team that was without fellow star Bastian Schweinsteiger. In Philly’s last road game, Atlanta also overcame the loss of star Miguel Almiron to ride Josef Martinez to a big win. That’s what happens when you spend a lot of money: you have a stable of difference-makers and their presence trickles down to the rest of the club. The Union, simply, don’t have anything close to that — one of the big reasons why they can’t play well for 90 minutes on the road and why they’ll be missing the playoffs for the sixth time in the franchise’s eight-year history.

2. The closest thing the Union do have to a true star, apart from goalie Andre Blake, is the midfield combo of Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin. And both overcame their recent heartbreak of missing out on the World Cup (Bedoya with the U.S., Medunjnanin with Bosnia and Herzegovina) to put in strong shifts. Medunjanin’s pass to set up Bedoya’s second goal of the season was a thing of beauty — and marked his 11th assist of the season. Say what you want about the Union, but those two are consummate pros and locker room leaders who will do everything in their power to get this thing turned around in 2018.

3. Sadly for the Union, one of their best stories of the season — Jack Elliott — had a night to forget. The rookie center back, who went from fourth-round draft pick to Rookie of the Year contender, lost track of a long ball on the Fire’s first goal and then committed a penalty to set up Nikolic’s second goal. Elliott will still be an important piece heading into 2018, but it’s important to remember that he’s no sure thing, especially after seeing what happened to Keegan Rosenberry and Josh Yaro in their second seasons. Meanwhile, Richie Marquez continued his late-season revival with one of his better games of the year. Raise your hand if you have any kind of handle on the team’s center back situation right now.

Three questions for the week ahead
1. Home finales are usually special no matter how a season turns out but it’s hard to figure what kind of crowd and reception there will be when the Union take on Orlando next Sunday (4 p.m., 6ABC). This has been a trying season for Union fans who watched their team fail to build on any kind of momentum from last year’s playoff berth while lowly teams like Chicago or expansion teams like Atlanta (for the reasons listed above them) skyrocketed past them. At the same time, the Union have been mostly fun to watch at home, where they’ve set a franchise record with nine wins. The chance to go for a 10th victory and have C.J. Sapong break the single-season scoring record could be a couple reasons that people will flock to the stadium — that, and the realization that there will be no more soccer there until March.

2. Another big reason to come to Talen Energy Stadium is to see Kaka, the Brazilian legend who will play his last game in MLS. Who will play their last game for the Union? It’s hard to say for sure but Roland Alberg, Ilsinho, Chris Pontius and Brian Carroll are decent bets as an offseason potentially filled with turnover looms.

3. How will head coach Jim Curtin construct the lineup? He doesn’t like to switch things too much, but fans may be clamoring for young guys like Derrick Jones and Adam Najem while Curtin may want to give something of a send-off to Carroll or Charlie Davies, well-known veterans who have hardly played this year. And what about Maurice Edu? He hasn’t played in more than two years — but will a player who led the Union to back-to-back U.S. Open Cup finals in 2014 and 2015 get to say goodbye to fans in some way?

Stat of the week
Even after Bedoya’s goal Sunday, the Union’s four highest-paid players — Bedoya, Edu, Ilsinho and Jay Simpson — have combined for only seven goals this season.

Quote of the week
"It was definitely nostalgic to come back and play at Toyota Park. When I was younger in the U-16s and the U-18s, I played a lot here when I was with the academy. It was good to come back on the professional side and be able to play on the same field I play it on when I was younger." — Union rookie Marcus Epps

Player of the week
Bedoya scored a very nice goal, made a couple of perfectly timed tackles and generally looked sharp in his first game back from the USMNT’s World Cup qualifying failure. Maybe he should’ve played in Trinidad, huh?

Union blow another lead, beaten by Fire

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Union blow another lead, beaten by Fire

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Nemanja Nikolic scored two of his three goals in the second half, increasing his league-leading total to 24, and the Chicago Fire rallied for a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Union on Sunday.

The Fire (16-10-7) moved into third in the Eastern Conference, which would be good for a home game in the playoffs. Nikolic is four goals clear of his pursuers for the Golden Boot with one game to play.

Nikolic opened the scoring in the third minute, getting to a long feed from Brandon Vincent and aided by a bad angle by defender Jack Elliot before beating Andre Blake. Nikolic's penalty kick in the 64th tied it at 2 after David Accam was taken down in the penalty area. Nikolic completed his first career hat trick with an easy finish from the middle of the box on a feed from Brandon Vincent for the game winner in the 78th.

Chicago defender Johnan Kappelhof's own goal put the Union in a 1-1 tie at the six-minute mark and a feed from Haris Medunjanin to Alejandro Bedoya for a chip shot was good for the lead from the 13th minute.

Philadelphia (10-14-9) finished 1-10-6 on the road this season.