Union

Skillful display from Ilsinho, C.J. Sapong helps Union stun FC Dallas

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Skillful display from Ilsinho, C.J. Sapong helps Union stun FC Dallas

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — Ilsinho and the Union put on a show.

With a goal and two eye-popping assists, the skillful Brazilian led the inspired Union past a stunned FC Dallas club, 3-1, Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

“It’s amazing, it felt amazing,” said Ilsinho, who has four goals and three assists on the season. “It’s not about the goal or assists, it’s about a big win. We got a big win. We did a very good job. Everyone was on the same page and everybody did a great job.”

The lopsided victory was the first ever for the Union over FC Dallas, which falls to 9-5-7. The win also pushes the Union’s record to 8-10-5. It was just the club’s second win in their last six matches. 

“It’s a great win for us, I don’t understand why we don’t play away like this,” said Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin, lamenting the Union’s poor road record.”We beat a top team in the West, so we can play against everybody. We still believe in the playoffs, so this game is important for us.” 

The fireworks started early. Medunjanin, Ilsinho and C.J. Sapong brought the house down in the 17th minute with one of the nicer goals in Union history. Breaking down the middle, Medunjanin slid a short pass to covered Ilsinho, who then tapped a spinning back-heel pass back to streaking Medunjanin to complete the give-and-go. With space, the Bosnian found Sapong across the box for the easy goal. 

“Not only is it just easier all around, but it’s fun as well,” Sapong said about connecting on the goal as a team. “The little kid comes out of you on the field. That’s always a beautiful thing to win that way. We just have to keep it up moving forward. It’s about being consistent and continuing to play at this level.” 

Less than five minutes later, the Union received more brilliance from Ilsinho. Chris Pontius’ lofty throw-in was cleared by Ryan Hollingshead to just outside the top of the box. But the ball fell perfectly to Ilsinho for the one-timed rocket that beat Chris Seitz low and to the left post for the 2-0 Union advantage.

“[Union sporting director Earnie Stewart] and I have encouraged him to shoot more and more because he does hit such a heavy ball,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “And he’s starting to do that. It was a really good performance from him, not just offensively but defensively. He dominated the game tonight.”

The heroics continued into the second half for Ilsinho and the Union. In the 68th minute, Sapong sprung Ilsinho on the right side of the box, where the Brazilian took a strong shot into the gut of Seitz, who bobbled the rebound. Ilsinho chipped the loose ball over to Sapong for the open-net goal. 

It was Sapong’s 12th of the season and marked his second multi-goal effort of the year.

The match saw a taste of the future in the 79th minute when a goal by FC Dallas’ Max Urruti was waved off following a review from newly implemented VAR system, the league’s new video review process. On the initial shot, in alone on John McCarthy, Cristian Colman clipped the goalkeeper in the ribs, buckling him to the grass. The rebound sat waiting for Urruti. 

Upon review, Colman was called for the foul, disallowing the goal. 

“I don’t think you needed to use the video because everybody saw it," Medunjanin said. "It was a mistake from this guy, he put his leg in, he touched him and that’s why Johnny could not get the rebound."

It was the first usage of video review in MLS history and would prove important, as FC Dallas’ Michael Barrios would snap the Union’s shutout in stoppage time with his second of the season.

“We were lucky to be on the end of the first review ever in the league’s history and on the good side of it,” Curtin said. “I think it accomplished its goal, and now we move on to the next game."

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

BOX SCORE

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.