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."

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.