Union

Stifled Union clobbered by Impact in crushing defeat

Stifled Union clobbered by Impact in crushing defeat

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — Struggling to find their offensive footing, the stifled Union managed just two shots on goal as they fell to Blerim Dzemaili and the Montreal Impact, 3-0, Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium. 

“We weren't able to get as close as we would like to them, we’re not built to go on these track meet type games,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Overall, it was a high-intensity game, both teams were physical, tight to us and closed us down. They are a solid team and we didn’t have the urgency over 90 minutes.” 

The Impact, now 8-8-6, have been a thorn for the 8-11-5 Union all season, collecting a win and draw at Talen Energy Stadium to take the season series, 2-0-1. With the victory, the visitors snapped the Union’s four-game win streak at home, while also putting a knife in the host’s playoff chances. 

It was the Union's worst home loss since May 14, 2013.

“They deserved to win,” Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin said. “Especially in the second half. They showed us how we need to play, how we need to defend as a team and attack as a team.” 

Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush finished with the two save shutout, while John McCarthy allowed three goals on seven shots. 

“It’s difficult,” Medunjanin said. “This was our opportunity to be closer to the playoffs and we gave it away, especially at home. The first half, I think we played a good half, we had the ball a lot but the final pass was not there tonight.” 

Following an uneventful first half that saw each team register just one shot on goal, things began to heat up in the second. In the 66th minute, the Union earned their best chance of the night, when Medunjanin pushed a right side touch cross that was tapped from C.J. Sapong to Giliano Wijnaldum, whose shot ricocheted off the right bar to stay out.

“Our final ball wasn’t where it needed to be,” Curtin said. “We had opportunities at home, but shots inside the box need to hit the target and we didn’t do that enough tonight.” 

The miss would prove costly, as the Impact found goal just three minutes later.

In an attempt to stop a hard cross from the left side, Josh Yaro, in for the injured Oguchi Onyewu, clipped the pass with his heel, stunning the Union defense and allowing the ball to skitter across the box to Dzemaili, where he slugged it through McCarthy for the 1-0 Impact lead.

“The guy crossed the ball in and it was behind me so I flicked it,” Yaro said. “The man was right in the 18, so he shot it. We are taught that I have to protect between the goal and the 18. Unfortunately, the ball was behind me, so I was hoping that someone would be there to collect it. Just unfortunate their man was there.”

Looking to scratch out a late goal, Curtin called on Roland Alberg, Marcus Epps and Jay Simpson for center back Jack Elliott, to spark offense off the bench. But the club didn’t generate anything, eventually allowing a stoppage time penalty kick goal to Ignacio Piatti and another one in stoppage time from Dzemaili to seal the Union’s lopsided defeat.

“We had some looks in the first half and a few really good looks in the second half but we didn’t score,” Curtin said. “Now we’ve conceded and we’re chasing the game, and we struggle to chase games from behind.”

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.