Union

Union-D.C. United 5 things: Union desperate for first win

Union-D.C. United 5 things: Union desperate for first win

Union (0-1-2)  at D.C. United (0-2-1)
7 p.m. on TCN

Fresh off a much-needed international break, Sebastien Le Toux and stumbling D.C. United host Alejandro Bedoya and the Union (0-1-2) on Saturday night (7:00 p.m., TCN) at RFK Stadium, in what has become a crucial early-season battle between the two winless clubs.

Here are five things to know:

1. Looking for three points
Three games into the 2017 campaign and the winless Union are already feeling pressure. 

"I do know we lost a game to Orlando, which we weren't happy about,” said Union manager Jim Curtin regarding his club's recent 2-1 loss to Orlando City SC. "We would have liked to get at least a point out of it, we would have liked to get three out of [Toronto FC on March 11]. We didn't, so our players and staff know the task at hand. We have to get points early on in the year because it's important." 

While it was only the first defeat for the Union in 2017, the loss was another reminder that the club hasn't won a game since August 2016. Still, Curtin isn't worried about the continuation of last season's late struggle.

"It's important to recognize that this year's team is different from last year's in terms of personnel," Curtin said. "It's a new year, a new group. While we were happy to make the playoffs, we weren't happy with the ending of the year. It's in the past. We had months and months of off time between that, so I don't think you can connect the two years together."

But Curtin does recognize that if the Union don't begin to pull in points soon, starting on Saturday against D.C. United, the situation could get dire for the Union. You can only go so far without a win before the hull begins to crack.

"You don't want to be a team that's chasing," he said. "It's a hard league to come from behind and chase in. You saw last year with the [Seattle Sounders] and D.C. getting hot late in the year. But that's not a situation we want to put ourselves in. It starts with a good performance against D.C. and building into the three-game homestand that we have."

2. Keeping D.C. at Zero
Although the Union and D.C. United are cuddling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the scenario appears much more dire for Ben Olsen's club. Through three games, United has yet to score a goal and has conceded a conference-worst six.

"It's a scary thing," Curtin said. "You don't want to be the team they break out against. Ben is as hard a worker as there is in our league and he has a good team. If you actually look at their performances and watch the games as we have now on tape, they are creating chances. They are dangerous."

More troubling for United is that their primary striker, Patrick Mullins, is out for three or four weeks with a left hamstring injury. That leaves the club to lean on Jose Guillermo Ortiz, Lamar Neagle or former Union legend, Sebastien Le Toux as the go-to forward.

"I'm sure he'd like to be out there," Curtin said of Le Toux, who played six seasons with the Union before being traded last season to the Colorado Rapids. "I'm sure he'd like to score against us. You see it so often, guys move from one club to another and there's a chip on their shoulder to score against their old team. Knowing Ben, I wouldn't be surprised if [Le toux] plays a bunch of minutes against us."

Regardless, the Union are treating United as a defensive problem.

"They have a lot of dynamic attackers," Curtin said. "You look at guys like Lloyd Sam. [Patrick] Nyarko has given us fits over the past years. [Luciano] Acosta, when he gets going, he's a handful, he pops up all over the field."

3. United Urgency
While the Union may have had a rougher than expected start to their season, D.C. United's season has been a nightmare. The club kicked off the year with a scoreless draw but followed that effort up with a 4-0 loss at the hands of New York City FC. 

On March 18, Olsen's team dropped a 2-0 decision at home to the Columbus Crew.

"We have to trust in the process of getting better right now," Olsen said. "We're getting plenty of looks and plenty of chances, we just have to clean up the final stuff on the offensive end."

But according to Olsen, the pressure United feels to find a result on Saturday isn't irregular, despite the team's rocky start.

"There's always an urgency to win games in this league," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's the first game, third or what your record is. We're always looking to get three points at home and this is no different." 

4. Keep an eye on …
Patrick Nyarko: The speedster, with a goal and two assists in his last three games against the Union, continued that into the preseason when he fired on the Union with a goal in the 14th minute of a United win. He's a problem the Union will have to solve on Saturday.

Jay Simpson: Simpson's first goal with the Union came minutes before he had to leave the match against Toronto FC and head to the hospital with a rib injury. But after a few weeks of rest and recovery, the forward is healthy and ready to make an impact against D.C. United on Saturday. 

5. This and that
• The Union are 7-7-4 against D.C. United all time and 2-0-1 in their last three games against the rival club.

• Union goalkeeper John McCarthy has been diagnosed with a concussion and will not travel with the team. Third-string goalkeeper Jake McGuire will travel. 

• Union forward Chris Pontius suffered a broken hand against Orlando City but is expected to play in a full capacity Saturday.

Humble and unassuming, Union's Brian Carroll retiring as 'pioneer for the game in this country'

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Humble and unassuming, Union's Brian Carroll retiring as 'pioneer for the game in this country'

CHESTER, Pa. — It’s almost too fitting that Brian Carroll has decided to become a financial planner in Indianapolis.

For the retiring Union midfielder (see story), it’s a perfectly unassuming job for a perfectly unassuming guy. Someone who, without shin guards and cleats, always looked more like a business manager than a pro athlete anyway. An underappreciated, underrated, never-flashy player who was damn good at soccer and leaves the sport as a “pioneer for the game in this country,” according to Union head coach Jim Curtin.

“Having the opportunity to coach him here in Philadelphia, being around him, to work with him, it’s been a real honor for me,” Curtin said Thursday. “Once you reflect back on his career, the trophies that he’s won, the caps he’s received for the U.S. national team — he’s a true professional, a guy who always played the game with a smile on his face but also was kind of a quiet killer on the field.”

Carroll’s pedigree certainly is impressive. Two-time MLS Cup champion. Four straight Supporters’ Shields. Nine straight playoff appearances. Fourth-most MLS appearances in league history. Sixth-most minutes.

But when you stack him up against some other guys on the all-time leaderboard of games played (Kyle Beckerman, Brad Davis, Steve Ralston, even his brother-in-law Chad Marshall), it’s fair to say he doesn’t get the same kind of national recognition. What gives?

“Because he goes about his business in such a quiet way, he isn’t a guy who is loud on the field or loud in the locker room, he’s just a lead-by-example kind of guy, and often those guys don’t get a whole lot of credit,” Curtin said. “[But] he’s a guy who anybody speaks about him in the game has nothing but positive things to say. Everybody has a Brian Carroll story, and they’re all positive. There are not a lot of guys that end their career with that — with not one person that you would ever meet that would say a negative thing about them. He’s been a guy who’s gone about his business the right way — an example of so many young players to learn from in our country.”

Even if he might not always get league-wide attention, anyone who ever played with Carroll certainly knows what he’s all about. Five years ago, then-Union teammate Danny Califf said he was “one of the most underrated guys in the league, and he has been for a long time,” before adding: “He’s happy to sit back and be in the playoffs and win championships — and let everyone else talk about the other guys that don’t.” Two years later, when Carroll was the team’s captain, Amobi Okugo revealed that everyone called him “The Iron Man.” 

But for Carroll, always a picture of humility, none of that stuff ever really mattered. And if he did fly under the radar, that's just fine with him, too.

“I think I have some athletic ability, thank goodness, but I’m not the fastest, the tallest or the strongest,” said Carroll, who remarkably was never shown a red card in any of the 370 games he played. “What I brought was consistency, work ethic and fulfilling my role to the best of my ability and me doing that enabled other guys to fulfill their roles and succeed at their roles. I’m happy and thankful that I was able to lead my team to some trophies, whether it be Supporters’ Shield or MLS Cup.”

It’s a testament to his work ethic that the 36-year-old defensive midfielder continued to play at a high level as recently as last season. And although his playing time completely dried up this year, he holds no ill will toward the Union about that. If anything, he’s enjoyed the chance to step into a new role that’s involved coaching up his younger teammates at practice.

“I knew coming in these past couple of years my role was gonna change and be more supportive, still helping to lead,” he said. “One thing leads to another last year and I was a little bit more involved than what was planned. Then this year, it just kind of went according to plan — supporting the guys and helping them out in any way I can.”

Because of how he filled that role, many people speculated that he would transition directly into coaching or into a front office job. But while Carroll said he explored that path, he said the best thing for him to do with his family right now is to move to Indianapolis, where his wife is from.  

Of course, that could always change.

“There’s always a job here with the Philadelphia Union if he wants one,” Curtin said. “I know he’s moving into the financial world. I’m hoping he’s not sitting in a cubicle but if he is sitting in a cubicle, the door’s always open to come back here on the field to be a coach because he has so much more to give.”

He still has a little more to give as a player, too. Although he hasn’t played all season, Curtin said Carroll will likely play in Sunday’s 2017 finale vs. Orlando City SC — for his 371st and final MLS appearance.

“I think it’s important for him to get on the field, so we will find a way to make that happen,” Curtin said. “I kind of half-joked about starting him and seeing how long he could possibly last being out a lot this year. But he’s been sharp in training the past couple of weeks, so it’s great. 

“He’s an experienced guy, so no matter where you put him on the field, he deserves for our fans to give him a proper send-off. And I know they will.”

Union suspend Keegan Rosenberry for 'inappropriate' tweet

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Union suspend Keegan Rosenberry for 'inappropriate' tweet

Keegan Rosenberry’s nightmare season has come to an end. 

The second-year right back, who has floated in and out of favor with Union manager Jim Curtin throughout the 2017 campaign, has been suspended for the final game of the regular season on Sunday against Orlando City, for what Curtin deemed “unprofessional” behavior on social media.

“His activity on social media prior to kickoff was inappropriate,” Curtin said. “It’s something that won’t be tolerated. It's a decision that he made, one that he’ll be held accountable for. It’s unprofessional and disrespectful to the guys in the locker room.” 

Shortly before the Union’s 3-2 loss to the Chicago Fire last Sunday, in which he wasn’t tapped to start, Rosenberry tweeted a photo of himself on the bench with an unhappy look on his face and the headline, “(Need some caption help)”. The image, which also included defender Richie Marquez, was viewed as a veiled comment on his lack of playing time. 

It’s since been deleted.

“He’s a great young player that I think will learn from this,” Curtin continued. “But as professionals, we are held to a standard. To do that right before kickoff is not something [Union sporting director Earnie Stewart] and I will tolerate.”

It’s been a rough year for Rosenberry, who, after playing every minute of the regular season in 2016, was benched in favor of a more defensively stout Ray Gaddis after the Union’s first six games. The 23-year-old 2016 Rookie of the Year runner-up only managed five more starts and eight appearances following his early-season struggles. 

Although he made a five-game comeback through August and September, an ankle injury knocked him back out. He finished the season with one assist and four shots.

Now, he’ll miss the finale.