Union

Union Notes: Refreshed Keegan Rosenberry hoping to reclaim starting spot

Union Notes: Refreshed Keegan Rosenberry hoping to reclaim starting spot

CHESTER, Pa. — The fact that Keegan Rosenberry worked his way back into the lineup after getting benched shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. The right back was, after all, an MLS All-Star and one of the league’s top rookies last season.

It was how it happened that was more unexpected — with Rosenberry coming into last week’s game midway through the second half after Ray Gaddis suffered a nasty bruise.

What happened next? The Union, spurred at least in part by the energy that Rosenberry and fellow sub Derrick Jones brought off the bench, erupted for three goals to cruise to a 3-0 victory — their first win of the season and one they hope will be a turning point as they prepare to face another rival in D.C. United on Saturday (7 p.m., The Comcast Network).

“It’s exciting, it’s the first time we really felt like we could rally around a result,” Rosenberry said after Wednesday’s practice. “The performances have been good at times but nothing like getting a real result and getting three points out of a game. I think the energy in training has been higher and I think we’re excited about the game in D.C.”

Rosenberry admitted entering the game when he did was “a little bit difficult” because defenders are used to playing either “90 [minutes] or nothing.” He also said that coming in because of an injury is not ideal and he hopes Gaddis gets healthy.

But now that he did get back on the field, he naturally hopes to remain there and rediscover the form that allowed him to play every minute last season — while feeling refreshed after a couple of weeks to rest his legs.

“It’s the way you respond from this kind of stuff that is most important,” he said. “If I can come back from this stronger, and hopefully the team is stronger, then we’ll benefit from it. … Of course I hope to be involved in the team going to D.C. but whatever [head coach Jim Curtin] thinks is gonna help the team win, then I’m all for it.”

Curtin may have other more pressing lineup decisions with key attacking players Roland Alberg and Chris Pontius both dealing with injuries, but who starts at right back will certainly be a question leading into the game. The Union coach didn’t tip his hand, praising both Gaddis for a “brave” tackle that led to his leg bruise last week and also Rosenberry for entering the game in a tough spot.

“To Keegan’s credit, he came in, made some good initial plays right off the bat to get his feet back under him, connected his passes,” Curtin said. “It’s always tough to come in as a sub to a game as high-paced as that game was, as intense as that game was. I thought Keegan came in and contributed well. We’ll see how Ray recovers.”

Jones’ journey
It wasn’t long ago that Derrick Jones was living in Ghana. Now, the Union midfielder, who moved to Philadelphia six years ago, will represent the United States at the Under-20 World Cup.

Jones wasn’t available to talk to reporters this week; he already left to join his U-20 teammates as they prepare for the tournament which begins on May 20 in Korea Republic. But Curtin gushed about what it means for Jones to become a U.S. citizen and play for his new country in a World Cup — and also what it means for the Union organization.

“It’s great for Derrick. It’s great for the city of Philadelphia. It’s great for the club,” Curtin said. “He’s a Philly kid that worked through our youth academy to the Bethlehem Steel to the first team. Now to go into a U-20 team and represent our country is special for him.

“It hurts to lose him in a lot of ways with the busy schedule coming up. But, at the same time, the relationship with MLS and U.S. Soccer is one that’s growing and everyone agreed to release their players. … I couldn’t be happier for Derrick as a Philadelphian, as a Union player. It’s good for our badge and I know he’ll represent us very well.”

Ode to RFK
Saturday’s game will mark the end of an era as it will likely be the last MLS game the Union will play at RFK Stadium, D.C. United’s long-standing home that will soon give way to a new soccer-specific stadium set to open next year.

Curtin, who has coached and played many games in since D.C. began playing there when MLS began in 1996, gave the old building a fitting farewell.

“Everybody walks in there and says, ‘Man, this place is falling apart.’ There are a lot of negative comments, especially from younger players. And it hasn’t been taken care of very well, there’s no secret there,” he said. “But talk about a stadium with a ton of history in football and soccer. Any time we play at RFK, it’s always felt like a big game. That was maybe kind of engrained in me from some tough D.C. battles. There was always the smell of stale beer and urine or whatever it was from the Dave Matthews concert the night before.

“It certainly is maybe time. That’s probably the best way to put it. Maybe I’m nostalgic, maybe I’m old school or whatever you want to call it, but I still love going there. It’s a really cool place — a special place with a ton of history.”

Union-Orlando City observations: Breaking records in season-ending rout

usa-cj-sapong-union-final.jpg
USA Today Images

Union-Orlando City observations: Breaking records in season-ending rout

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. —  In less than three minutes Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium, the match was effectively over. Ilsinho and the Union began their scoring assault in the third minute and didn’t stop until team records and Orlando City were thoroughly broken. The Union easily won the season finale, 6-1.

It was an impressive finish to an unimpressive season for the Union, as the club completed 2017 with an 11-9-14 record and 42 points — a mirror image of 2016. On the other side, equally disappointing Orlando City finished at 10-9-15 and more questions than answers.

• Before fans got settled into their seats, Ilsinho and the Union took the 1-0 lead. In the third minute, Alejandro Bedoya, off the rush, sent a trailing pass from the right side of the box that found a seam and Ilsinho, who easily placed the open shot past Earl Edwards Jr.

• Stunning Orlando City, the onslaught continued three minutes later. Breaking down the right side of the box, Ilsinho’s centering pass found Fafa Picault, who beat his man for a header that went bar-down and in for his sixth goal of the season.

• With the quick goal and assist Sunday, Ilsinho was playing out of his mind. And while it may not make a difference regarding his future with the club, the second-year Union player treated Sunday’s match like a guy facing a team option on his contract at the end of the season.

• Continuing to dominate Orlando City, C.J Sapong produced in the 26th minute, when he buried a cross-box feed from Picault. The goal made it 3-0 Union, but more importantly, gave Sapong 15 goals on the season, setting the Union franchise record for goals in a single season.

• But he wasn't done. Sapong netted his second of the game in the 74th minute, cleaning up a Haris Medunjanin shot and rebound. Totaling 16 goals on the season, Sapong snapped his career high by seven. He was pulled in the 86th minute for the curtain call and ovation.

• Even with the three-goal lead, Picault showed no mercy to Orlando City. The speedster broke free in the 30th minute and fired a shot through the legs of Edwards, who didn’t stand a chance. Picault left the match at halftime with what was suspected to be a concussion.

• While that goal was Picault’s second of the game and fourth for the Union, it also set a record for most goals scored in a single half by a Union team.

• Like a U.S. Open Cup match against an amateur team, the Union made it 5-0 in the 63rd minute. Medunjanin captured his team-leading 12th assist on the season by sending Ilsinho on a clean breakaway for the goal. Sapong made it 6-1, a little over 10 minutes later.

• Orlando City’s goal in the 72nd minute, scored by Dom Dwyer, broke Andre Blake’s shutout and kept the goalkeeper’s 2017 total at nine for the season. That’s three above his career high earned last season when he won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Blake was outstanding Sunday, making four stops.

• Chris Pontius, who came off the bench in the second half, found himself on a breakaway with minutes remaining in the match. His shot hit the post to perfectly sum up his forgettable season.

• Playing his final game in MLS, Brian Carroll, who announced his retirement from professional soccer earlier in the week, received a pre-game name chant and ceremony. Playing his final minutes of the season, the veteran of 371 MLS games, took the captain’s armband and entered the match at halftime

• With the win Sunday, the Union pushed their record at Talen Energy Stadium to 10-4-3 — the best home record in team history. But with a putrid road record of 1-10-6, it’s easy to see why the club struggled in the Eastern Conference.

Union-Orlando City thoughts: Aiming to end season, Brian Carroll's career with a win

union-orlando-matchup.jpg

Union-Orlando City thoughts: Aiming to end season, Brian Carroll's career with a win

Orlando City (10-13-9) at Union (15-10-7)
4:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

After 33 games, the 2017 season finale is here as the Union return to Talen Energy Stadium for the last time on Sunday to host Orlando City. And although the match is relatively pointless for the two woeful clubs, both teams want to end with a win.

Here are some thoughts on the game:

•At this point, it’s all about pride. Coming off a horrendous regular season that includes just one road victory, a nine-game losing run to begin the campaign and no All-Stars, the Union want to bury their awful season with a win.

“It was a disappointing season,” said Union goalkeeper Andre Blake. “The aim right now is to finish the season on a high note at home. We want to give the fans something to cheer for.”

•With a win, the Union can finish the season with 42 points. That would match last year’s output, which was good enough for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Union are eight points out of the postseason prior to Sunday’s match.

•Brian Carroll will say goodbye to the Union and professional soccer on Sunday after announcing his retirement. The 15-year veteran, who played seven of those with the Union, will get on the field against Orlando City for one final run. Next up for the Virginia native? He’s moving to Indianapolis to begin a new career as a financial planner (see story). 

“There’s always a job here with the Philadelphia Union if he wants one,” Jim Curtin said.

•The quiet Carroll, who, at 36, hasn’t played a minute of MLS action this season, ends his career (not including Sunday’s match) fourth all-time in MLS with 370 appearances and sixth all-time in minutes played at 30,778. He’s won two MLS titles and four Supporters’ Shields.

He’s second on the Union’s franchise list for games played at 165, behind only Sebastien Le Toux. But Carroll owns the minutes played title at 13,818. Although it may not have shown through his quiet demeanor, he’s been a really good player for a long time.

•Though it’s the Union’s final match of the season, the club won’t dip into the youth pool. Curtin’s belief is that players who contributed minutes with the Steel throughout 2017 deserved to dress for the USL club’s first playoff game on the road against the Louisville City FC on Friday night.

If Curtin would have known the Steel would have been crushed, 4-0, things might have changed. Adam Najem, Derrick Jones and Auston Trusty made the start.

•One player who didn’t suit up for Steel but also won’t dress for the Union on Sunday is right back Keegan Rosenberry. Coming off a year in which he played every minute of the regular season and earned Rookie of the Year runner-up honors, Rosenberry was suspended by the Union for using social media to gripe about playing time.

The real issue was the timing. A subtle post, in which Rosenberry asked fans to caption an image of him on the bench with a disgusted look, came just hours prior to the Union’s match against the Chicago Fire last weekend. Curtin called it, “unprofessional” and “inappropriate.” Rosenberry ends his season with just 14 games played.

•Curtin and the Union can’t take much from the first time they saw Orlando City, a 2-1 loss on March 18. Cyle Larin, who probably won’t play for his team on Sunday, scored twice for Orlando, sandwiching a lone C.J. Sapong score. 

“That feels like forever ago,” said Curtin, whose club is 2-2-2 against Orlando City all time. “Both of our seasons have shifted, there’s been highs and lows.”

•As usual, Fabian Herbers, Maurice Edu, Josh Yaro and Ken Tribbett are out for Sunday. Right-winger Chris Pontius is questionable with an abdominal injury, which could open space for rookie Marcus Epps to earn significant playing time.

•If Orlando wants to take down the Union, it’ll have to do it without Kaka. It was announced by Orlando City that the legend, who isn’t renewing his contract, would not travel for the finale. So, if you wanted to see Kaka, you’ll have to go to Europe. 

•It may be meaningless for the Union and Orlando, but Sunday marks Decision Day around MLS, in which all 11 games are played at 4:00 p.m. In the Eastern Conference, four teams (New York City FC, Atlanta United, Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew) are eying a Knockout Round bye.