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.”
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.”