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Union-Red Bulls 5 Things: Facing a rival on national TV

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Union-Red Bulls 5 Things: Facing a rival on national TV

New York Red Bulls (6-7-2) at Philadelphia Union (4-6-4)
5 p.m. on ESPN

After a 15-day break from MLS play, the Union hit the field at Talen Energy Stadium on Sunday to welcome the rival Red Bulls in a nationally televised showdown, hoping to snap a two-game losing streak. 

Here are five things to know:

1. Getting to know you
It was only last month when the Union last faced the Red Bulls at home, storming to a 3-0 win behind a C.J. Sapong hat trick to snap a 15-game winless streak and kick off a four-game winning streak. And after Sunday’s game, the Union again face the Red Bulls — on the road, on June 28 — in the U.S. Open Cup.

Union head coach Jim Curtin added that should only add more to the rivalry — though he did say that only a playoff meeting will make it a true rivalry.

“There have been some wild games between us,” he said, “so I think there is a little spice in there for sure.”

2. Injury issues
The Union won’t be completely healthy as they try to slow down stars Sacha Kljestan, Bradley Wright-Phillips and the rest of the Red Bulls.

On top of the long-term injuries to Maurice Edu and Brian Carroll, Fabian Herbers (groin) and Warren Creavalle (hamstring) weren’t able to train on Friday while Alejandro Bedoya (hamstring) practiced for a bit but wasn’t included in the projected starting lineup.

The Union captain, fresh off a stint with the U.S. national team (where he sustained the injury), is questionable for the game but Curtin is confident the Union will be fine even if Bedoya can’t go, and even though the team is coming off a 3-1 win over the Harrisburg City Islanders in the U.S. Open Cup game just four days ago.

“We got through the Open Cup game healthy,” he said. “We were able to manage minutes for certain guys. I think we’ll have fresh legs Sunday against a very good Red Bull team.”

3. Showcase for Jones?
If Bedoya isn’t ready to play, Derrick Jones will likely make his first MLS start since April 8 and his first MLS appearance since the last time Philly faced the Red Bulls on May 6. But the 20-year-old midfielder had a good reason for the absence as he was playing for the U.S. at the Under-20 World Cup. He then followed up a strong international tournament with a goal in Wednesday’s Open Cup win over Harrisburg.

“He has a little bounce in his step in training. He’s been really good,” Curtin said. “Now he steps on field vs. Red Bull and Tyler Adams is out there — two young guys who showed really well at the World Cup and they’ll want to get the better of each other in this game coming up. Derrick's done a great job for us when called upon. He’s a guy I have no problem throwing out there. I think he has grown in maturity from his experience at U-20 World Cup.”

Jones said he has  “a lot of confidence” after emerging as a starter at the U-20 World Cup and agreed with his coach that the chance to play against his U-20 teammate Tyler Adams is extra motivation for the weekend.

“We talked at camp and always trashed talk with each other,” he said with a smile. “I can’t wait to see him.”

4. Keep an eye on…
Red Bulls: Everything starts with Kljestan, who leads the team with six assists, and Wright-Phillips, who has a team-high six goals. Slowing them down will be a big test for a Union backline that is still growing as a unit and for goalkeeper Andre Blake, who Curtin hopes will “bail us out a couple of times.”

Union: Haris Medunjanin began to come into his own before leaving for a stint with Bosnia during the international break. He’ll likely need to have another big game for the Union to snap a two-game losing streak, especially if his midfield partner Bedoya is out.

5. This and that
• The Red Bulls have lost six straight road games, the fourth-longest such streak in franchise history.

• The 15 goals the Red Bulls have scored this season are the second-fewest in the Eastern Conference, ahead of only D.C. United and five fewer than the Union.

• The Red Bulls are coming off a 1-0 win over New York City FC in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday.

• Bedoya has committed the most fouls in MLS this season with 33.

• After going winless in their first four home games, the Union have won three straight at Talen Energy Stadium. The last time they won at least four straight home games was a five-game streak from Sept. 20, 2015 to April 23, 2016. 

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.