Columbus Crew

Union trade international roster spot to Crew for general allocation money

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Union trade international roster spot to Crew for general allocation money

The Union got something for nothing.

Completing their only transaction at the summer transfer window, Union sporting director Earnie Stewart sold an unused international roster spot to the Columbus Crew for $50,000 in general allocation money, which can carry over into 2018.

The added GAM will give Stewart some flexibility when working around the MLS salary cap next season. One of the many MLS quirks, GAM is a way for teams to lower the salary cap hit of designated players.

And although the move can be considered a smart one for the 8-10-5 Union, it was a result of inaction. Over the last few months, Stewart hosted multiple international trialists to fill the club’s vulnerable No. 10 spot. However, the Union were unable to find a solution, leaving converted right winger Ilsinho and Roland Alberg to split duty until Stewart can find a more permanent answer.

For the Crew, it was a much-needed purchase. Expected to lose long-time midfielder Federico Higuain at the conclusion of 2017, the Crew picked up the slack by snagging Portuguese winger Pedro Santos for reportedly over $2 million. The move forced the club into renting an international slot from the Union for the remainder of the 2017 season.

C.J. Sapong, Roland Alberg clash in 'angry' argument over penalty kick

C.J. Sapong, Roland Alberg clash in 'angry' argument over penalty kick

CHESTER, Pa. -- C.J. Sapong had a career night. 

With a goal and two assists in the Union’s 3-0 win over the Columbus Crew on Wednesday at Talen Energy Stadium, Sapong set a career high in goals with 10 (see game recap). He was dominant and productive.

But the night wasn’t all smiles.

Earning a penalty kick in the 35th minute off a Roland Alberg lead pass and Jonathan Mensah takedown, Sapong could taste his 10th of the season. One problem? Alberg wouldn’t give up the ball. While the Crew were arguing the red card on Mensah, Sapong and Alberg were jawing over the decision to take the shot.

“I had the ball and was thinking I was going to score today,” said Alberg, who was unapologetic.

The minor but heated argument caused Union captain Alejandro Bedoya to take notice. Sapong wanted it, but Alberg, who was 6 for 6 in his MLS career entering Wednesday, wouldn’t relent.

“I saw them arguing over the penalty kick,” Bedoya said. “They are two goal scorers and as the captain, I thought I had to go over there and just tell them to give it to who wanted it more. Roland had the ball. In the past, we decided if Roland is on the field, he would be our penalty taker, so that’s what I said and I let Roland take it.” 

But despite the confidence and vote from Bedoya, Alberg missed. He fired a hard shot down the middle, but Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen got his hand on the ball before it rocketed off the crossbar to remain out. 

“I missed, but last year and this year I took a lot of PKs and didn’t miss,” Alberg said. “It was a chance for me to score, but sometimes it happens and you miss. It’s unlucky, but the most important thing is three points today.”

Union manager Jim Curtin agreed.  

“Guys are angry,” he said. “Everybody wants to score goals, that’s the name of the game. It’s not the first time in soccer that a situation like that has happened. If we score, it’s a non-issue and no one’s really talking about it now. But it’s not the first penalty kick that’s going to be missed.”

Chalking the argument up to players who want to help the team win, Curtin considers the issue closed. 

“It was squashed there,” he said. “It was done, we talked to the guys. There’s nothing personal. It’s a competitive nature out there and guys want to score goals and that’s just natural. It’s normal. I wouldn’t want attacking players to be any other way. That’s what we talked about. There’s going to be more goals out there for both of you guys, so now let’s get that next one.”

In the 66th minute, Sapong got his 10th. 

“This is what we do,” the Union leading scorer said. “Every time we step on the field we’re trying to make an impact and try to help the team. Today, I can go home and know that I did that.”

C.J. Sapong, Union roll over shorthanded Crew

C.J. Sapong, Union roll over shorthanded Crew

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — Led by an offensive explosion from C.J. Sapong, the Union rode the early lead and man advantage to easily defeat the Columbus Crew, 3-0, on Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

“One of our hopes is to be in the playoffs and our home games are most important,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “Hopefully this gets some momentum going. I told them it was imperative that we win this game.” 

Avenging last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to the Crew, who are now 10-11-1, the Union snapped a two-game losing streak to keep pace in the Eastern Conference. Five points behind the Crew for the final playoff spot, the Union desperately needed a positive result to move to 7-9-5 on the season.

“We had a bad taste in our mouth,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “I think the guys really responded tonight.”

John McCarthy completed the two-save shutout.

That desperation was on display early as the Union capitalized off some in-box confusion and an impressive pass from Sapong in the 20th minute. Jumping on an errant clear by the Crew, Sapong completed a bicycle kick centering pass to Ilsinho, who placed his rocket shot past Downingtown, Pennsylvania, native Zack Steffen for the 1-0 Union lead.

The match drastically changed in the Union’s favor in the 35th minute.

Causing a Justin Meram turnover in the defensive zone, Haris Medunjanin played the ball ahead to Ilsinho, who skillfully found Roland Alberg streaking down the right side. With his head up and the defense outnumbered, the midfielder played a perfect lead pass that broke Sapong in alone on goal. But Sapong was immediately hauled down from behind by Jonathan Mensah to earn the Crew player a straight red card and the Union a penalty kick.

Crew manager Gregg Berhalter was not happy with the call.

“We’re putting the result away,” he said. “I already told the guys after the game, we didn’t get beat by Philadelphia tonight, we got beat by the three men in red. We’re OK. We’ll regroup. We’re gonna be fine. The morale’s gonna be fine.”

Yet, the Union were unable to capitalize right away. Alberg and Sapong were caught in a heated conversation over who takes the shot with Alberg eventually lining up, despite a strong protest from his teammate. The gamble wouldn’t pay off for Alberg as his shot found the hands of Steffen and the crossbar to stay out.

“I had the ball and was thinking I was going to score today,” Alberg said. “I missed, but last year and this year, I took a lot of PKs and didn’t miss. It was a chance for me to score but sometimes it happens and you miss. It’s unlucky, but the most important thing is three points today.” 

Playing a type of half-court offense as a result of total possession, the Union pressed for the second goal. But it took until the 66th minute for them to get it. Off a lofted pass from Giliano Wijnaldum, Sapong headed the ball off the right post and back to himself for the unconventional goal and 2-0 Union advantage. 

It was Sapong’s career-high 10th goal of the season.

“I think in the moment it meant more for me than I would’ve thought,” Sapong said of his 10th. “It’s always good to break any barriers. But again, that’s still just a stat. I want to continue to keep helping my team. This next half of the season, I need to keep performing and producing to help my team.”

Things unraveled further for the Crew in the 76th minute when Lalas Abubakar received a straight red for what referee Ismail Elfath deemed violent contact in a collision with Ilsinho. With room to run, Marcus Epps scored his first MLS goal in the 81st minute off a pass from Sapong and Ilsinho. The rookie finished with eight shots on goal.

“I was getting frustrated for a minute but my mindset from the beginning of the game was to get shots off and be aggressive,” Epps said. “So I’m just happy one of them went in the net.”