Fafa Picault

Inside Doop: Union stuck in neutral after another draw with expansion team

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Inside Doop: Union stuck in neutral after another draw with expansion team

For the second straight game, the Union played an expansion team. And for the second straight game, the Union walked away from the game with a point.

In this week's Inside Doop, we'll take a closer look at Saturday's 1-1 road draw with Minnesota United and what lies ahead with six games left in this disappointing season.

Three thoughts about Saturday's game
1. Compared to their expansion brethren, Minnesota is not a particularly dangerous team, built more for the future than Atlanta's expensive roster. But the Union were fortunate to escape TCF Bank Stadium with a point after a penalty on Oguchi Onyewu was overturned by video review because of a foul on Michael Boxall right before the hand ball. How big was that for the Union? Not only did they avoid facing a penalty kick in a tie game, but Onyewu also got to stay on the field after his second yellow card was rescinded. Considering the Union also had a big video review go their way vs. Dallas a few weeks ago, it's fair to say they're loving the new system — for now. It should also maybe make fans nervous that the club is enjoying some good fortune while still falling in the standings.

2. For the first 15 minutes of Saturday's game, the Union looked ready to coast to a victory. The first goal — in the 5th minute — showed off Fafa Picault's speed and CJ Sapong's precision as Picault set up Sapong's 13th goal of the season — one shy of the club's single-season record. But, aside from Andre Blake's making a huge save, the team had little to hang their hats on after that as the Loons tied the game on a Union defensive collapse and mostly took control of the game from there. That kind of inconsistency is maddening but not surprising at this point of the season for a club that's winless in its last five and has won only one road game all year.

3. With Alejandro Bedoya suspended for the game, the Union turned to Warren Creavalle to start in his place. And while Creavalle played fine, the fact that Derrick Jones didn't get a chance to take the field was somewhat alarming. Their top homegrown prospect, Jones has mostly fallen off the map since a strong start to the season and a promising performance at the U-20 World Cup. At this point, the 20-year-old midfielder may just need an offseason to rest and a preseason to regain his mojo. Still, with the Union essentially out of the playoff race, it seems silly not to throw Jones and other young guys out there for the final few games.

Three questions for the week ahead
1. The schedule only gets tougher from here for the Union, who travel to a place they rarely win, Red Bull Arena, to play a nationally televised game vs. the rival Red Bulls on Sunday, before tough games against Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle and Chicago again. How many points will the Union gain from this stretch heading into their season finale vs. Orlando? It's certainly possible they won't get many and will end up finishing with one of the league's worst records. And adding insult to injury there, their first-round draft pick belongs to New England from the trade that brought in Charlie Davies, who played (less than) one minute on Saturday, upping his total to 25 minutes on the year.

2. It's another week so it must be time for another Maurice Edu question. The Designated Player recently returned to full health but is trying to get his fitness back up through rehab appearances with affiliate Bethlehem Steel FC. At the very least, you'd think he could be ready for a 20-30 minute assignment this coming week or the week after. But then the question is what that does for the Union, who are deep at his position and don't really need a boost for the playoff push since there likely won't be one. They could throw him out there to see if they'd be interested in bringing him back next year (on a much cheaper contract), or they could just want to do him a favor by letting him show other potential bidders something leading into the offseason.

3. Speaking of veteran defensive midfielders, what about Brian Carroll? One of the league's longest-tenured players hasn't logged an MLS minute all season and appears close to retirement, whether by choice or not. An all-time good guy, Carroll could be in line for a job in the Union organization if he so chooses. But it might be nice for the 36-year-old to get back on the field at least once more for some type of farewell.

Stat of the week
With his 13th goal, Sapong passed three players who had previously scored 12 in a Union season: Jack McInerney in 2013, Sebastien Le Toux in 2014 and Chris Pontius in 2016. The all-time record was set in the Union's expansion season of 2010 when Le Toux scored 14 in 2,520 minutes. Sapong currently has 13 in 2,263 minutes with six games left to tie or break the mark.

Quote of the week
"I guess it felt OK to still get on the field despite everything else that's going on back home. Now I get to go back and see my parents and play the waiting game." — Fafa Picault, putting things in perspective after Saturday's 1-1 draw.

Earlier in the week, his parents evacuated their home in Miami due to Hurricane Irma, making a 27-hour drive to stay with Picault in Philly.

Player of the week
Sapong's the choice here as his career year continues — though he's probably kicking himself for not scoring a second after coming inches away.

Union ousted from U.S. Open Cup with 'devastating' loss on penalty kicks

Union ousted from U.S. Open Cup with 'devastating' loss on penalty kicks

Goalkeeper Ryan Meara stopped Fafa Picault and Felipe did the rest, catapulting the New York Red Bulls over the Union in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16, 1-1 (5-3), in added extra time penalty kicks on Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena. 

“It’s devastating for the guys,” Union manager Jim Curtin said to reporters. “I couldn’t be prouder of the group in terms of the effort we put in. I thought we showed a lot more fight, a lot more heart, a lot of grit, balls, guts, whatever your adjective is, we had more of it.”

Roland Alberg and Chris Pontius kept pace with the Red Bulls early in penalties, but a heroic diving stop by Meara on Picault was the difference. Red Bulls veteran Sacha Kljestan gave his club the 4-2 lead but was matched by rookie Marcus Epps, opening the door for Felipe to finish the contest. 

“I missed,” Picault said to reporters. “I shot it and he made a good save. It hit the post and that’s it.”

Despite guessing correctly on nearly all of the Red Bulls’ attempts, Union backup keeper John McCarthy was unable to make a stop. Meara finished with one.

After qualifying but losing in the tournament’s title game in 2014 and 2015, the Union failed to make it out of the quarterfinals last season. This year, the club, which defeated the Harrisburg City Islanders in its first match, wasn’t able to survive the Round of 16.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls advance to face the New England Revolution on July 13 at Harvard University’s Jordan Field. The Revolution defeated D.C. United, 2-1, on Wednesday.

Trailing by one and after nearly 90 minutes of futility, Alberg and the Union hit gold in the 86th. Launching a long-ball pass into the box, Jack Elliot stunned the Red Bulls’ back line as the volley landed at the feet of a nearly offside Alberg. The Union No. 10 turned and fired off a shot that beat Meara far side to lock the match at 1-1.

“Roland Alberg put in an incredible shift in terms of work rate and effort,” Curtin said. “Character to come back, this group has that.” 

But that wasn’t the only scoring chance for the Union. Despite shaky defense early, the Union owned the game’s first great opportunity, when Picault, whose finish was suspect all game, broke free on a breakaway in the 18th minute. His low shot was sloppy and body-stopped by Meara to keep the game scoreless. 

“We had them on the ropes in their building and we didn’t quite finish them off,” Curtin said. 

It was one of 27 attempts on goal throughout the contest for the Union.

“We created enough to win,” Curtin said. “We should have won tonight.”

While the Union missed chances, the hosts took control. In the 41st minute, Bradley Wright-Phillips pounced on a Josh Yaro turnover and slid a centering pass to Kljestan, who easily placed his shot through McCarthy and in for the 1-0 advantage at the half.

“We have to regroup and refresh,” said Curtin, whose club is set to face the New England Revolution on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium. “This is why our sports science department gets the big bucks. We’ll be ready to go.”

New fan favorite Fafa posterizes Dynamo as Union keep rolling

New fan favorite Fafa posterizes Dynamo as Union keep rolling

So remember a couple of weeks ago when the Union were really bad? Never mind. They’re, like, really good now.

On Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium, the Union won their third straight game with a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo -- a result that followed a 4-0 thrashing of D.C. United and a 3-0 romp over the New York Red Bulls.

The defense has certainly been exceptional during the stretch but the Union have also been scoring some really pretty goals. Check out this one from last night in which Ilsinho, who enjoyed one of his best games in a Philly uniform, beats a guy with some nice dribbling and feeds Chris Pontius, who delivers a cross that Fafa Picault GETS HIGH for, vaulting over a hapless Houston defender and scoring his second goal in as many games.

The goal checked in at No. 5 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of the week and also included a celebration dance that maybe needs some work?

Anyway, Picault is good friends with Ochocinco, so it’s not surprising that he’s got speed and hops like the former NFL star.

What is surprising is that Picault hardly played during the first seven games of the season before bursting onto the scene and helping spark a serious turnaround. In fact, the Union are 3-0-1 with a 9-0 goal differential since he entered the starting lineup, as opposed to 0-4-3 in games he didn’t start.

Not surprisingly, it looks like Fafa’s quickly becoming a fan favorite.


#Fafadelphia, indeed.