Montreal Impact

Crushing loss to Impact stunts Union's playoff hopes

Crushing loss to Impact stunts Union's playoff hopes

CHESTER, Pa. -- Sitting two points ahead of the Montreal Impact entering Saturday’s match, the Union had a prime opportunity to propel themselves up the Eastern Conference standings and keep pace for the final postseason spot.

Three Impact goals later, that opportunity was squashed.

“We're very disappointed,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “Definitely a missed opportunity for our playoff hopes. We just have to keep pushing and try to get some results away, like we haven’t been able to get the whole season. We just have to keep working hard. This is the end of the season and we have to put our heads down to do everything we can and pick up points.”

Now tied with the New England Revolution with 29 points with 10 games remaining, the dejected Union have fallen six points behind the sixth and final playoff spot while drifting to 10th in the East. The Revs have a game in hand.

“We weren’t good enough in what was a big game,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Now we have to chase, we no longer control our own destiny and we need help and we’re going to need to do things on the road that we haven’t done this year. Are we capable of that? Yes. But did we just make it more difficult on ourselves? Absolutely.”

Curtin wasn’t joking. Starting next weekend, the Union will be tasked with conquering a two-game road trip that starts against the San Jose Earthquakes and ends against Toronto FC. The two clubs have a combined home record of 16-1-7.

But that’s just the beginning. Over these final 10 games, the Union, who are a paltry 1-7-3 on the road this season, must also travel to face the Chicago Fire, Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls, which have a combined 2017 home record of 23-4-4.

“We need to win games on the road,” Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin said. “We’ve won just one game this season away. If we want to play in the playoffs you need to win games on the road.”

The Union's final stretch would have been a tough road prior to Saturday. But now that the club must find points at places like BMO Field, Avaya Stadium, Toyota Park and Red Bull Arena, that end-of-season gauntlet is even more grueling.

“We all knew the importance of the game,” Union center back Josh Yaro said. “We all knew what we had to do. I think we know what is at stake and from now on. Sometimes good enough is not good enough and I think this is one of those nights.”

Stifled Union clobbered by Impact in crushing defeat

Stifled Union clobbered by Impact in crushing defeat

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — Struggling to find their offensive footing, the stifled Union managed just two shots on goal as they fell to Blerim Dzemaili and the Montreal Impact, 3-0, Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium. 

“We weren't able to get as close as we would like to them, we’re not built to go on these track meet type games,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Overall, it was a high-intensity game, both teams were physical, tight to us and closed us down. They are a solid team and we didn’t have the urgency over 90 minutes.” 

The Impact, now 8-8-6, have been a thorn for the 8-11-5 Union all season, collecting a win and draw at Talen Energy Stadium to take the season series, 2-0-1. With the victory, the visitors snapped the Union’s four-game win streak at home, while also putting a knife in the host’s playoff chances. 

It was the Union's worst home loss since May 14, 2013.

“They deserved to win,” Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin said. “Especially in the second half. They showed us how we need to play, how we need to defend as a team and attack as a team.” 

Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush finished with the two save shutout, while John McCarthy allowed three goals on seven shots. 

“It’s difficult,” Medunjanin said. “This was our opportunity to be closer to the playoffs and we gave it away, especially at home. The first half, I think we played a good half, we had the ball a lot but the final pass was not there tonight.” 

Following an uneventful first half that saw each team register just one shot on goal, things began to heat up in the second. In the 66th minute, the Union earned their best chance of the night, when Medunjanin pushed a right side touch cross that was tapped from C.J. Sapong to Giliano Wijnaldum, whose shot ricocheted off the right bar to stay out.

“Our final ball wasn’t where it needed to be,” Curtin said. “We had opportunities at home, but shots inside the box need to hit the target and we didn’t do that enough tonight.” 

The miss would prove costly, as the Impact found goal just three minutes later.

In an attempt to stop a hard cross from the left side, Josh Yaro, in for the injured Oguchi Onyewu, clipped the pass with his heel, stunning the Union defense and allowing the ball to skitter across the box to Dzemaili, where he slugged it through McCarthy for the 1-0 Impact lead.

“The guy crossed the ball in and it was behind me so I flicked it,” Yaro said. “The man was right in the 18, so he shot it. We are taught that I have to protect between the goal and the 18. Unfortunately, the ball was behind me, so I was hoping that someone would be there to collect it. Just unfortunate their man was there.”

Looking to scratch out a late goal, Curtin called on Roland Alberg, Marcus Epps and Jay Simpson for center back Jack Elliott, to spark offense off the bench. But the club didn’t generate anything, eventually allowing a stoppage time penalty kick goal to Ignacio Piatti and another one in stoppage time from Dzemaili to seal the Union’s lopsided defeat.

“We had some looks in the first half and a few really good looks in the second half but we didn’t score,” Curtin said. “Now we’ve conceded and we’re chasing the game, and we struggle to chase games from behind.”

Union-Impact 5 things: Playoff-hungry teams face off in East showdown

union-impact-matchup_0.jpg

Union-Impact 5 things: Playoff-hungry teams face off in East showdown

Union vs. Montreal Impact
8:00 p.m. on CSN

Attempting to claw into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Union (8-10-5), coming off a dominating 3-1 win over FC Dallas last weekend, want to keep the momentum rolling as they host the Ignacio Piatti and the Montreal Impact (7-8-6) on Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

Here are five things to know:

1. Elliott’s rise
Jack Elliott has been a revelation for the Union. 

The quiet and unassuming fourth round selection in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft will make his 19th consecutive start at center back for the Union against the Impact. 

“Jack Elliott has been the Rookie of the Year,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “He’s been excellent.”

And that’s not just a coach spewing positives for an undeserving player, there’s momentum behind Elliott for Rookie of the Year. The Union, who are 8-10-5, are 8-7-3 with Elliott as a starter, including seven of the team’s eight shutouts.

“It’s good to see a young center back playing at the high level he is,” Curtin said of the 6-foot-5 standout. “It is my duty as a coach to get the word out for my guy and Jack has been exceptional.”

But despite his worthiness, Elliott might not stand a chance. As Curtin explained, and as the Union experienced in 2016 when Keegan Rosenberry lost out to Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris, goals open eyes. Currently, Atlanta United’s Julian Gressel, with three goals and six assists in 18 starts, may have the edge.

“I always want to be a voice for the defenders,” Curtin said. “When people start banging in goals, that’s what stays in people’s minds. You wish there were more quantifiable metrics for defenders. It is tough to really get recognition as a defender for awards because if you’re winning games, 3-0, they are talking about the guys who score three goals, not who kept the zero.” 

2. Learning from the past
Before the Union were able to turn their season around, they hit the ground. That thud happened against the Impact at home on April 22 when they blew a three goal lead to draw the visitors, 3-3.

“That was probably rock bottom,” Curtin said.

The Union were winless in their first six games of the season entering that contest. Claiming the opening three goals was a breath of air for the struggling club, and to lose it was devastating. 

“We got up three goals and gave up the one to [Ignacio] Piatti before the half,” Curtin said. “It was a time when we didn’t have a lot of confidence and when that goal went in you could feel the life go out of the stadium and go out of the group. It’s two points that we dropped and two big points.”

But the club recovered. Though disappointing, the draw was the start of a six game unbeaten run that sparked the Union’s come back to Eastern Conference relevance.

“That was the low point for the group but they stuck together and rebounded well,” said Curtin, whose team is three points out of playoff position. “We still have an opportunity to get ourselves back into the discussion for the playoffs.” 

3. Impactful match
Separated by two points in the East standings and with two games in hand, Saturday’s match means as much for the Impact as it does for the Union.

“Getting a result is really important right now,” said Impact’s Dominic Oduro. “Because we can come home for a couple of games, and if we can win those, will be right in playoff position.”

But the Impact understand what they’re stepping into. The Union have been fantastic at home of late, currently on a 4-0-0 run while outscoring the opposition, 10-1, over that span.

“Philadelphia is a team that always comes out strong when they play at home,” said Impact manager Mauro Biello, who mentioned C.J. Sapong, Ilsinho and Haris Medunjanin as players his club needs to watch. “They score goals early so we have to be ready for that. It’s about being aware of those elements and being able to focus on what brings us success.”

4. Keep an eye on …
Ignacio Piatti: The dynamic midfielder was out for the Union’s 2-1 loss to the Impact at Saputo Stadium in late July, but was key to the Impact comeback draw. “When you talk about Montreal, it starts with Ignacio Piatti and trying to contain him the best you can,” Curtin said. “He’s not the kind of guy you can shut down for 90 minutes.”

Ilsinho: The Brazilian had the game of his MLS career last weekend by putting up a goal, two eye-popping assists and five shots in a 3-1 rout of FC Dallas. It was exactly what the Union needed from the No. 10 position.

5. This and that
• The Union will once again be without goalkeeper Andre Blake, who is set to miss his third game with a laceration to his hand suffered in the Gold Cup title game. Blake hasn’t played for the Union since July 2 - a 3-0 win over the New England Revolution.

• With Blake out, John McCarthy will get his seventh consecutive start on Saturday. He’s been solid in reserve, making 28 stops and allowing eight goals over that span.

• Masterful at home of late, the Union are 7-1-0 at Talen Energy Stadium since May 1. 

• The Impact are 1-5-5 on the road this season and have never won at Talen Energy Stadium (0-2-5). However, the Union are 3-6-6 all time against the Canadian side.