Ryan Bright

Union lose to Orlando City as offense continues to flounder

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Union lose to Orlando City as offense continues to flounder


CHESTER, Pa. — Unfazed by the Union’s opening salvo, Orlando City held strong and punched back. Dom Dwyer and Chris Mueller scored first-half goals for the visitors, as they easily took down the floundering Union, 2-0, on Friday night at Talen Energy Stadium. 

Joe Bendik claimed the six-save shutout.

With the loss, the Union fall to a paltry 1-2-2 on the season and a concerning 1-1-2 at home. Orlando City moves to 3-2-1. 

• It wasn’t all bad for the Union. During the first 20 minutes, the hosts fired off four corners, 10 total crosses and seven shots. But as usual, it didn’t amount to much. 

• David Accam nearly broke through in the 27th minute, when he torched his defender and broke in on a partial breakaway. However, his short-side shot hit the side of the net. Impressive work but Andrew Wenger-like finish. That’s a trend this season.

• That lack of finish would haunt the Union in the 38th minute, as Dwyer, kept onside by Matt Real, escaped coverage and accepted a pass from Sacha Kljestan for the easy dish past Andre Blake for the 1-0 lead. It deflated the Union.

• Orlando continued punishment delivery in the 45th, when Mueller claimed a loose ball in the box and walked in net for the 2-0 lead. It was miscommunication and fumble by Jack Elliott and Matt Real that caused the turnover. 

• And if you thought it couldn’t get worse for the Union, it did. Out of the gate in the second half, center back Elliott, arguably the Union’s best player this season, went down injured with what the team called a “right leg injury” and was replaced by rookie Homegrown Mark McKenzie.

• McKenzie, who made the roster over Josh Yaro, joined Real and Auston Trusty on the back line. It gave the Union three Homegrown players on defense alone. With 22-year-old Elliott, the club had the youngest defensive line in MLS history. Add in 19-year-old McKenzie, and the Union set another record. 

• Looking for anything to give his team life, Union manager Jim Curtin pulled Fafa Picault for Ilsinho in the 60th minute. It didn’t work. Picault finished with three shots.

• While the season is still young for the Union, losing at home is a concerning trend. With four of their first five matches at home, this was supposed to be a lucrative stretch. Instead, the club is stumbling into phase two, which features four of five on the road — including FC Dallas, Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and Columbus Crew. Next up for the Union: FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium.

Union fighting off frustration as scoring slump persists

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Union fighting off frustration as scoring slump persists


CHESTER, Pa. — If the Union are panicking over their offensive power outage, they aren’t showing it. 

“We’ll score. We’ll score,” Union winger Fafa Picault said. “It’s not really a worry. We’re gelling. It’s gonna work. It’s gonna be fine. No worries.”

They might be without worry, but they aren’t without frustration. Despite outplaying the Earthquakes Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium, the Union were forced into a sour, come-from-behind 1-1 draw (see observations). They outshot the visitors, 22-9, but had little to show for it. That lone score, a back-post header from Alejandro Bedoya, was just the club’s third goal in four matches. 

“I’m frustrated,” Bedoya said. “It’s crap to tie that game. Nothing against San Jose, but to play like that in the first half and not get anything out of it. We need to have a sense of urgency in the final third, get more guys in the box and make more decisive runs. It’s not good enough. We let ourselves down.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint what’s wrong. With newcomers David Accam and Borek Dockal in the mix, chemistry is a potential issue. But Union manager Jim Curtin doesn’t think that’s the problem.

“I can’t say that there is a lack of chemistry or something wasn’t there,” he said. “They created a ton. We had San Jose pretty much scrambling from the opening whistle, really threatened their backline. It’s a night that’s going to be frustrating to think about. We’re going to lose some sleep because it should’ve been three points.” 

Curtin also called it one of those snakebitten nights. But if the Union were cursed, Ilsinho was the spell breaker. The skillful Brazilian entered the match for Accam in the 63rd minute and had an instant impact, making a key drive that led to Bedoya’s goal in the 64th. 

“We wanted to inject some life into the game,” Curtin said. “Ilsinho came in, we switched Fafa to the left and it had an immediate impact because the guys executed and made a play.”

Bedoya seemed refreshed by what Ilsinho added to the Union attack. 

“He definitely brought a spark to the game and added something,” the captain said. “But that’s what we expect from the guys who come in as subs. When there are tired legs, we need guys to come in and contribute.”

Ilsinho wasn’t the only bright spot. Returning from a three-game suspension for a preseason incident, Picault was the most active player on the field, giving Curtin reason to be optimistic.

“He didn’t show a lot of rust for having missed game minutes,” the manager said. “We’re happy with the effort that he put in. He changed the team a bunch and gave us a real spark. On a different night, we could’ve had four or five goals.” 

Union receive spark but can't find enough offense in draw

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Union receive spark but can't find enough offense in draw


CHESTER, Pa. — While the Union fumbled to unlock their offense, the Earthquakes stole the lead. It wasn’t until Ilsinho joined the fray midway through the second half that the hosts found their rhythm, as they came back to draw the visitors, 1-1, on a quiet and cold Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium. 

The Union fall to a paltry 1-1-2, while San Jose moves to 1-2-1.

• Although the Union claimed 61 percent possession lead and 22-9 shot advantage, they left the field to boos from the limited home crowd. The Union have just three goals in four matches this season.

• It was a sleepy first half from both sides until rookie center back Auston Trusty made an aggressive run into the midfield to break up the Earthquakes' possession. The move ended in a turnover, which allowed the visitors on an odd-man rush. That’s where Danny Hoesen found Magnus Eriksson for the 1-0 Earthquakes lead.

• Chasing the match midway through the second half, Union manager Jim Curtin pulled ineffective David Accam for Ilsinho, which flipped Fafa Picault to the left side. The decision, which may have been overdue, instantly paid off. Accam ended with two shots. 

• Ilsinho’s possession on the right side sent the Earthquakes defense scrambling. In the 64th minute, the ball was pushed to Picault who absorbed defensive pressure on the left side of the crease before lifting a cross-box ball to Alejandro Bedoya for the header goal, tying the match at one.

• Despite the Union’s offensive impotency, it was an impressive season debut for Picault. The second-year Union winger made his return following a three-game suspension. Picault, who was the most active player on the field, finished with an assist and two shots.

• The goal broke a two-game scoreless streak for the frustrated Union. The club hadn’t buried a goal since C.J. Sapong did it March 3 in the season opener against the Revolution.

• Defensively, the Union were stout. Left back Matt Real made his second consecutive start for the Union, who once again tapped the youngest back line in MLS. Real was replaced by Ray Gaddis in the 71st. 

• Looking for the go-ahead goal, Curtin got creative with his lineup in the 86th minute, when he pulled Borek Dockal for forward Cory Burke. Dockal was more active than in his previous two starts but wasn’t able to put much together. He finished with two shots on goal and five corners that went nowhere. 

• The Union will have another shot to break through offensively Friday when they host Orlando City at Talen Energy Stadium. Orlando has allowed eight goals in four games this season.