Without Borek Dockal and Haris Medunjanin, Union can't handle LAFC

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Without Borek Dockal and Haris Medunjanin, Union can't handle LAFC


LOS ANGELES — The Union are trying to get to the point where they can attack anyone, even the league’s top teams, even when they’re on the road, even in the most daunting environments.

But it’s clear they’re not there yet, especially when the deck is stacked against them.

For Saturday’s game against expansion Los Angeles FC, the Union tried to make due without Borek Dockal, fresh off one of the best games a Union player has ever played in a 4-0 thrashing of the Vancouver Whitecaps last week. He stayed back in Philly due to family reasons, joining suspended Haris Medunjanin on the DNP list. 

Without those two influential midfielders on the field, the Union never stood much of a chance against a star-studded team that’s still never lost at home, falling to the expansion club by a lopsided 4-1 margin in front of 20,000 fans at sparkling new Banc of California Stadium.

“Certainly missing Borek, our No. 10 that’s playing at a very high level, it hurt,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “But he had some personal issues back home he had to deal with. There are certain things that are bigger than soccer. I’ll always put family ahead of soccer and that’s the situation with Borek.”

Although Curtin didn’t have everyone at his disposal, he still opted to not just absorb pressure on the road or play for a draw, as some MLS teams do. And it looked like it could pay dividends as the Union got two of the best chances of the first part of the game. But they weren’t able to finish, with slumping striker C.J. Sapong bungling an early opportunity that could have perhaps altered the course of the contest.

“Look, we came out to Los Angeles not to put 10 guys behind the ball and sit back and just defend,” Curtin said. “I give our guys credit — we went for it. We had chances early. And we had some youthful mistakes but that is something we signed up for and we’re on board for because we still see a lot of progress with our young center backs.” 

Those young center backs, teenagers Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie, certainly had a rough go of it as LAFC striker Adama Diamonda torched the Philly backline for three goals, making up for the absence of standout Designated Players Carlos Vela (World Cup duty) and Diego Rossi (hamstring). 

Curtin, though, tried to take a bit of solace in the fact that the teenagers, quite simply, need to get through these kinds of games to turn into franchise pillars, as the Union hope. 

“Those two guys, it needs to be said, they’re 19 years old and they’re having incredible seasons together,” the Union coach said. “But this is a learning experience for them.”

Union captain Alejandro Bedoya was also somewhat encouraged by the team’s first-ever game against LAFC, pointing out that the hosts didn’t look like a team that’s “4-1 better than us,” particularly in the first half when Philly had the better of the scoring opportunities and tried to retake the momentum with a Fafa Picault goal right before the break.

“We know we can create chances,” Bedoya said. “We know we can play with any team in this league. But in the final third, we’ve just got to be better.”

“Our guys were brave,” Curtin added. “We played some good soccer. We just ran into a team that took their chances today. … The atmosphere they have here is top notch. The stadium is beautiful, a nice place to play. But we didn’t come here for a vacation. We came to take points. It just wasn’t our night and we got punished.”

Adama Diomande's hat trick sinks Union in 1st meeting with expansion LAFC

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Adama Diomande's hat trick sinks Union in 1st meeting with expansion LAFC


LOS ANGELES — Adama Diomande spoiled the Union’s first trip to Banc of California Stadium with Los Angeles FC’s first hat trick in franchise history.

In front of 22,000 fans at the recently opened soccer stadium in the Exposition Park neighborhood of L.A. on Saturday, Diomande lifted expansion LAFC to a 4-1 win over the Union.

The result ended a modest two-game winning streak for the Union, who fell to 1-6-1 on the road this year. LAFC, on pace to be the best MLS expansion team ever, remained unbeaten at home with a 4-0-3 record and a 9-4-3 overall mark.

• The Union had no answer for Diomande, who now has a whopping seven goals in the past four games. The 28-year-old Norwegian twisted Mark McKenzie into a pretzel before firing a shot past Andre Blake to the far post to open the scoring in the 25th minute.

• Diomande’s second goal came in the 43rd minute when he tapped it in following a very nice string of passes with Benny Feilhaber and Mark Anthony-Kaye notching the assists. He completed the hat trick in the 55th minute when a cross from Latif Blessing cross got loose and he collided with Blake in the process.

• Latif Blessing tacked on the team's fourth goal deep into stoppage time with the outcome already decided.

• It was mostly a rough night for the Homegrown center back pairing of Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie. Union head coach Jim Curtin has said before he can’t recreate these kinds of long trips and daunting environments for the teenagers, so games like these should be expected.

• The Union had two golden scoring chances in the first half. In the 11th minute, C.J. Sapong misplayed a ball from Alejandro Bedoya and couldn’t get off a wide-open shot before Marcus Epps skied the rebound. In the 28th minute, Bedoya had a header saved off the goal line by Joao Moutinho and Auston Trusty was high on the follow.

• David Accam, who’s been glued to the bench for most of June, entered the game in the 62nd minute but couldn’t provide much of a spark, save for a run in stoppage time. He and Sapong, who were expected to be the team’s top two scorers this year, have combined for only two goals through the first 17 games.

• Anthony Fontana, the Union’s teenage midfielder, made only his second league appearance since March.

• LAFC, the league’s highest-scoring team, nearly had another goal but Lee Nguyen was called offside after hitting home a rebound after Blessing hit the post late in the match.

• LAFC remained one of only five teams who are unbeaten at home this year. 

Union's Haris Medunjanin suspended 2 additional MLS games

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Union's Haris Medunjanin suspended 2 additional MLS games

CHESTER, Pa. — Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin only lost his mind for a few moments but the outburst will cost him a few weeks.

During his weekly press conference Wednesday, head coach Jim Curtin said Medunjanin will be suspended an additional two games for his vociferous arguments with the referee June 2 in a 3-1 loss in Atlanta.

Medunjanin only played 19 minutes that game before being ejected, and then served the normal one-game red-card suspension in a 2-0 loss to Toronto on June 8. Because of the severity of the offense, he’ll now also miss Saturday’s home tilt vs. Vancouver on Saturday (5 p.m., PHL17) as well as the Union’s first-ever trip to expansion Los Angeles FC the following week.

The league has not yet announced the three-game suspension but Curtin said the team “recently got word” that an appeal from the MLS Players Union was denied.

“I don’t agree with it but we have to live with it,” Curtin said. “I think for Haris, it’s the first red card in his career, which says a lot about who he is as a player.”

Curtin referenced an incident last June when Medunjanin showed his honesty by asking referee Sorin Stoica to rescind a red card handed to D.C. United’s Luciano Acosta. The Union midfielder claimed Acosta didn’t kick him and didn’t deserve to be sent off, even though the initial ruling would have significantly helped his own team. 

Perhaps that was one reason why Medunjanin blew up at the same referee who called a questionable penalty on Auston Trusty before showing Alejandro Bedoya his second yellow card for what appeared to be a minor dissent, effectively ruining the Union’s chances of winning in Atlanta.

“You can go through a lot of things to say it’s a little harsh to get three games,” Curtin said. “But we have to live with the decision and now we move on missing one of our best players. That’s challenging as a team but we’ll have to make up for it as we move forward.”

Medunjanin certainly showed his worth in this past Saturday’s 2-1 U.S. Open Cup win over the New York Red Bulls (MLS suspensions don’t carry over to the Open Cup), scoring a beautiful goal and adding a secondary assist.

Bedoya also had one of his better games vs. the Red Bulls, teaming well with Medunjanin in the central midfield to lead the Union into the Open Cup quarterfinals. Back from his own one-game suspension, the Philly captain will now likely partner with Warren Creavalle in the midfield for the next two games.

The 27-year-old Creavalle had played sparingly for much of the year before enjoying solid stints vs. Atlanta and Toronto. 

“He’s been playing very well in training,” Curtin said. “He’ll step up and do a good job. And obviously, Derrick [Jones] will be in the picture as well if we need to close out the game.”