Union

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.”

Forgotten Marcus Epps makes most of rare opportunity in Union win

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Forgotten Marcus Epps makes most of rare opportunity in Union win

CHESTER, Pa. — He isn't the big-money, veteran scorer the Union expected to lead them out of their offensive rut, but 23-year-old Marcus Epps was exactly what the Union needed Saturday night.

"It's definitely a process," said Epps, who had a goal and two assists in the Union's 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake at Talen Energy Stadium. "You've just gotta keep your head down and keep working. And when you get moments like this, you've just gotta capitalize."

The second-year winger did just that. Epps buried the Union's opening goal off a Fafa Picault pass, then added a pair of secondary assists for good measure. For a team that managed only eight goals in the 10 matches leading up to Saturday, Epps was a difference-maker.

"We see quality, we see a good kid that wants to get better," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "We get excited when he gets on the ball. You can see how uncomfortable he can make it for defenders. We're incredibly proud of his persistence, his ability to keep going. He learned some big lessons and he's now getting the benefit of scoring big goals in front of a great crowd tonight."

Doubling his career production in one night, Epps, who had two goals and an assist in 22 games entering Saturday, started the season as low as fifth on the depth chart behind David Accam, Ilsinho, Picault and Fabian Herbers. 

Coming off a poor preseason, he didn't make the 18-man roster in the club's first seven games. 

"I knew it would come," Epps said, discussing this opportunity. "The coaching staff, they hold all the wingers in high regard. You can only just work on your game and believe in yourself and believe the chances are gonna come."

Picked 25th in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Epps earned his first start of the season last week in the form of a 75-minute, 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact. It was a roster rotation move for the Union, who were at the tail end of a three-game road swing. But against RSL, the coaches put faith in the youngster, starting him over Accam. 

"We had a long debate whether to stick with him or go back to David or Ilsinho, more experienced players," Curtin said. "But we believed in the kid, gave him an opportunity and he stepped up." 

Between his secondary assist on Borek Dockal's first-half score or his hold-up play that allowed Ilsinho to tap-in a second-half insurance tally, Epps made an impact at the perfect time for the Union. His teammates took notice. 

"I loved what I saw from him today," Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. "We talked all year about how we need to push everyone. No one is guaranteed a spot on this team, whether it's me as a captain or [Designated Player] or young guy. Everyone has to fight for a position. He's been knocking on the door all season and today he showed what he's capable of."

Union, Borek Dockal crush Real Salt Lake for 2nd straight win

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Union, Borek Dockal crush Real Salt Lake for 2nd straight win

BOX SCORE 

CHESTER, Pa. — Make it two for the Union. 

With production from Borek Dockal and Marcus Epps, the Union claimed back-to-back wins for the first time this season by easily taking down Real Salt Lake, 4-1, on a foggy Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium. 

Putting together one of their best efforts of the season, the Union move to 4-5-2, while Real Salt Lake falls to a paltry 4-6-1. 

It looked like one of those snakebitten games for the Union attack in the 20th, when they pressed furiously but were solved by Nick Rimando, who made a strong diving stop on Keegan Rosenberry and then an equally impressive save on Fafa Picault’s rebound volley. 

But despite the early heroics, Rimando wasn’t able to stop Epps just a minute later. The Union found a speed mismatch with Picault against Adam Henley on the left wing and took full advantage, as he gained the box and ripped a low cross that was cleanly finished by Epps for the 1-0 Union lead. 

Rimando was still the best player on the field for RSL despite giving up four goals. He finished with five stops, many of which were eye-popping. The mercy rule would have been enacted without him. 

The 21st minute goal was Epps’ first of the season and third of his MLS career. He made the start for struggling David Accam, who is still scoreless in 10 games this season. Epps captured two assists as well. 

Dockal kept the Union momentum rolling in the 34th, when, off the rush, he accepted a smooth lead pass from Alejandro Bedoya and gently lifted his top-of-the-box shot over Rimando to double the Union’s advantage. 

It was a deserved reward for Dockal, who was arguably the best Union player in the first half. It was his second goal in 10 games. He also added two assists for two goals and four helpers on the season. 

Despite being dominated early, RSL didn’t go home empty-handed. The visitors got one back in the 65th, when a scramble in the box allowed Sebastian Saucedo to find Damir Kreilach at the top of the box for the easy low-shot goal, to cut into the Union’s lead, 2-1.

But the Union didn’t panic. Off the rush in the 74th minute, Epps dropped a pass to Dockal that sprung the newcomer in alone with Rimando. Instead of ripping a shot, Dockal chipped a center pass to Ilsinho for the easy tap-in. It was his second of the season. 

Piling on, Rosenberry decided to show off in the 81st, when he fired off a golazo from way outside the box. The rocket shot slipped through defenders and beat Rimando clean for the 4-1 Union lead. It was Rosenberry’s first goal in his last 25 games.

While it was a convincing win, if the Union want three-in-a-row, it won’t come easy. The club hits the road once against on Saturday to take on the 6-3-0 New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.