Union

Fragile Union doomed to draw with Impact by 'soft defense'

Fragile Union doomed to draw with Impact by 'soft defense'

CHESTER, Pa. -- For 46 minutes, the Union suffered in slow motion. 

After claiming an impressive 3-0 lead, the winless club allowed unanswered goals in the 41st, 69th and 87th minute, as they gradually deteriorated against the Montreal Impact on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium (see Game Recap).

"It feels like a loss," Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. "It's hard to stomach."

The decline started with Ignacio Piatti. With his club trailing by three, the Impact's most dangerous player sliced through the Union midfield and took advantage of sagging Union defenders, reached the top of the box and fired off a low shot that beat Andre Blake.

"We let up a soft goal with Piatti coming inside," Bedoya said. "I probably should have fouled him first. Chris [Pontius] could have fouled him. We didn't step up in time."

The goal lit a fire under the Impact. It was a momentum-turner that gave the visitors life and squashed the Union's morale, setting in motion a crushing second half. 

"Goals change games," said Union manager Jim Curtin, whose club, led by goals from C.J. Sapong and Roland Alberg dominated the early portion of the first half. "The one before half gives them a little bit of life, a little bit of hope that it's not just going to be a day where they lay down. They continued to fight."

If the fragile Union weren't panicking at the half, they certainly began to tense up in the 69th minute, when a left-side cross from Ambroise Oyongo allowed Anthony Jackson-Hamel to beat Richie Marquez to the inside for the header. 

"It was truly one where you can say they made a good play," Curtin said. "It's a very good cross, a good header where the guy gets in between the center backs. You can tip your cap and say that's a good goal."

Bedoya thought it was a case of soft defense.

"If you keep dropping back and play soft defense and allow second balls in the box, and don't put bodies on guys in the box, you get punished," Bedoya said. "That's what happened to us today."

Eighteen minutes later, the Union were crushed. Jackson-Hamel scored his second and tied the match when a Matteo Mancuso bounce shot hit the hands of Andre Blake and dribbled into the goal. The Impact attacker caught Union defender Jack Elliott ball watching and punished Blake for the gaffe with an easy goal off the rebound.

The collapse was complete.

"We had enough guys in the box, you can see there was five defenders in the box," Curtin said. "The guy shoots from outside the box, it takes a skip and it's a tough hop for Andre. We had enough guys behind the ball, it's about making individual plays. That is killing us right now."

Sebastien Le Toux immortalized in Union Ring of Honor

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USA Today Images

Sebastien Le Toux immortalized in Union Ring of Honor

CHESTER, Pa. — Over six seasons with the Union, Sebastien Le Toux became the face of the franchise, the expansion side’s foundation, and local folk hero. 

On Saturday, the Union made him a legend. 

“It’s great to have this moment and it was very emotional, but it was amazing,” Le Toux said. “I cannot describe it. When you are a player, you cannot dream about it. For it to happen to me, it is weird but awesome at the same time.”

At halftime of the Union’s 4-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps at Talen Energy Stadium, Le Toux was officially unveiled as the first member of the Union Ring of Honor. His name, boldy presented, was strewn opposite the River End above sections 116 through 118. 

“There was an energy in the stadium, which was special,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “It was a really good job by our front office to honor him on a special day. With the signage, I think they renamed the stadium from the size of it.” 

Gathering at midfield, Le Toux was flanked by former Union midfielder Brian Carroll and former Homegrown player Zach Pfeffer, along with Union sporting director Earnie Stewart and team owner Jay Sugarman. The team presented Le Toux with a fan-signed jersey, framed jersey and tribute video, which included former players Conor Casey, Kyle Nakazawa and Tranquillo Barnetta. 

“I had a great time with all those players and this team,” Le Toux said. “I still have a lot of great memories, more than any player in this team, Tranquillo, Conor, all those guys, we had a great time on the field but also of course I’m still friends with a lot of them. Even though they’re far away.”

Despite the fairytale finish on Saturday, Le Toux’s time with the Union had its ups and downs. He leads the Union franchise in games played (175), career goals (50), assists (50), career shots (320) and shots in a season (90). 

He scored a hat trick in the Union’s first-ever home match against D.C. United in 2010, but he was also traded twice, unceremoniously, by the club on separate occasions. It hurt at the time, but was something Le Toux joked about at halftime. 

“They traded me once, they traded me twice, but now I’m here forever, and nobody can trade me from that,” Le Toux said. “It’s awesome. I’m a part of this team and this club and I can’t be more proud of that.”

Le Toux was the first name added to the Union’s Ring of Honor, and there’s room for a second, which Curtin believes should be Brian Carroll, who retired last season and currently lives in Indianapolis working as a financial planner.

“If there’s a guy who should be the next one in, it’s him,” Curtin said. “He’s embodies this club, this team and he’s a winner. His career, he’s just a special player. It’s always good to see him.”

Union honor Sebastien Le Toux with highlight reel win over Whitecaps

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USA Today Images

Union honor Sebastien Le Toux with highlight reel win over Whitecaps

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — Borek Dockal and the Union honored Sebastien Le Toux’s induction into the Ring of Honor the best way they knew how: With an offensive onslaught. 

Dockal scored twice and Ilsinho, Fafa Picault buried penalty kicks, as the Union took down the Vancouver Whitecaps, 4-0, Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium. Andre Blake earned the no-save shutout. 

The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Union to move their record to 6-7-3. It also broke a six-game unbeaten run for the Whitecaps, who fall to 6-6-5. 

• After spending the first 23 minutes almost exclusively in the Whitecaps’ end, the Union finally broke free in the 24th minute. Inside the box, Ilsinho and Dockal made an exchange in traffic that resulted in Dockal with a clean left-footed shot for the 1-0 Union lead.

• He wasn’t done. In the 71st, Dockal worked his defender after accepted an in-box pass from Alejandro Bedoya. He took two steps and beat Brian Rowe to the left side to give the Union the 2-0 advantage. 

• It was Dockal’s fourth and fifth goal of the season and fourth in his last six games. After a slow start, he has been on fire for the Union. 

• One downside to the match is C.J. Sapong’s struggle. Despite the overwhelming pressure in the first half, Sapong wasn’t able to muster more than a couple wasted chances, forcing Union manager Jim Curtin to pull him in the 66th minute for Cory Burke. 

• Sapong has only two shots on goal (one on Saturday) since May, and hasn’t scored since April 28. It’s a troubling trend for the starting forward. 

• Burke made his presence felt immediately by earning an in-box foul after being hauled down by Jose Aja, who earned the straight red. Lining up for the kick wasn’t Dockal for the hat trick, but Ilsinho, who ripped his shot over Rowe for 3-0 Union lead. It was his fourth goal of the season. 

• And that wasn’t the only red card or penalty kick. In stoppage time of the second half, Yordy Reyna fouled Picault in the box for his second yellow and ejection. Burke lined up for the PK, but Picault pulled him away, then buried the goal. 

• Entering the match, the Union were at a disadvantage. Haris Medunjanin was issued an addition two games to a red-card suspension he earned against Atlanta United on June 2. In his spot, veteran Warren Creavalle sat behind Alejandro Bedoya in the midfield. 

• Le Toux was honored at half time and his name was placed in the Union’s Ring of Honor opposite the River End. Le Toux, who still lives in the city, spent six seasons with the Union and leads them in almost all offensive categories. 

• The Union players wore armbands with the initials WB to honor the late Walter Bahr, a Philadelphia-area soccer legend who died June 18. Bahr is considered one of U.S. Soccer’s greatest players and influencers. He was 91.