Union

Inside Doop: Questions mount as Union's road woes deepen

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Inside Doop: Questions mount as Union's road woes deepen

The Union know, that to have any shot of sneaking into the playoffs, they’ll need to find a way to pick off points on the road, especially against some of the league’s lower-tier teams.

Consider Saturday a lost opportunity, then.

After earning a good 3-0 home win over Columbus on Wednesday, the Union couldn’t keep it going with a disappointing 3-0 setback in New England over the weekend.

Here’s a closer look at the past week and what lies ahead for the Union as their playoff hopes grow dimmer.

Three thoughts about Saturday’s game
1. The Union had dominated the Revolution of late, winning their last three matchups by a combined score of 11-0 heading into Saturday’s game, including a 3-0 home win earlier in the month. But the Union’s road struggles were too much to overcome in this one as they fell to 1-7-3 away from home this season. And it’s not just that the Union are losing on the road; they often look punchless in the attack and lacking any sort of ideas. It’s a far cry from how they play at home, where they’re a healthy 6-3-2 and have generated some fun and exciting moments along the way.

2. It was another eventful week for Roland Alberg, who got into an argument with C.J. Sapong over who would take a penalty kick in Wednesday’s win a week after expressing displeasure at Fafa Picault on the field and getting suspended for a dangerous tackle. And while the Union downplayed the whole scene afterward, many wondered what kind of teammate Alberg might be. There’s no way to know for sure about his status in the locker room, but it is fair to say that his chemistry on the field, particularly with Sapong, has been lacking. So has his production as Alberg failed to impose his will on Saturday’s game from the vital No. 10 spot — a position that continues to be the team’s most glaring need, either now or in the offseason.

3. The good news for the Union’s future is that two of their 2017 draft picks — Marcus Epps and Jack Elliott — enjoyed good weeks with Epps scoring his first career goal Wednesday and Elliott making a phenomenal goal-line clearance, among other great defensive plays, Saturday. Considering both were picked after the first round, that’s some good bang for the Union’s buck. Of course, it makes sense why Philly fans may temper their expectations here considering the standout trio from the 2016 draft class — Joshua Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry and Fabian Herbers — followed promising rookie campaigns by being benched (either because of injury or inconsistent play) for most of 2017.

Three questions for the week ahead
1. After a brutal four-game-in-11-days stretch, the Union finally get a full week to prepare for their next one. Even more good news is that they get to play at home. The bad news is that the opponent is FC Dallas, one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Is it too soon to classify it as a “must win?” Perhaps. But considering how poor they’ve been on the road and how difficult their remaining schedule is, they really can’t afford to lose or draw at Talen Energy Stadium at this point in the season.

2. Will Andre Blake return? The star goalkeeper has now missed five straight Union games due to the Gold Cup and a hand injury he suffered in the Gold Cup final. And while backup John McCarthy has played well in his absence, it’s probably not a coincidence the Union are 1-3-1 in that stretch, given Blake’s unique ability to win his team points. There’s no sense rushing him back if he’s not ready, but Blake returning to face an excellent FC Dallas attack in front of the Sons of Ben would provide a nice bolt of energy to a fan base that certainly needs one right now.

3. Remember Rosenberry? The reigning MLS Rookie of the Year runner-up was supplanted as the team’s starting right back in April after playing every minute in 2016. And even the Union playing four games in 11 days wasn’t enough for head coach Jim Curtin to give Rosenberry any minutes over the past two weeks. Considering the second-year right back also isn’t getting time for affiliate Bethlehem Steel FC, it’s fair to wonder how these past few months may or may not stall his development — and whether he still remains as big of a piece to the club’s future as he seemed to be last year.

Stat of the week
In four road games in July — three losses and a draw — the Union finished with a combined eight shots on target.

Quote of the week
“For me, I think he’s been the Rookie of the Year.”

— Union head coach Jim Curtin on Jack Elliott after Saturday’s game.

Player of the week
Although he was kept off the scoresheet in New England, Sapong’s performance Wednesday was one of the best of any Union player this season as he scored his record 10th goal and added two fantastic assists.

Sebastien Le Toux immortalized in Union Ring of Honor

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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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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.