Union

Inside Doop: Union still searching for first win of season

Inside Doop: Union still searching for first win of season

Nothing like playing the Union to get your season kickstarted.

After failing to score through the first three games of the 2017 season, D.C. United capitalized on what head coach Jim Curtin called "two self-inflicted errors" to score twice and hold off the Union for a 2-1 win Saturday at RFK Stadium.

In this week's Inside Doop, we'll take a closer look at the game and what lies ahead for the Union, who return home still seeking their first win of the year.

Three thoughts about Saturday's game
1. It was not the best first half for the Union's defense. D.C. striker Jose Guillermo Ortiz, in for the injured Patrick Mullins, scored their first goal after a silly giveaway from Fabinho and a shot that appeared to ricochet off Oguchi Onyewu. And the second goal came on a Luciano Acosta penalty kick after Richie Marquez was whistled for a questionable hand ball just inside the box. Marquez, who ranked third in the league in minutes played last year, then came out at halftime with a head injury, which only added to his rough night and led to a daunting debut for rookie Jack Elliott. A center back pairing of Onyewu and Elliott was certainly not something anyone could have predicted in the preseason, and at this point, many Union fans are probably clamoring for the quick return of Joshua Yaro to add a much-needed boost to the beleaguered backline.

2. Don't tell C.J. Sapong that his role has been diminished. Despite being turned into a reserve this year after two seasons as Philly's starting striker, Sapong has been the team’s hottest player, scoring three goals in as many games after netting the team's only goal Saturday less than 10 minutes after coming in. And he could have very well added a second if not for a sparkling save from D.C. goalie Bill Hamid. At this point, you have to wonder if Sapong will get back his starting job over Jay Simpson -- who struggled to get involved in his first game back from a ribs injury -- or if Curtin prefers the spark that Sapong brings off the bench.

3. To be fair to the Union, they did dominate parts of the game and won almost all of the major statistical categories, including possession (57.4 percent-42.6 percent), shots on goal (9-3) and passing accuracy (80 percent-73 percent). And while that will do little to appease fans who are used to seeing this franchise make untimely mistakes to blow games, it does perhaps show that the Union do have the ability to go on a run once they get out of their own heads and into the win column.

Three questions for the week ahead
1. The Union are coming home at just the right time. After playing three of their first four on the road, their next three will be at Talen Energy Stadium. But getting their first win still won’t be easy as they meet one of the league's top teams in the Portland Timbers on Saturday before then facing star-studded New York City FC and the Montreal Impact. It's still too early to call anything a must-win or say head coach Jim Curtin is on the hot seat. But if they fail to get more than one or two points over their next three games, might his seat get a little bit warmer?

2. The health of Richie Marquez will be a major concern heading into a matchup with a dynamic Timbers team that leads the league in goals scored. With Yaro already hurt, that means the center back pairing could be a player who, until last month, was out of pro soccer for over a year (Onyewu) and a fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft (Elliott). That could be a recipe for disaster against a very dangerous Portland attack.

3. One of the big questions circulating around the Union right now is of the play of Alejandro Bedoya, their star and captain. It's no secret the team hasn't won too many games since Bedoya came on board last summer and that he hasn't really been "the guy" that the Union need him to be. It also remains to be seen if the No. 10 position is his best spot on the field. Will Curtin consider moving him into more of a box-to-box role while unleashing perhaps their one true attacking midfielder in Roland Alberg, who’s played a grand total of 15 minutes this season?

Stat of the week
Including the playoffs, the Union haven't won in their last 12 games dating back to last season. Their last victory was a 2-0 home triumph over Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 27.

Quote of the week
"I know this group. The performances are not indicative of the point total that we are on right now." -- Union head coach Jim Curtin

Player of the week
Sapong only played 31 minutes but, along with fellow second-half sub Elliott, proved to be a major bright spot for the Union.

Fafa Picault's late penalty rescues Union in win over Revolution

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Fafa Picault's late penalty rescues Union in win over Revolution

BOX SCORE 

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Fabrice-Jean Picault scored on a penalty kick and Jack Elliott had his first career multi-goal game to help the Philadelphia Union beat the New England Revolution, 3-2, on Saturday night.

Picault converted from the spot in the 76th minute, after New England's Antonio Delamea was called for a hand ball in the area, to give Philadelphia (9-11-3) a 3-2 lead.

Elliott, a 22-year-old defender who came in with one career goal, opened the scoring in the 14th minute. After Cory Burke's header, off a cross by C.J. Sapong, ricocheted off the post, Picault's shot from the top-left corner of the area was tapped over the crossbar by goalkeeper Matt Turner. Following the ensuing corner kick, Elliott back-heeled an entry from Haris Medunjanin into a wide-open net.

Elliott made it 2-0 when Picault's long-range bounced off the post and then deflected off the back of a diving Turner directly to Elliott for the tap in from point-blank range in the 24th.

New England's Andrew Farrell first-timed a left-footer, which deflected off a defender, in the opening seconds of the second half to make it 2-1 and Wilfried Zahibo's header, off a free kick by Diego Fagundez, tied it at 2 in the 64th minute.

New England (7-8-8) is winless in its last six games.

Union hire Ernst Tanner as new sporting director

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Union hire Ernst Tanner as new sporting director

CHESTER, Pa. — New sporting director, same youthful strategy for the Union.

The Union on Thursday hired former Red Bull Salzburg academy manager and youth talent expert Ernst Tanner as the team’s second sporting director, continuing the club’s drive to meld youth development and academy program with the first team.

“Ernst comes to Philadelphia with a strong track record of methodology implementation as well as player development and recruitment,” Union owner Jay Sugarman said in a statement. “He has worked for successful clubs at the highest level in Europe, signing and nurturing premier level talent at every stop."

Tanner, known primarily as a key talent evaluator and his eye for young talent, will fill the void left by Earnie Stewart, and bring the Union’s youth-first strategy into a new era. 

"We believe that Ernst is the perfect leader to continue building and improving upon the promising foundation we have established," Sugarman said.

The 51-year-old German-born Tanner had been with Salzburg in Austria since 2010. He began his career as academy manager of 1860 Munich from 2003 through 2009, before jumping to TSG Hoffenheim, where he held numerous titles. 

“I have followed the Union since the early days of the club, and over the past three seasons, there have obviously been many productive changes in terms of methodology and player development,” Tanner said. “I’m looking forward to utilizing my almost 25 years of experience and global player recruitment abilities to continue and forward the club’s trajectory. I also look forward to generating new ideas to advance the Union to even greater heights.”

Stewart, the former Union sporting director, left the club in August to take the open general manager position with the U.S. Men’s National Team. Stewart was key in improving the Union’s infrastructure in an attempt to the barebones organization into an international entity known for its youth opportunity and development.

“Earnie’s time here was great and he did a lot of great things,” Union manager Jim Curtin said following the team’s 3-0 U.S. Open Cup semifinals win over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday (see story). “There will be someone coming in new. I’m excited to get it to work with him because again it will be some new ideas for sure, which is good. It’s healthy.”