Jay Simpson, C.J. Sapong help Union fight to draw against Toronto FC in home opener

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Jay Simpson, C.J. Sapong help Union fight to draw against Toronto FC in home opener

(UPDATED: 8:24 p.m.)


CHESTER, Pa. -- The field may have been frozen but the goalscorers weren't.

C.J. Sapong and Jay Simpson scored but Jozy Altidore and Justin Morrow countered, as the Union tied Toronto FC, 2-2, on a frigid Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

"It's a game that had a little bit of everything," said Union manager Jim Curtin, whose club is 0-0-2 on the year. "I thought the first 45 minutes was some of the best soccer we've played in a while, maybe ever."

The pinnacle of that impressive first half happened in the 10th minute when Simpson opened the scoring. Haris Medunjanin's right-footed cross into the box was centered off of the head of Chris Pontius and toward the top of the crease. From there, Simpson cleaned up the loose ball with a low header that trickled just inside the left post for the 1-0 Union lead.

The gritty effort was Simpson's first MLS goal and the Union's first goal of the 2017 season. But the celebration wouldn’t last for Simpson, who left the game in the 28th minute with a rib injury and trouble breathing. He was replaced by Sapong.

"It's tough to have your home debut come with a goal and then also be in the hospital right now," Curtin said. "But the feedback we're getting is positive in terms of the injury."

The match nearly turned for the Union in the 32nd minute, when Medunjanin launched a ball in the direction of streaking Fabian Herbers, who managed to split the defense. In attempting to keep him from the ball, Nick Hagglund twisted Herbers to the ground for the penalty kick.

However, Alejandro Bedoya's healthy attempt from the spot beat Clint Irwin but rang hard off the crossbar.

"It's not the first or last penalty missed," Bedoya said. "But I apologized to the team. I think at 2-0, we had them. The way we were playing, it could have been a totally different game."

That miss would haunt the Union at the half. Oguchi Onyewu collided with Sebastian Giovinco to earn a foul call, and on the ensuing free kick, Derrick Jones was nabbed for tripping up Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore in the box, sparking the Toronto FC the penalty kick. 

"I thought it was just a makeup call for them," Bedoya said.

Unlike his U.S. Men's National Team teammate Bedoya, Altidore buried his attempt down the middle to tie the game at the half, 1-1. Giovinco was subbed at halftime for Tosaint Ricketts.

"He's OK," said Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney. "He's sore. It was a contusion on the IT band around the side of the leg."

Toronto FC, now 0-0-2, gained the 2-1 lead in the 71st minute on a Justin Morrow goal, but the Union countered. Just two minutes after Morrow's goal, Sapong split the TFC defensive line with a pass from Herbers and deked Irwin before placing it in the empty net.

"I just wanted to make sure I was on onside and wanted to keep the defenders guessing," Sapong said. "We had a lot of options going forward, I just tried to make the defenders make a move."

Win over New York City FC casts Union as Eastern Conference players

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Win over New York City FC casts Union as Eastern Conference players


CHESTER, Pa. — The Union’s convincing 2-0 decision Saturday night over New York City FC was more than just another August win. It was a statement. 

“The players realize it too,” said Union manager Jim Curtin, whose club has won four of its last six matches. “Let’s see us against a top team, we have to win a game against one of these top clubs. Now, we finally pushed over that hump.”

Although the Union players were reluctant to call the win special, the ability to take down one of the titans of the Eastern Conference is meaningful. NYCFC was 14-5-5 entering the match, and the Union took the decisive three points with a two-goal second-half outburst. 

“We’re showing that we can do something different, something important,” said Ilsinho, who added a highlight reel insurance goal late in the second half. “We can play against tough teams, we can play against very good teams. We beat them, but we have to stay focused.”

It was also important how the Union did it.

With a three-save shutout from Andre Blake and stout defensive play from center backs Jack Elliott and Auston Trusty, the Union, now 10-11-3, fed off their defense to wear NYCFC down. That’s not something they were capable of early in the season. 

“There’s just small margins in this league,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “I stress that every time we go out there at home, we gotta stay compact and keep a clean sheet. We were able to get those chances to put away. I think we’re looking good, but we just gotta keep going.”

While Saturday’s win was a signal the Union’s recent success is authentic, they’re still in a fight. As it stands, the Union are fifth in the East with 33 points — tied with Montreal Impact, who have played two more games — and four points ahead of the New England Revolution, who the Union face next at home. 

“We did a good job taking care of business against the teams that are around us or below us in the standings,” Curtin said. “To be a special group, to get a home playoff game, which is the long-term goal, you have to win games like this against top teams. We still have a long way to go, a lot of season left. We have to take points.” 

Union make statement in shutout win over New York City FC

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Union make statement in shutout win over New York City FC


CHESTER, Pa. — With second-half goals from Cory Burke and Ilsinho, the Union wore down David Villa and New York City FC to claim the impressive 2-0 win Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium. 

It was a highlight victory for the Union, who pushed their record to 10-11-3 on the season and took a bite of the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. NYCFC fell to 14-6-5. 

Andre Blake posted the three-save shutout. 

• It wasn’t just another game for the Union. Saturday was a litmus test for a club coming off a win Aug. 11 over struggling New England Revolution. Looking to climb up the East playoff ladder, the Union wanted to try themselves against one of the best teams in MLS. They passed. 

• It originally looked like another game of missed opportunities for the Union, as both David Accam and C.J. Sapong flunked golden chances to give the Union a lead. But as the Union pressed, NYCFC seemed to wear down. 

• The Union finally connected on a counter in the 57th minute to capture the 1-0 lead. Grabbing possession in the midfield, Borek Dockal threaded a long pass to streaking Burke, who edged his defender to gain the box and fired a shot that beat Sean Johnson to his left. 

• Burke has been a godsend for the Union. The goal was his sixth of the season and fourth in six games. He’s been an intricate part of the club’s playoff push. 

• The assist was also Dockal’s fifth in five games and 11th on the season. He’s quietly been a force for the surging club.

• Ilsinho entered the match in the 68th minute for David Accam, who made the start for suspended Fafa Picault. Accam was active, collecting three shots on goal, but he wasn’t as dangerous as the Union needed. It was Ilinsho’s first game action since July 11, but you wouldn't know it.

• In the 76th minute, Ilsinho did what Ilsinho does. Like a shot of adrenaline to the Union attack, Ilsinho split two defenders with a move, then dodged a third, cutting inside for the left-footed goal. It was his fifth of the season.

• The Brazilian’s success must have got under the skin of NYCFC’s Ronaldo Matarrita, who took a red-card, studs-up run at Ilsinho moments after the two clashed around a dead ball. He was ejected.

• Fabian Herbers, who has been involved in recent Union lineup decisions, missed the match to attend his sister’s wedding. With Ilsinho back in the mix, it wasn’t a sure thing Herbers would have made the 18. 

• Next up, the Union host the beatable Revolution on Aug. 25. It’s yet another opportunity to claw up the East standings and catch the Columbus Crew at the four spot.