Jay Simpson propels Union in come-from-behind draw with Swansea

Jay Simpson propels Union in come-from-behind draw with Swansea

CHESTER, Pa. -- Jay Simpson shined and Auston Trusty, Anthony Fontana and Aaron Jones made their club debut, as the Union came from behind to tie English Premier League’s Swansea in a friendly Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium

“For our guys to test themselves against a top-tier team is good for everybody,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “We’re competitive, they’re pro athletes and they want to play against the best. A lot of guys rose to that occasion.”

With an MLS match on Wednesday against the Montreal Impact, Curtin used Saturday’s friendly as conditioning assignment for his starters and a show-me-something game for the players, like Union Homegrown Trusty, pushing to make an impression.

"I was always hungry before," Trusty said. "But now, you get a taste of it and you want more and you want more."

Simpson, who entered the game at the half for C.J. Sapong, tied the match at 2-2 with a miraculous play in the 58th minute. With possession and flying down the right side, he edged his defender off the rush and gained the box before sliding a right-footed touch that beat the outstretched arms of the goalkeeper and trickled over the goal line. Ilsinho received the primary assist.

“I was just trying to get it across the keeper,” said Simpson, a native of London who has friends on the Swansea side. “I didn’t get much power on it but I was trying to get it across the keeper. If he made the save, maybe someone could get the tap-in.”

But the Union's offense didn't start there. Preying on some early listlessness from the Swans, Marcus Epps, off a turnover at midfield, hit the right side with speed but was bumped down in the box by Martin Olsson, resulting in a penalty kick. Lining up for the kick was Sapong, who fooled Kristoffer Nordfeldt and placed his shot to the right for the early 1-0 lead. 

“The whole team caught them off guard,” Epps said. “I don’t think they thought we’d come out that strong and that fast. It was good that I could come on, change direction and catch them off guard a little.”

Union goalkeeper Jake McGuire wasn’t able to stop the Swans in the 28th minute and again in the 40th. Kyle Bartley followed up a mad scramble in the box to lock the game at one and Jordan Ayew took advantage of a missed clear from McGuire to give the Swans the 2-1 lead.

“Disappointing on the restarts, we talked about that,” Curtin said. “That is a team that is obviously very big, strong and physical. We didn’t do a good job, especially on the second balls. We have some takeaways, some things we can improve on. But overall I’m happy with the exercise tonight.”

Curtin made wholesale changes at half time. Entering the match was Simpson for Sapong, Charlie Davies for Fafa Picault, Ilsinho for Epps and Derrick Jones for Warren Creavalle. Brian Carroll replaced Haris Medunjanin, and Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Josh Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry entered for Giliano Wijnaldum, Trusty, Jack Elliott and Ray Gaddis. 

“It’s a great experience, especially playing against guys who play in a league you grew up watching,” McGuire said. “I think it was a great experience for all of us young guys who got to start for the first time tonight. It’s a real good experience for all of us.” 

Midway through the half, Ken Tribbett replaced Carroll, and took the captaincy, while Bethlehem Steel players Anthony Fontana and Aaron Jones replaced Keegan Rosenberry and Derrick Jones, to make their Union debut. Both young players made an impact.

“The debuts are special,” Curtin said. “To have it come against a Premier League team is unique, timing wise. Anthony gets it this year and he did a great job, he looked fearless and that’s what we want - we like players who aren’t scared. I think a lot of guys showed well tonight.”

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.