CHESTER, Pa. — It was Roland Alberg’s night.
With two goals in the first half and one in the second, the Dutch midfielder’s hat trick single-handedly propelled the Union past the Fire, 4-3, on Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium.
“The feeling is incredible,” Alberg said. “I’ve never scored a hat trick in my life. This is the first time for me. I’m happy and I want to enjoy tonight.”
It was the second hat trick in Union history. Sebastien Le Toux owned the first, scoring three on April 10, 2010. Alberg, acquired in the offseason, now has four goals on the season, as he opened his MLS account on Saturday against New York City FC.
“It’s great, I’m happy for him,” Le Toux said. “I already wrote the story, now I’m glad somebody else can step up and have a good game like that. I’m happy for him and mostly happy we won. He’s in good confidence right now, so it’s good he’s scoring.”
The win erases a bitter taste left by a loss to NYCFC on Saturday while keeping the Union atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 7-4-5. The Fire continue to struggle at 2-7-5.
Before Alberg could take control, the Fire took the early lead, giving up a stunning fast-break goal from the Fire’s speedy David Accam in the second minute.
“He’s fast, he’s dangerous,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “We got caught, he punished us.”
Down one, Alberg took control.
In the 11th minute, on a play started by Chris Pontius, rookie Keegan Rosenberry whipped a cross from the right side that found the feet of Alberg in the box. The Dutchman faked the shot with his right, pulled left and fired off a shot that hit goalie Sean Johnson, banked off the post then deflected off Jonathan Campbell and in, tying the match at one. It was ruled a Fire own goal.
“It was phenomenal, man,” Warren Creavalle said of Alberg’s effort. “For me, he had four goals. He was great tonight. He really propelled us to this victory today. He was phenomenal.”
But that phenomenal game was just getting started.
The hosts grabbed the one-goal lead in the 15th minute, when Tranquillo Barnetta’s shot was saved by Johnson but still deflected off the right post. The rebound found Alberg, who easily scored. He followed that up with a finish off his own rebound just seconds before the halftime whistle.
“We know that he’s really good in the box and his shot is incredible,” Barnetta said. “Then it’s our work behind him to give him the ball and help him that he can score. He had a great game, and that was really important for us.”
The 25-year-old continued rolling over the Fire in the 55th minute, when Pontius was blatantly pulled down in the Fire box. Without hesitation, Alberg jumped on the spot, where he easily fooled Johnson for the hat trick and 4-1 Union lead.
“Let him have it there, he was feeling it,” Pontius said. “That’s for the hat trick, so there’s no argument, that’s his.”
The Fire would storm back, however, when Razvan Cocic made it 4-2 off a set piece in the 69th minute and Khaly Thiam scored in the 80th to bring his club within one.
“There’s a lot of things we can learn from at the end of that game,” Curtin said. “We made some poor decisions but the guys did stick with it and closed it out.”