Roland Alberg, Union fend off Harrisburg City Islanders to advance in U.S. Open Cup

Roland Alberg, Union fend off Harrisburg City Islanders to advance in U.S. Open Cup

CHESTER, Pa. — The Union's quest for a third consecutive U.S. Open Cup championship run nearly got off to a disastrous start on Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

But Roland Alberg was there to save the day, as he willed the Union past the Harrisburg City Islanders, 3-2, in stoppage time, advancing the Union to the Open Cup Round of 16.

“It started to creep in and we punched it right in the face,” Union manager Jim Curtin said about the near Open Cup upset. “I thanked [Alberg] in front of the group for the goal he scored because that’s a big goal.”

Leading 2-1 in stoppage time, and after dominating the contest, the unthinkable occurred for the Union. 

Down a man as a result of a straight red card handed to Jose Barril in the 88th minute, the City Islanders barreled into the zone in a panic. The chaos sent the Union defense scattering, allowing Bobby Warshaw to fire off a shot that beat John McCarthy, tying the game at 2-2.

“It’s one of those broken plays where their guy jumped on it and was able to capitalize,” Union defender Ken Tribbett said. “He was able to have a good little dribble and find the far corner.”

Yet, instead of remaining stunned, the Union countered. 

Moments after the goal, Sebastien Le Toux earned a foul call just a yard off the top of the City Islanders’ box. The visitors weren’t happy with the call.

“It looked like a pretty tough decision to give him the free kick right outside of the box,” City Islanders coach Bill Becher said.

Controversial or not, the Union capitalized.

Lining up for the free kick, Alberg effortlessly launched a chip shot that beat the wall and goalkeeper Nick Noble to his right for the win.

“I was trying to kick it in the corner from the goalkeeper but at the last minute my mindset was different, so I thought I would kick it over the wall,” Alberg said. “It goes in. The feeling is amazing. I’m happy with the win.”

The Round of 16 takes place on June 29. The opposition and venue will be drawn on Thursday. 

“The name of the game is surviving and advancing in this tournament and we’ve done that,” Curtin said. “We’ve had a good mentality, we’re happy to close it out and not go 120 minutes.”

Though the match ended with drama, it didn’t start that way. Owning possession on the right side of the City Islanders’ box in the third minute, Vincent Nogueira lofted a routine ball into the crease that was bobbled by Noble and dropped. From there, it was smashed home by Walter Restrepo for the 1-0 Union lead.

The Union doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time, when Alberg made it 2-0 off a fast-break goal assisted by Fabian Herbers and Ilsinho.

“I guess it wouldn’t be the Open Cup if the crazy didn’t occur,” Union midfielder Brian Carroll said. “I thought our guys started the game really well. There was a very solid performance up until about 10 minutes to go.”

Wednesday marked the second time the Union dispatched the the City Islanders from the Open Cup in the last three years. The City Islanders defeated West Chester United and Chattanooga FC to reach Wednesday’s match. The victory was the Union’s ninth in their last three Open Cup tournaments. They are 9-3-0 over that span.

Despite the drama-filled conclusion, the Union dominated the match. And they did so without their top two scorers — forward C.J. Sapong, who is fighting off a right ankle sprain, and forward Chris Pontius, who was being rested. In their spot, Curtin tapped Herbers, Alberg and Restrepo up front, with Ilsinho pulling the strings at attacking midfield.

“It’s the resilience of the group,” Tribbett said. “Whatever what happens, we believe we can and are going to win. We were all disappointed when that second goal went in but at the same time, we said it’s OK, now we have to go find the winner.”

Philadelphia Union officially welcome new part owner Kevin Durant

Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union officially welcome new part owner Kevin Durant

The Philadelphia Union on Monday officially welcomed aboard their newest part owner/investor, Kevin Durant.

Durant purchased a 5% ownership stake in the Union with the option to purchase an additional 5% in the future.

Durant, a Maryland kid, had previously tried to buy a stake in the MLS' D.C. United before joining the Union.

“I’m excited to partner with the Philadelphia Union for years to come," Durant said in a statement released by the team. "My team and I connected instantly with the Union coaching staff and leadership, as well as the team’s story.

"Off the pitch, I’m looking forward to working in the Chester and Philadelphia communities and making an impact in the same way that the [Kevin Durant Charity Foundation] has been able to in my hometown of Prince George's County.”

The partnership with Durant also includes a partnership with Thirty Five Ventures, the company co-founded by Durant and his manager Rich Kleiman. The goal is to grow "the Union footprint in the sports world, working closely with the Union on marketing opportunities, and expanding the Union’s community outreach in conjunction with" Durant's charity.

In partnership with Thirty Five Ventures, the Union has committed to:

• Developing programs in the Chester and Philadelphia areas to empower Chester’s youth to tackle social and racial injustice in their community and beyond via social justice programs and resources. 

• Address needs related to COVID-19, with support for food banks and local small business recovery efforts. 

• Support youth sports programming and development in Chester and surrounding areas.

MLS is returning, announces tournament set at Walt Disney World

MLS is returning, announces tournament set at Walt Disney World

Major League Soccer is officially returning and is heading to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida as a way to resume play in 2020. 

The MLS is Back Tournament is the first time the league is slated to play since the season was suspended due to COVID-19 on March 12. It is set to kick off July 8 and will run until August 11. 

The entirety of this tournament will be held at ESPN Wide World of Sports, where there 54 matches (39 group stage, 15 knockout round) will be played. All 26 MLS teams will be participating in the event, where the minimum of matches per club is set at three and the maximum is seven per finalist. 

Teams will start arriving at the location on June 24, but the group stage will officially begin on July 8. After the initial stage, a round of 16 will follow suit that is set to take place July 25-28. Quarterfinals are slated from July 30-August 1, semifinals will be held August 5-6 and the tournament will conclude with their final game on August 11. 

According to MLS, “The tournament will feature a continuous schedule of matches nearly every day, with games beginning at 9 a.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. EST, with the majority of matches to be played in the evening.” 

The full game schedule release will be following a tournament draw that is set to take place Thursday, June 11 at 3:30 p.m. EST. You can watch this live on MLSsoccer.com and other social platforms from the league. 

Now, while this will be separate from the regular season, play will still be factored in once the tournament wraps up. All 39 group stage games will be counted for points toward the regular season standings. Winner of the entire event will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League — whether it be a U.S. of Canadian team. For the 2020 season, this will replace who is traditionally deemed the regular season conference leader. 

There is also an opportunity for players to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million price pool.

Following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament, the league will continue its regular season. Though it will be a revised schedule set to be developed at a later date, it will ultimately lead to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup.

You can find more information on the rules and how the tournament will play out here

Health and safety protocols 

A medical department has been developed by the league and has been in consultation with infectious disease specialists, government officials and public health entities — all in an effort to focus on the safety of all who will be involved (players, coaches, officials and staff). 

Here are a few key points from MLS, breaking down protocols that must be followed:

  • All clubs must arrive no later than seven days before their first match
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests will be issued to all essential members of the tournament — this can detect an active COVID-19 infection. If a player or personnel test positive, they will not be allowed to travel and will be overseen by club medical staff. 
  • Only after receiving a negative test result, will players and staff be able to begin training. 
  • Tests will be given out every other day for the first 14 days following arrival to Orlando, in addition to self-temperature screenings and standardized screening questionnaires. 
  • Players, coaches and officials are asked to exercise care when spitting or clearing their nose.
  • Players, coaches and officials located on the bench or technical area are required to wear masks and practice social distancing.
  • During a game, players have been asked to not exchange jerseys or kiss the ball.

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