Union

Streaking Union dominate Dynamo at home in 3rd straight shutout win

Streaking Union dominate Dynamo at home in 3rd straight shutout win

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — They did it again. 

With a two-goal burst in the first half and a four-save Andre Blake shutout, the Union rattled off their third consecutive win with a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium. 

"It's not like a no-hitter where we're not talking about it," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "We're talking about it a lot and the guys are really taking pride in it."

After going winless in their first eight games of the season, the rejuvenated Union had outscored their opponents 7-0 in the last three matches prior to Wednesday. And that dominance continued over the Dynamo.

"We weren't an 0-4-4 team," Union veteran Chris Pontius said. "I've been on a bad team. I know what a bad team feels like. This wasn't a bad team, so I knew we weren't an 0-4-4 team. We just kept plugging away. We didn't change much. We showed up to work, rolled up our sleeves and got the job done. Credit to the guys for keeping their head on straight and getting the job done."

In the 17th minute, the host's newfound confidence translated into a goal spawning from a beautiful combination between Ilsinho, Pontius and Fafa Picault. With the ball at the key, Ilsinho laced a right-flank pass to a wide open Pontius, who immediately lofted a high ball to the left for Picault. From there, the diminutive speedster lifted himself over the Dynamo defense to head the ball off the crossbar and in for the 1-0 Union lead.

"It was a good cross by Chris," Picault said. "I can jump, so I just jumped and knocked it in."

The goal was Picault's second of the season.

"We kind of put them in a situation that they weren't comfortable with and that was crucial for us," Pontius said. 

With ease, the Union struck again in the 38th minute, when C.J. Sapong pushed the ball right to Pontius in possession. Tying a career high with his sixth assist of the year, the veteran found Ilsinho with a centering pass that allowed the Brazilian to easily hit a seam and the goal, doubling the Union lead.

"The move starts with Chris and three guys inside the box," Ilsinho said. "I'm behind C.J. and just said, 'Leave, leave, leave.' And he left it for me."

It was Ilsinho's first of the season.

"Ilsinho is a great player," Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin said. "I think he's the real No. 10. He can hold the ball. He can move between the lines. Like you saw the first half, when we have the ball and we know how to play, he's such an important player for us. He makes the run, he sees the ball, he knows where he needs to play."

Entering the second half, the league's leading scorer Cubo Torres and the 6-4-1 Dynamo weren't able to crack the Union defense, which has posted four straight shutouts. Curtin, whose club is now a respectable 3-4-4, tapped Jack Elliott and Oguchi Onyewu in the middle with Ray Gaddis and Fabinho on the flanks of his back line.

"That's a testament to the quality we do have on the back line," Gaddis said. "I feel like the whole team did well collectively at defending tonight. That's what it's going to take."

Union's U.S. Open Cup dominance continues against Red Bulls

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Union's U.S. Open Cup dominance continues against Red Bulls

CHESTER, Pa. — Alejandro Bedoya and Cory Burke led the way Saturday night, as the Union eliminated the New York Red Bulls from the U.S. Open Cup with a 2-1 win at Talen Energy Stadium in the Round of 16.

"It was a very good win against a very good team," said Union manager Jim Curtin. "Survive and advance mentality. We’re three wins away from a trophy, which is something to be proud of."

After taking down the Richmond Kickers to open the tournament, the Union’s victory Saturday sends them to the quarterfinals on July 18, where they will host either regional foes DC United or Orlando City.

• The win was a continuation of an eye-popping 12-match Open Cup unbeaten streak for the Union, who haven’t suffered a regulation loss since 2014. When it comes to the Open Cup, the Union are hard to beat, which they showed against the Red Bulls. 

• Despite it being an Open Cup game, the match had MLS regular-season flavor. The Red Bulls hit the field with a strong starting lineup that included Tyler Adams, Kaku and Luis Robles. In return, the Union dressed Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin, Andre Blake and Ilsinho.

• Those lineup decisions made for an exciting but fruitless opening half. Both teams worked to strike on the counter by using pressure to jar the ball loose. Led by Fafa Picault, the back-and-forth equalled 17 total shots, with the Union claiming eight of their 11 attempts from inside the box. 

• Eventually, the Union those attempts would begin going in. In the 52nd minute, the Union took the 1-0 lead, when working down the right side into Red Bulls territory, Bedoya cut to the middle and slid possession over to Medunjanin. The veteran faked out his defender and ripped a shot that appeared to deflect and beat Robles.

• The goal seemed to unlock something in the Union. Nearly 10-minutes later, Burke made it 2-0 when a Bedoya pass found him between two defenders. Burke, who had been on the doorstep of a goal all night, broke away and slipped his shot to the right. Bedoya finished with two assists. 

"He’s playing at his highest level for us," Curtin said. "He’s taken a bigger leadership role and tonight was an excellent game from him. Our team will go as our central midfield goes." 

• To catch up, the Red Bulls called on some heavy artillery. In the 60th minute, Bradley Wright-Phillips subbed in for Daniel Royer. He scored in the 77th minute, cutting the Union’s defense, then the lead, in half.

• The Union look to carry Open Cup momentum into the MLS regular season, when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps on June 23 at Talen Energy Stadium.

Union see U.S. winning 2026 World Cup bid as 'inflection point' of American soccer

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Union see U.S. winning 2026 World Cup bid as 'inflection point' of American soccer

CHESTER, Pa. — For Jim Curtin, Alejandro Bedoya and everyone else associated with American soccer, the pain of missing the World Cup remains fresh, especially as the tournament kicks off this week.

But Wednesday’s announcement that the United States, in a joint bid with North American neighbors Canada and Mexico, won the vote to host the 2026 World Cup not only eased a lot of that pain but also gave them a whole lot of hope for the future of the sport.

“Obviously this year everybody talks about the big setback and the generation of kids that can’t turn on the TV this go-round and watch the U.S.,” Curtin said during the Union coach’s weekly press conference. “It does hurt the game a bit, for sure, but to now have the World Cup in our home country is something that I think is incredible to grow the game. There’s nothing quite like seeing a World Cup match live. I think that will be a great experience for young kids, a great experience for our country.”

As for Bedoya, the Union captain will probably never get over the U.S. national team’s recent World Cup failure, especially since he played a prominent role at the 2014 World Cup and during this past qualifying cycle before watching from the bench in horror as the Americans were stunned by Trinidad and Tobago last October to miss out on Russia 2018. 

And given his age, the 31-year-old midfielder will be past his prime for the next World Cup in Qatar, and possibly retired when the World Cup comes to North America in eight years. Even still, it’s nice to think about what hosting the 2026 World Cup could mean for the growth of the sport he loves.

“Hopefully by that time, 2026, it’s like the inflection point of soccer in our country,” Bedoya said. “The sport keeps growing, the league keeps getting better. From my time in Europe, I know all of the European guys would love to play in this league, live in America and play here. It’s only a matter of time before soccer continues to take over, let’s say, hockey in the ratings and viewership and attendance. So it’s a big moment we officially got it for our country.”

Curtin agrees the sport has already grown a lot since the last time the United States hosted the World Cup in 1994, pointing to increased television coverage of MLS and the big European leagues as well as, more locally, the kids he spots in his Philadelphia neighborhood wearing Bedoya or Lionel Messi jerseys.

He can only imagine how much bigger it will get if Lincoln Financial Field is selected as one of the venues for the 2026 World Cup — and also what that would mean for Philly, a city that he says has a “lot of buzz” right now in a lot of different ways.

“Specifically to Philadelphia, this is a soccer town,” the Union coach said. “There’s a rich history here. It’s tough to predict what 2026 will look like, but to think a team could be using this campus down here [in Chester] as kind of their home base, whether it’s Argentina or Spain or who knows what country, that’s a really good thing to envision.

“It’s great for the game. There’s a lot of happy faces throughout soccer in our country right now.”