Union

Sugarman: Stewart 'beginning of something really good' for Union

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Sugarman: Stewart 'beginning of something really good' for Union

Jay Sugarman got his man.

Hours after officially naming Earnie Stewart as his club’s first dedicated sporting director on Monday (see story), the Union owner gushed over what he said was the first step in building a “great team.”

“I am super excited,” he said. “This is a piece of the puzzle. If we’re going to be a top-tier team, we need to be a top-tier organization led by a top-tier person. We want passion inside and outside the organization to really come back to the level we knew when we started the team in 2010. I really think this is the beginning of that. This is the beginning of something really good.”

Sugarman’s excitement spawns from his vision of Stewart’s Union — a team that develops from within and finds the right players, not the most expensive ones.

“It was really the right person and the right fit,” Sugarman said. “Earnie’s desire to do something impactful in the U.S., we really thought he lined up well with among our key criteria.”

A former U.S men’s national team standout, Stewart is coming from high-profile AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, where he was director of football affairs. He is known for his crafty roster building and track record of success through development.

A bright and respected figure, Stewart possesses the exact skill set Sugarman wanted for his club.

“He’s achieved a lot of success where he is,” Sugarman said. “When we met him and kind of just spent time with him, we saw the qualities that we were looking for. We decided not to hesitate.”

Adding to the decision speed was the fact that the Union are staring down an important offseason that can’t move forward without a decision-maker. Coming off a 10-17-7 season, and currently holding the MLS lead for longest playoff drought, changes will be made.

“The sporting director was our highest priority,” Sugarman said. “We’re making significant investments and significant decisions and without that person in place, we’re really not going to make the progress we need to make.”

Yet one of those changes won't be involving manager Jim Curtin. But while Sugarman announced on Monday that the manager will be back next season, he reminded everyone that the leash will be short, not just with Curtin, but with everyone in the organization.

Expectations have been officially raised.

“Jim is the coach for the 2016 season,” Sugarman said. “I can make that clear. But I can also make it clear that Earnie is going to set a high bar. Throughout the organization, we are expecting people to raise their game. I don’t think anybody is satisfied where we’ve been and I have no doubt that Earnie is going to set a high bar and people are going to have to reach it.”

Union come back to beat Atlanta United, move into 1st place in Eastern Conference

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USA Today Images/Derik Hamilton

Union come back to beat Atlanta United, move into 1st place in Eastern Conference

BOX SCORE 

CHESTER, Pa. — Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos assisted each other on late goals as the Philadelphia Union beat Atlanta United 3-1 Saturday night to move into first place in the Eastern Conference.

The Union (15-8-6) and Atlanta United (15-10-3) entered the game tied in points atop the conference standings. Atlanta had its four game winning streak snapped.

Przybylko gave Philadelphia a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute, finishing a cross from Santos with a hard shot that beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan inside the near post.

Santos punched home a cross by Przybylko in the 88th minute, capping the scoring.

Josef Martinez gave Atlanta the lead in the second minute of first half stoppage time. He scored in his 13th straight game, extending his MLS record. Martinez got open on a give-and-go with Darlington Nagbe, slipping past the onrushing goalkeeper and tapping it into the empty net.

The Union's Brenden Aaronson tied it at 1 in the 61st minute, scoring on an over-the-top pass by Haris Medunjanin.

Kacper Przybylko stars as Union top D.C. United

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USA Today Images/Bill Streicher

Kacper Przybylko stars as Union top D.C. United

BOX SCORE 

CHESTER, Pa. — Kacper Przybylko had a goal and two assists in a dominant first half and the Philadelphia Union defeated D.C. United 3-1 on Saturday night.

Przybylko scored his 12th goal from point-blank range off a cross from Kail Wagner five minutes in and the Union (14-8-6) were never challenged as they moved within a point of first-place Atlanta.

Brenden Aaronson, who helped set up Przybylko's goal, had the favor returned in the 16th minute. Przybylko slipped the ball down the middle, Aaronson made the turn and then fired from the top of the box for his second goal.

Przybylko made a similar set up for Ilsinho's fifth goal in the 36th minute. Ilsinho took the pass at the top of the box, worked his way through the defense before finding room to score.

DC United (10-10-9) didn't have a shot in the first half. Luciano Acosta bulled his way through the defense for his sixth goal in the 56th minute. United turned the pressure up in the second half with four shots on target but remained in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.