Union

Troubled Union 'keep believing' despite poor start

Troubled Union 'keep believing' despite poor start

CHESTER, Pa. -- The Union aren't panicking yet. 

Despite suffering their fourth straight loss Friday, in an offensively inept effort against New York City FC at Talen Energy Stadium, the club's frustrated players and coaches are still believers.

"I've had times in France at Nantes where we were on an eight-game winless streak and it sucked," said Union captain Alejandro Bedoya, whose club is winless in its last 14 matches dating back to Aug. 2016. "We had to stay in hotels for like a week before the game for four straight weeks until we got it turned around. Here, we're not going to fight relegation. The team's not going anywhere, so it's important for the team to stay confident, keep believing in ourselves."

Following the 2-0 defeat, the united message coming from the Union locker room was that wins are on the way. And unless the club self-destructs, the losing tide will eventually turn in its favor.

"Honestly, we just need to keep playing," Union forward C.J. Sapong said. "We're just in a rut right now. This is something that's common in our league. You've just got to ride the wave, take the ebbs and flows as they come and continue to believe that it'll turn around for you."

But turning things around will be difficult. After a 3-1 loss to the Portland Timbers last weekend, Curtin was pressed over his lineup decisions and formation. On Friday, the manager moved Bedoya deeper into the midfield and activated Roland Alberg into the No. 10 role, along with tap rookie Jack Elliott for Oguchi Onyewu at center back. He also brought in youngster Adam Najem and subbed in Jay Simpson. 

None of it worked. The Union only produced two shots on goal -- both from outside the box. And neither were clocked in the second half while trailing and with Curtin letting his attack horses loose. It left the Union shaking their head.

"We didn't create enough on the night," Curtin said. "When you don't score a goal at home, you're not happy with the chances that you created. We had a couple good looks, but they really were half chances, whether it was corner kicks or scrambles in the box, but not a ton of clear-cut chances created and we come up on the wrong end of a result again."

But what Bedoya saw was everything but the finish. The Union were able to fire off 11 shots and earned a number of early opportunities to take the lead.

"The first 30 minutes against Portland and now against NYC, I thought we were able to put in the effort and turn them over and get where we want to be," Bedoya said. "But just the sharpness in the final third is lacking. It's just small margins where hopefully that final ball will be there and we can turn it around."

And Bedoya, along with the rest of the optimistic Union, believe that they aren't as bad as their 0-4-2 record and that they just need one victory to get 2017 back on track.

"We need a win," Bedoya said. "I think we just need to get a big win and get our confidence up."

'World-class' Zlatan Ibrahimovic leads Galaxy over Union

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'World-class' Zlatan Ibrahimovic leads Galaxy over Union

BOX SCORE 

CHESTER, Pa. — For a little over 45 minutes, the Union, and their two teenage centerbacks, held the LA Galaxy and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in check. 

Then something changed. 

In a brief lapse, Ibrahimovic tied the game with a clutch assist to Ola Kamara in the 48th minute, then buried a goal in the 63rd minute for the lead. The Galaxy didn’t look back to take the 3-1 win on Saturday at a rainy Talen Energy Stadium.

“Up until that point, we did a good job with him,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “But that is what world-class strikers do. They can pick their moments and dominate and win games. He is about as special a player as there is.” 

On his goal, Ibrahimovic accepted a short pass from Romain Alessandrini inside the Union box. The 6-foot-5, 36-year-old shuffled briefly, picked his head up and fired off a right-footed shot that thread between Union defenders and past Andre Blake. 

He was given space, and took every bit of it.

“He’s a world-class striker, one of the best players our league has ever seen and one of the best strikers are game has ever had,” Curtin said. “He’s less likely to dribble and run by you now, so we preached to get close. On that instance, I think we did give him a little bit too much space.”

The Union knew it could happen. Since signing with the Galaxy in late March, Ibrahimovic has 12 goals in 15 games. He put that skill on display Saturday. Despite the consistent downpour and wind, the Swedish legend was dangerous on the ball and threatened the Union at will. 

“I just keep doing my job,” said Ibrahimovic, who finished with six shots, three on net. “[MLS is] lucky I did not come 10 years ago because I would be the President.”

The would-be President still had good things to say about the Union. Despite padding the stat sheet, Ibrahimovic liked what he saw from the Union’s teenage centerback duo of Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie, who was born in 1999, the year Ibrahimovic turned pro. 

“I think they did a good job,” he said. “It’s not easy, two young guys, not so much experience and then the weather conditions were not the best. I think they did a good job.”

Union fall to LA Galaxy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic in rainy 3-1 loss

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USA Today Images

Union fall to LA Galaxy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic in rainy 3-1 loss

CHESTER, Pa. — They fought through heavy rain, wind and three days rest. But the Union couldn’t get past Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who netted a second-half goal and an assist to propel the LA Galaxy over the Union, 3-1, on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium. 

The defeat was the Union’s fifth loss in their last seven MLS games, to drop their record to 7-10-3. The Galaxy are unbeaten in their last seven games, moving to 9-7-4.

• Union defender Auston Trusty, who was born a year before Ibrahimovic went pro in 1999, drew primary defensive duty on the big attacker. For the first half, Trusty and the Union did well to slow him down. Then the second half began.
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• Down one, the Galaxy would tie the match when Alejandro Bedoya turned the ball over in the midfield and it ended up on the foot of Ibrahimovic. He absorbed enough defensive attention to slide the ball forward into open space for Ola Kamara, who scored the tying goal. 

• In the 63rd minute, Ibrahimovic would strike again. Romain Alessandrini beat his man on the left side before dishing to Ibrahimovic, who pulled it to his right foot and fired off a low shot that beat Blake for the 2-1 Galaxy lead. Michael Ciani added the insurance from Allessandrini for the 3-1 final score.

• The 36-year-old hasn’t lost a step. He now has 12 goals in 15 games for the Galaxy — seven more than anyone on the Union.

• But it wasn’t all bad. In the 29th minute, C.J. Sapong finally broke through. After 12 scoreless games, the forward, while falling down, redirected a low shot by Borek Dockal, causing the ball to bounce slowly past David Bingham for the 1-0 Union lead.

• It was just Sapong’s third goal of the season and first since April 28, but was a nice reward for an active game. He had a season-high three shots on goal. He was replaced by Cory Burke in the 68th minute.

• Saturday was a homecoming for two former Union players. Chris Pontius, who is having an excellent first season for his hometown team with five goals and four assists in 19 games played, made the start for the Galaxy. He was replaced by another former Union player, Sheanon Williams in the 79th minute.​​​​

• It's a quick turnaround for the Union, who will now travel to BBVA Compass Stadium to face the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday on the road, where the Union are 2-6-1 on the season.