Union-Fire 5 things: Ready for redemption vs. last-place opponent

Union-Fire 5 things: Ready for redemption vs. last-place opponent

Union vs. Chicago Fire
7 p.m. on TCN

Suffering an uncharacteristic defeat Saturday at the hands of New York City FC, which snapped their eight-game unbeaten string, the Union (6-4-5) look to rebound quickly against Eastern Conference basement dwellers the Chicago Fire (2-6-5) on Wednesday (7 p.m./TCN) at Talen Energy Stadium.

Here’s five things to know:

1. Looking To Rebound
When the Eastern Conference’s top team travels to face one of the league’s worst home teams, it would be safe to expect a result. That didn’t play out for the Union in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to NYCFC at Yankee Stadium. 

Union manager Jim Curtin called it a wake-up call. 

“I said it to the guys, it’s the first time in 10 games we’ve been beat, so it feels bad right now," he said. "It’s an unfamiliar feeling and we need to get that out of our systems quickly.”

It’s the swiftness of that turnaround that has Curtin feeling optimistic. Following Saturday’s uncharacteristic loss, the Union immediately turn their attention to the last-place Fire on Wednesday. And they aren’t taking them lightly.

“The quick turnaround is good,” he said. “After a performance that you’re not happy with, to get back out on the field - we have a Chicago team coming in here that doesn’t concede a lot of goals. We’ll need to be sharp in both boxes to get three points here at home.”

2. Herbers and Sapong
After being without forward C.J. Sapong with a sprained ankle last weekend, Curtin hinted that his leading scorer could find the field on Wednesday, in limited duty. 

“We’re happy with how he’s progressed,” Curtin said. “He’s a good piece to be back in the mix, whether it’s Wednesday or Saturday is still to be determined. He’s progressing well.”

If Sapong can’t go in full, or at all, rookie Fabian Herbers would make his second consecutive start. He played the full 90 against NYCFC, impressing Curtin.

“I was happy with the chances he created against New York, especially in the second half,” Curtin said. “He makes good decisions around the goal.”

3. Fire’s struggles
Although the Fire have struggled of late, winning just one of their last six games and scoring just four goals over that span, they do own two wins on the season, including a a 1-0 victory over the Union on April 2. 

“The game in Chicago was in a tsunami blizzard, that gets thrown out,” Curtin said. “That was a frustrating game for us, we were disappointed with the result. We actually played pretty well. But I think both teams are a lot different now.”

The Union, yes. The Fire, not so much. The rare win aside, Veljko Paunovic’s club has struggled all season. Though the Fire were competitive against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, they lost, 2-1, keeping them at a league-low 11 points in 13 games.

“We have to fix our losing mentality,” said Paunovic, who will be without injured midfielders Matt Polster and Arturo Alvarez. “It’s not enough to participate in the game. It’s not the Olympics. It’s MLS, competitive level and we want to win every single game.”

And the Fire are halfway there. The club has only allowed 16 goals in 13 games – good for third best in MLS. Their downside is that they can’t score, owning just 11 goals all season, easily the lowest in the league.

“They don’t concede a lot,” Curtin said. “They’re fairly organized and don’t give up a lot of chances. When you do break through, you have to take advantage and you got to be really wary of the counterattack.”

4. Keep an eye on ...
Union - Roland Alberg: Just when you think Alberg might not be the right fit for MLS, he pops in a pair of goals in his U.S. Open Cup debut last Wednesday and scores his first MLS goal on Saturday against NYCFC. With Vincent Nogueira out of the picture, Alberg’s surge came at the perfect time. “I think he’s given us a real lift,” Curtin said. “He’s worked very hard on his fitness, he’s worked hard on the defensive side of the ball and he’s rewarded us.”

Fire - David Accam: The Fire are a team that doesn’t normally score. But when they do, there’s a decent chance Accam is the guy who does it. He has three of the Fire’s 11 goals this season, and he's done it in just six games. “He’s an incredibly dangerous player,” Curtin said. “He’s very fast, so we’ll need to be focused on him.”

5. This and that
• The Union are 5-6-5 all time against the Fire. 

• The Union are one of two teams (Orlando City SC) in the Eastern Conference undefeated at home. The Union are a powerful 5-0-2 at Talen Energy Stadium this season. 

• Meanwhile, the Fire are one of two teams (Columbus Crew) in the Eastern Conference without a win on the road. The Fire are 0-4-2 away from Toyota Park. 

MLS is Back Tournament 2020: Bracket, schedule, standings, odds, how to watch Union vs. Timbers

MLS is Back Tournament 2020: Bracket, schedule, standings, odds, how to watch Union vs. Timbers

Major League Soccer was the first men's American professional sports league to make its return during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the MLS Is Back Tournament kicking off July 8 at Walt Disney World.

It's a unique tournament that will set up the eventual MLS regular season, but there's a lot more on the line than just a warmup as the teams fight for a 2021 Concacaf Champions League spot.

Below, you can find a detailed walkthrough of the tournament so far -- including the hopes of the local side, the Philadelphia Union, who are on to the semifinals so far.   

What does the tournament look like? What are the key dates?

Here's a rundown of the tournament format. All games take place on the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

- First a group stage, then knockout rounds
- The group stage counts toward regular season points
- Tournament winner earns a 2021 Concacaf Champions League spot
- The regular season continues after tournament

And here are the key dates remaining. We're currently in the semifinals of the knockout stage after the group stage and the completion of the Round of 16 and quarterfinals.

- August 5-6: Semifinals
- August 11: Final

How do I watch the games?

Games are broadcast on a mixture of ESPN, TSN (Canada), TUDN (en español), FOX, FS1, TVA Sports (en français), and the respective ESPN, TSN, FOX Sports, TUDN, and TVA Sports apps, along with a few games being broadcast on Twitter.

MORE: Union honor Black victims of police violence with jersey names

Can I see the bracket?

Round of 16

Orlando City SC 1, Montreal Impact 0
July 25 - 8 p.m. ET

Philadelphia Union 1, New England Revolution 0
July 25 - 10:30 p.m. ET

NYCFC 3, Toronto FC 1
July 26 - 8:30 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City 0, Vancouver Whitecaps 0
SKC advances 3-1 on penalty kicks
July 26 - 11 p.m. ET

San Jose Earthquakes 5, Real Salt Lake 2
July 27 - 8:30 p.m. ET

LAFC 4, Seattle Sounders 1
July 27 - 11 p.m. ET

Minnesota United 1, Columbus Crew 1
Minnesota advances 5-3 on penalty kicks
July 28 - 8 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers 1, FC Cincinnati 1
Portland advances 4-2 on penalty kicks
July 28 - 10:30 p.m. ET


Philadelphia Union 3, Sporting Kansas City 1
July 30 - 8 p.m. ET | ESPN

Orlando City 1, LAFC 1
Orlando City advances 5-4 on penalty kicks
July 31 - 7:30 p.m. ET | FS1

Minnesota United 4, San Jose Earthquakes 1
August 1 - 8 p.m. ET | ESPN2

Portland Timbers 3, NYCFC 1
August 1 - 10:30 p.m. ET | FS1


Philadelphia Union vs. Portland Timbers
August 5 - 8 p.m. ET | FS1

Orlando City vs. Minnesota United 
August 6 - 8 p.m. ET| ESPN


Philadelphia/Portland vs. Orlando/Minnesota
August 11 - 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

What's up with the Union?

The Union will face off against the Portland Timbers on Aug. 5. They defeated New England in the Round of 16, and Sporting Kansas City in the quarterfinals. They defeated Inter Miami and New York City FC in the group stage, and played to a draw against Orlando City SC. Philadephia finished second in Group A as a result, losing the top spot to Orlando based on goal differential. 

How did the group stage finish? 

Six groups were determined during a draw on June 10. FC Dallas and Nashville SC were forced to drop out due to COVID-19 concerns. Below is the final group stage table. Teams designated with an X advanced to the knockout stage. The top two teams from each group advanced, as well as four wild card teams. 

Group A

  1. x-Orlando City SC - 7 pts, 2-0-1, goal differential of 3
  2. x-Philadelphia Union - 7 pts, 2-0-1, goal differential of 2
  3. x-New York City FC - 3 pts, 1-2-0
  4. Inter Miami CF - 0 pts, 0-3-0

Group B

  1. x-San Jose Earthquakes - 7 pts, 2-0-1
  2. x-Seattle Sounders FC - 4 pts, 1-1-1
  3. x-Vancouver Whitecaps FC - 3 pts, 1-2-0, goal differential of -2
  4. Chicago Fire FC - 3 pts, 1-2-0, goal differential of -3

Group C

  1. x-Toronto FC - 5 pts, 1-0-2, goal differential of 1, 6 goals for
  2. x-New England Revolution - 5 pts, 1-0-2, goal differential of 1, 2 goals for
  3. x-Montreal Impact - 3 pts, 1-2-0
  4. D.C. United - 2 pts, 0-1-2

Group D

  1. x-Sporting Kansas City - 6 pts, 2-1-0
  2. x-Minnesota United FC - 5 pts, 1-0-2
  3. x-Real Salt Lake - 4 pts, 1-1-1
  4. Colorado Rapids - 1 pt, 0-2-1

Group E

  1. x-Columbus Crew FC - 9 pts, 3-0-0
  2. z-FC Cincinnati - 6 pts, 2-1-0
  3. New York Red Bulls - 3 pts, 1-2-0
  4. Atlanta United FC - 0 pts, 0-3-0

Group F

  1. x-Portland Timbers - 7 pts, 2-0-1
  2. x-Los Angeles Football Club - 5 pts, 1-0-2
  3. Houston Dynamo - 2 pts, 0-1-2
  4. LA Galaxy - 1 pt, 0-2-1


Who are the best bets to win?

Here are the most recent odds to win the tournament, from DraftKings Sportsbook: 

Orlando City SC: +210
Portland Timbers: +240
Philadelphia Union: +250
Minnesota United FC: +270

Are fans allowed at games?

Because of safety protocols and restrictions put in place to keep players safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, fans are not allowed at games.

Philadelphia Union honor Black victims of police brutality with amazing jersey nod


Philadelphia Union honor Black victims of police brutality with amazing jersey nod

The Philadelphia Union returned to action Thursday morning in the MLS is Back Tournament, the first game since June's nationwide protests against police brutality and institutional racism.

In what ESPN's commentators suggested was an unexpected move, the Union revealed their Black Lives Matter shirts to reveal jerseys bearing the names of Black men, women, boys, and girls who were killed by police. 

Here's a look at the team's jerseys:

MORE: Everything you need to know about the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament

And here's a list of the Black lives the players honored:

No. 3 Jack Elliott: Eric Garner

No. 4 Mark McKenzie: Tamir Rice

No. 22 Brenden Aaronson: Tyree Crawford

No. 13 Cole Turner: Freddie Gray

No. 15 Olivier Mbaizo: India Kager

No. 27 Kai Wagner: Laquan McDonald

No. 12 Joe Bendik: Justus Howell

No. 5 Jakob Glesnes: Ronell Foster

No. 8 Jose Martinez: Tony Robinson

No. 10 Jamiro Monteiro: Alton Sterling

No. 28 Raymon Gaddis: Breanna Taylor

No. 32 Matt Real: Lamontez Jones

No. 14 Jack de Vries: Willie Tillman

No. 25 Ilsinho: Philando Castile

No. 21 Anthony Fontana: Natasha McKenna

No. 1 Matt Freese: Sandra Bland

No. 11 Alejandro Bedoya: Walter Scott

No. 24 Matej Oravec:  John Crawford III

No. 78 Aurelien Collin: Alteria Woods

No. 18 Andre Blake: George Floyd

No. 23 Kacper Przybylko: Michael Brown

No. 2 Warren Creavalle: Elijah McClain

The names were accompanied by messages on the bottoms of the jerseys, including "One name too many" and "Todos somos iguales", Spanish for "We are all equals".

The Union also created a custom armband for captain Alejandro Bedoya to wear, bearing the names of Black victims of police brutality:

The MLS returned to play Wednesday. The tournament is scheduled to run until August 11.

Elsewhere, the English Premier League wore the phrase "Black Lives Matter" in place of last names on players' jerseys when the league returned last month.

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