Union-Fire 5 things: Shorthanded Union testing depth vs. Chicago

Union-Fire 5 things: Shorthanded Union testing depth vs. Chicago

Union at Fire
8:30 p.m. on TCN

Surging but shorthanded, the patchwork Union (11-9-7) will have their depth tested Saturday when they travel to Toyota Park to challenge the struggling Chicago Fire (5-12-8) for the final time in 2016.

Here are five things to know for the matchup.

1. Replacing Blake
As a result of international play, the Union are forced to enter Saturday without their star goalkeeper Andre Blake. And while that’s a major hit for them, Union manager Jim Curtin has full faith in backup John McCarthy (see story).

“He’s itching to get his first MLS game this year,” Curtin said of McCarthy. “He’s a professional and this is what he prepares for. It’s similar to a backup quarterback role, you have to be ready when your number is called and I know Johnny will.”

McCarthy does have MLS experience. He played 11 games in 2015, going 3-5-3 with two shutouts. 

“He’s a guy I trust a great deal,” said Curtin, whose club has won two straight. “He’s a winner, he’s won us big games last year. I expect him to do the same in Chicago.”

2. Midfield change
Like Blake, the Union will also be missing midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, who is with the U.S. men’s national team for World Cup qualifying. That absence opens a spot at the No. 8, which gives Curtin a number of options for Saturday. 

“We’ll miss him,” Curtin said. “The good thing is we have guys in good form.”

One option in good form is Roland Alberg, who has three goals in his last five games. Alberg would take over the attacking midfield spot, pushing Tranquillo Barnetta to Bedoya’s vacant position.

“He’s scoring goals but at the same time, the defensive work he’s started to do in games is something the staff has taken note of,” Curtin said of Alberg. “He’s an option to play at the No. 10, [Barnetta] has played at the No. 8, so it’s a possibility.”

The other option is more defensive. If Brian Carroll is healthy after missing four games with plantar fasciitis, Curtin could try Carroll at the defensive midfield position with Warren Creavalle as the No. 8 and Barnetta back at the No. 10. 

“We have Brian Carroll coming back, so you could go a little more defensive,” Curtin said. “We could be conservative. There’s a lot of good options for a coach to decide from and how we want to approach the game.”

3. Beware of Fire
While the Fire may be the most consistently bad team in MLS, one of their five wins this season came in a 1-0 result over the Union on April 2. That, among other things, is why Curtin isn’t letting his team overlook the last-place club.

“They’re at the bottom of the table, but they are still a very dangerous team that’s playing a little better,” Curtin said.

Even with the Fire missing leading goal scorer David Accam to international duty, what concerns Curtin the most is the Fire’s recent result last weekend, when, down a man, they were destroyed by D.C. United, 6-2.  

“They conceded a ton of goals this week so they’ll be looking to shore things up,” Curtin said. “It will take a very good effort to get a victory in a tough place to play.”

4. Keep an eye on ...
Union: Alberg has 11 goals in his last 15 games in all competitions, and nine in 11 MLS contests, including two in his last four bench appearances. He’s got starter’s talent coming off the bench, which makes him a player to watch Saturday.

Fire: With the Fire attack limited by international call-ups, the club will lean on Michael de Leeuw, who is coming off a goal and assist against United. He has yet to face the Union this season.

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

• The Union on Saturday have an opportunity to tie a franchise record for wins in a season with 12. The club finished the 2013 season with 12 wins and 46 points. 

• Yet, while the Union are one win away from tying a club record in wins, they are eight points away from tying the total point record of 48, set by the 2011 team.

• Union midfielder Maurice Edu is inching back from a leg injury that has kept him out all year. If he passes certain strength tests, he would be available to begin playing with Bethlehem Steel as soon as this weekend. “We’re excited for him,” Curtin said. “He’s put a ton of work in getting back.” 

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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