Union

Union-Earthquakes 5 things: Desperate Union look for points in San Jose

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Union-Earthquakes 5 things: Desperate Union look for points in San Jose

Union vs. San Jose Earthquakes
10:30 p.m. on TCN

With the Union (8-11-5) now trailing in the race for the playoffs, the club, coming off a damaging loss to the Montreal Impact, must travel across the country to challenge Chris Wondolowski and the San Jose Earthquakes (9-10-5) on Saturday night at Avaya Stadium.

Here are five things to know.

1. Feeling the pain
The Union were devastated. With a chance to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race last weekend, the club was instead dispatched, 3-0, by the Impact, sinking to 10th.

“It was a tough spot and really hard result for our guys,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “We’re upset in that regard but we have an opportunity to go on the road out to California, to San Jose and play against a revamped San Jose roster and try to get a result out there.”

It was a crushing defeat for the Union, who have just 10 games remaining and trail Atlanta United by six points for the final playoff spot in the East. Atlanta has two games in hand.

“It’s a hard loss to take for the guys because we knew a result there would put us back in the thick of things,” Curtin said. “Now we have to chase, which is tough.”

That tough endeavor begins Saturday against the Earthquakes, who are currently in a postseason position in a weaker Western Conference. The Earthquakes are 7-1-4 at home this season.

“We need a different mindset on the road,” Union attacker Chris Pontius said. “We’ve been tentative at times, it’s not easy playing away from home in this league but we need points now. We dropped three against Montreal so we need three against San Jose.”

2. Attack of the injury bug
Considering the Union’s current situation in the East, it’s a bad time for the club to get hit with injuries. But that’s exactly what has happened entering Saturday’s match.

Center back Oguchi Onyewu, playmaker Ilsinho, goalkeeper Andre Blake and midfielder Maurice Edu are all questionable for the game, with winger Fabian Herbers listed as out. Although the status of Edu, Blake and Herbers was expected, Onyewu, who missed last week’s match with a groin injury, hurts the Union most if he can’t make it Saturday.

“Gooch would have been in the starting lineup this past week,” Curtin said. “He’s done a really good job for us but a groin injury would have prevented him from playing. It’s just got a little too tough for him and we didn’t want to risk it.” 

Without Onyewu, the Union, like they did against the Impact, will be forced into using Josh Yaro at right center back, which would move Rookie of the Year contender Jack Elliott to his less natural left side. The scenario drew less than sterling results against the Impact, as Yaro struggled and Elliott appeared uncomfortable.

“We have decisions on the back line to make,” Curtin said.

The absence of Ilsinho, questionable with a right adductor strain, would also limit the Union’s lineup flexibility. Without the Brazilian, the Union will be forced into a combination of Roland Alberg or youngster Adam Najem at the No. 10 spot.

“He’s right in the discussion,” Curtin said of Najem. “Adam Najem is a good example of a guy who is pushing for minutes anyway, as is.”

3. Desperation Quakes
Holding the sixth spot in the Western Conference, the Earthquakes, led by Wondolowski’s nine goals and five assists, are hanging onto the playoffs by their fingernails. 

“We’re excited to be back at home,” said former Union man and current Earthquakes winger, Shea Salinas. “We’re playing well at home right now and we want to keep that momentum going.” 

Firing coach Dominic Kinnear in late June in favor of Chris Leitch, the Earthquakes have fared well of late, earning back-to-back wins before dropping a 3-0 decision to the Houston Dynamo last week.

“They’ve had an injection of life,” Curtin said. “They’re going to be an angry desperate team and we’re an angry desperate team, so you have two teams that need all three points at this stage, draws don’t do either of us any good right now. We’ll both have to be aggressive.” 

4. Keep an eye on
John McCarthy: With injured goalkeeper Blake expected to return to the lineup Wednesday against Toronto FC, Saturday could mark McCarthy’s last start of an eight game run. Despite the numbers and a 2-4-1 record, McCarthy has opened eyes with his stout play. He could make a statement against the Earthquakes. “He’s done a great job for us,” Curtin said.

Chris Wondolowski: His club’s leader in goals and assists, Wondolowski has three goals and eight shots on goal in his last seven matches. The crafty forward is the tip of the Earthquakes’ offensive spear.

5. This and that
• Between the Gold Cup and hand laceration, Blake is set to miss his eighth match Saturday. The goalkeeper did get his stitches out but remains questionable. “It’s still a noticeable cut,” Curtin said. “San Jose won’t be possible but Toronto is in the discussion for the target.” 

• The Union are 3-4-2 against the Earthquakes all-time and a respectable 1-2-1 in San Jose.

• The Union’s first-ever match in San Jose happened on Sept. 15, 2010, at Buck Shaw Stadium, which saw Wondolowski claim the game’s only goal past Brad Knighton with a header from Arturo Alvarez. Who else played in that match? New Earthquakes coach Leitch managed 90 minutes at right back.

Fafa Picault's late penalty rescues Union in win over Revolution

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Fafa Picault's late penalty rescues Union in win over Revolution

BOX SCORE 

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Fabrice-Jean Picault scored on a penalty kick and Jack Elliott had his first career multi-goal game to help the Philadelphia Union beat the New England Revolution, 3-2, on Saturday night.

Picault converted from the spot in the 76th minute, after New England's Antonio Delamea was called for a hand ball in the area, to give Philadelphia (9-11-3) a 3-2 lead.

Elliott, a 22-year-old defender who came in with one career goal, opened the scoring in the 14th minute. After Cory Burke's header, off a cross by C.J. Sapong, ricocheted off the post, Picault's shot from the top-left corner of the area was tapped over the crossbar by goalkeeper Matt Turner. Following the ensuing corner kick, Elliott back-heeled an entry from Haris Medunjanin into a wide-open net.

Elliott made it 2-0 when Picault's long-range bounced off the post and then deflected off the back of a diving Turner directly to Elliott for the tap in from point-blank range in the 24th.

New England's Andrew Farrell first-timed a left-footer, which deflected off a defender, in the opening seconds of the second half to make it 2-1 and Wilfried Zahibo's header, off a free kick by Diego Fagundez, tied it at 2 in the 64th minute.

New England (7-8-8) is winless in its last six games.

Union hire Ernst Tanner as new sporting director

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Union hire Ernst Tanner as new sporting director

CHESTER, Pa. — New sporting director, same youthful strategy for the Union.

The Union on Thursday hired former Red Bull Salzburg academy manager and youth talent expert Ernst Tanner as the team’s second sporting director, continuing the club’s drive to meld youth development and academy program with the first team.

“Ernst comes to Philadelphia with a strong track record of methodology implementation as well as player development and recruitment,” Union owner Jay Sugarman said in a statement. “He has worked for successful clubs at the highest level in Europe, signing and nurturing premier level talent at every stop."

Tanner, known primarily as a key talent evaluator and his eye for young talent, will fill the void left by Earnie Stewart, and bring the Union’s youth-first strategy into a new era. 

"We believe that Ernst is the perfect leader to continue building and improving upon the promising foundation we have established," Sugarman said.

The 51-year-old German-born Tanner had been with Salzburg in Austria since 2010. He began his career as academy manager of 1860 Munich from 2003 through 2009, before jumping to TSG Hoffenheim, where he held numerous titles. 

“I have followed the Union since the early days of the club, and over the past three seasons, there have obviously been many productive changes in terms of methodology and player development,” Tanner said. “I’m looking forward to utilizing my almost 25 years of experience and global player recruitment abilities to continue and forward the club’s trajectory. I also look forward to generating new ideas to advance the Union to even greater heights.”

Stewart, the former Union sporting director, left the club in August to take the open general manager position with the U.S. Men’s National Team. Stewart was key in improving the Union’s infrastructure in an attempt to the barebones organization into an international entity known for its youth opportunity and development.

“Earnie’s time here was great and he did a lot of great things,” Union manager Jim Curtin said following the team’s 3-0 U.S. Open Cup semifinals win over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday (see story). “There will be someone coming in new. I’m excited to get it to work with him because again it will be some new ideas for sure, which is good. It’s healthy.”