Union fall to Orlando City, but virtually lock up playoff spot

Associated Press

Union fall to Orlando City, but virtually lock up playoff spot


CHESTER, Pa. -- Coming home after a near month-long road trip, the Union had hope that rest, mixed with home-field advantage, could push them out of a five-game winless slump and into the postseason.

Instead, Carlos Rivas happened.

The Orlando City forward broke the game open in the second half, as the visitors stunned the sloppy Union, 2-0, on Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium.

“Disappointing performance from everyone, from the staff to the players,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “We let our fans down in a big way. Today we had a great opportunity.”

But despite the lackluster effort and lost opportunity, the Union have reason to celebrate. With the Chicago Fire's 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution on Sunday, the Union have effectively, but not officially earned a playoff spot. The Union have three points and a double-digit goal differential tiebreaker over the Revs heading into the final match of the season.

“It doesn’t feel like an accomplishment because it’s not 100-percent yet,” Curtin said. “At the same time, we put ourselves in a good position with tiebreakers.”

Winless in their last six games, the Union face the New York Red Bulls at home next Sunday in a game that will solidify the team's playoff seeding. If the Revs don't make up a plus-12 goal differential in a win and Union loss, the Union will land as either the fifth or sixth seed.

“We have to improve on everything,” said Union veteran Chris Pontius. “To a man, if we’re holding each other accountable, it wasn’t good enough tonight in a pressure situation. It’s a game that we should win at home. We just weren’t good enough tonight.”

But the Union's hope for a clean playoff berth fell apart in the 59th minute, when a Fabinho turnover in the midfield saw Rivas streaking into Union territory unimpeded. As Rivas tore into the box, Andre Blake came out aggressively which allowed the Orlando City player to loft a slow trickle shot over the goalkeeper and on net.

“He did make a big touch and I got out there, got a piece of it,” Blake said. “It bounced back, hit him and it went back toward the goal. It was just tough. I would say he had a bit of luck, but it happens sometimes.”

In an attempt at a miracle save, Keegan Rosenberry booted the ball but found only net for the Union own goal and 1-0 Orlando City advantage.

“Hopefully after tonight’s performance all the guys get a wake-up call from here on forward,” Blake said. “We have to pull up our sleeves and do better.”

Julio Baptista added the insurance goal in stoppage time for the 2-0 win.

The Union’s best chance of the match game in the 67th minute, when a deflected cross from Fabian Herbers popped high into the air. Aggressively playing the jump ball, Pontius got a strong header off that was saved away at point-blank range from Joe Bendik.

“We can’t be this team that’s wobbling into the playoffs,” Pontius said. “You want to be hitting your stride. We have to put together a good performance next weekend.”

Union's Haris Medunjanin suspended 2 additional MLS games

USA Today Images

Union's Haris Medunjanin suspended 2 additional MLS games

CHESTER, Pa. — Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin only lost his mind for a few moments but the outburst will cost him a few weeks.

During his weekly press conference Wednesday, head coach Jim Curtin said Medunjanin will be suspended an additional two games for his vociferous arguments with the referee June 2 in a 3-1 loss in Atlanta.

Medunjanin only played 19 minutes that game before being ejected, and then served the normal one-game red-card suspension in a 2-0 loss to Toronto on June 8. Because of the severity of the offense, he’ll now also miss Saturday’s home tilt vs. Vancouver on Saturday (5 p.m., PHL17) as well as the Union’s first-ever trip to expansion Los Angeles FC the following week.

The league has not yet announced the three-game suspension but Curtin said the team “recently got word” that an appeal from the MLS Players Union was denied.

“I don’t agree with it but we have to live with it,” Curtin said. “I think for Haris, it’s the first red card in his career, which says a lot about who he is as a player.”

Curtin referenced an incident last June when Medunjanin showed his honesty by asking referee Sorin Stoica to rescind a red card handed to D.C. United’s Luciano Acosta. The Union midfielder claimed Acosta didn’t kick him and didn’t deserve to be sent off, even though the initial ruling would have significantly helped his own team. 

Perhaps that was one reason why Medunjanin blew up at the same referee who called a questionable penalty on Auston Trusty before showing Alejandro Bedoya his second yellow card for what appeared to be a minor dissent, effectively ruining the Union’s chances of winning in Atlanta.

“You can go through a lot of things to say it’s a little harsh to get three games,” Curtin said. “But we have to live with the decision and now we move on missing one of our best players. That’s challenging as a team but we’ll have to make up for it as we move forward.”

Medunjanin certainly showed his worth in this past Saturday’s 2-1 U.S. Open Cup win over the New York Red Bulls (MLS suspensions don’t carry over to the Open Cup), scoring a beautiful goal and adding a secondary assist.

Bedoya also had one of his better games vs. the Red Bulls, teaming well with Medunjanin in the central midfield to lead the Union into the Open Cup quarterfinals. Back from his own one-game suspension, the Philly captain will now likely partner with Warren Creavalle in the midfield for the next two games.

The 27-year-old Creavalle had played sparingly for much of the year before enjoying solid stints vs. Atlanta and Toronto. 

“He’s been playing very well in training,” Curtin said. “He’ll step up and do a good job. And obviously, Derrick [Jones] will be in the picture as well if we need to close out the game.”

Union's U.S. Open Cup dominance continues against Red Bulls

USA Today Images

Union's U.S. Open Cup dominance continues against Red Bulls

CHESTER, Pa. — Alejandro Bedoya and Cory Burke led the way Saturday night, as the Union eliminated the New York Red Bulls from the U.S. Open Cup with a 2-1 win at Talen Energy Stadium in the Round of 16.

"It was a very good win against a very good team," said Union manager Jim Curtin. "Survive and advance mentality. We’re three wins away from a trophy, which is something to be proud of."

After taking down the Richmond Kickers to open the tournament, the Union’s victory Saturday sends them to the quarterfinals on July 18, where they will host either regional foes DC United or Orlando City.

• The win was a continuation of an eye-popping 12-match Open Cup unbeaten streak for the Union, who haven’t suffered a regulation loss since 2014. When it comes to the Open Cup, the Union are hard to beat, which they showed against the Red Bulls. 

• Despite it being an Open Cup game, the match had MLS regular-season flavor. The Red Bulls hit the field with a strong starting lineup that included Tyler Adams, Kaku and Luis Robles. In return, the Union dressed Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin, Andre Blake and Ilsinho.

• Those lineup decisions made for an exciting but fruitless opening half. Both teams worked to strike on the counter by using pressure to jar the ball loose. Led by Fafa Picault, the back-and-forth equalled 17 total shots, with the Union claiming eight of their 11 attempts from inside the box. 

• Eventually, the Union those attempts would begin going in. In the 52nd minute, the Union took the 1-0 lead, when working down the right side into Red Bulls territory, Bedoya cut to the middle and slid possession over to Medunjanin. The veteran faked out his defender and ripped a shot that appeared to deflect and beat Robles.

• The goal seemed to unlock something in the Union. Nearly 10-minutes later, Burke made it 2-0 when a Bedoya pass found him between two defenders. Burke, who had been on the doorstep of a goal all night, broke away and slipped his shot to the right. Bedoya finished with two assists. 

"He’s playing at his highest level for us," Curtin said. "He’s taken a bigger leadership role and tonight was an excellent game from him. Our team will go as our central midfield goes." 

• To catch up, the Red Bulls called on some heavy artillery. In the 60th minute, Bradley Wright-Phillips subbed in for Daniel Royer. He scored in the 77th minute, cutting the Union’s defense, then the lead, in half.

• The Union look to carry Open Cup momentum into the MLS regular season, when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps on June 23 at Talen Energy Stadium.