Union

Union-FC Dallas 5 things: Time running out on playoff dreams

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CSN

Union-FC Dallas 5 things: Time running out on playoff dreams

Union vs. FC Dallas
7 p.m. on TCN

With three losses in their last four matches, the stumbling Union (7-10-5) look to activate home-field advantage and kick their slide against Western Conference powerhouse FC Dallas (9-4-7) on Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

Here are five things to know:

1. Running out of time
With 12 games remaining, the Union’s postseason hope is up against the clock. 

“Six home, six away left. There’s lots of soccer out there,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “We recognize our margin for error is a small one now. We’ve done that to ourselves, but we have a good group.” 

As it stands, the Union are six points out from the final playoff position, but are in a battle with the Columbus Crew, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution and Orlando City to get in. To make matters worse, the Union can’t string together victories. The club has one win in its last five matches.

“There are four to five teams that have their eye on that spot and we all play each other a bunch down the stretch and those games are huge,” Curtin said. “It’s not an area you want to be in but at the same time, it’s a situation we put ourselves in. Things can change fast in this league. It starts with getting on a run and getting above that red line. It’s not going to be easy.”

That run could start on Saturday. Though the Union are playing one of the best in MLS in FC Dallas, they are at home. The Union are 6-3-2 at Talen Energy Stadium and have scored 20 of their 29 total goals there this season. 

“You have to find ways to win your home games in this league,” Curtin said. “Our road total in points is not good enough. It’s something we have to rectify. It’s going to take more than last year’s point total, so we have our work cut out for us but it’s not impossible. 

“We’ve been solid at home and we need to continue that.”

2. Without Blake
If the Union want a positive result against FC Dallas, they’ll likely have to do it without Andre Blake, who sliced his hand open in the Gold Cup final game against the U.S. men’s national team and still hasn’t fully recovered.

“Andre is still healing, he still has the stitches in,” Curtin said. “He ended up with seven stitches that go from one side to the other. We’re hopeful for the weekend. He’s been able to do technical exercises with the group, working on his footwork and staying active. We need to get clearance from the doctors that he won’t do further damage.”

Curtin then sounded more cautious on Blake’s return. The goalkeeper, who is tied for second in MLS shutouts with seven, missed the Union’s last five matches. 

“We’re following the medical side on this one,” the manager said. “There’s a chance but probably unlikely.” 

But fortunately for the Union, they have a backup plan. The Union expect backup keeper, John McCarthy, who has opened eyes since taking over for Blake (see story), to continue filling the shoes of the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.

“Johnny has done a really good job stepping up his game in a tough spot,” Curtin said. “For him to have the success he’s had speaks to all the hard work he’s put in. He’s stepped up in a big way and has done a great job.” 

3. Redemption Dallas
FC Dallas enters Saturday’s match with a bad taste in its mouth. 

“After our last result at home, [these are] points that we need to take,” FC Dallas center back Walker Zimmerman said. “Points that will put us back in the Supporters’ Shield race. We’ve had a very successful run the last few games, we just need to keep that going.”

The club, which will be without suspended midfielders Atiba Harris and Carlos Gruezo, hit an irregular bump in the road last week against the Vancouver Whitecaps, dropping the match, 4-0. The home loss snapped a five-game unbeaten streak and three-game winning run.

“They are also coming off a disappointing result,” said Curtin, whose club lost to the Revolution, 3-0, last week. “We know they will be angry and eager to go.”

But even with that extra motivation, FC Dallas isn’t overlooking a desperate Union club.

“You can’t take any team in this league lightly,” FC Dallas midfielder Ryan Hollingshead said. “We’ll be looking for mounting back. It’s a big opportunity for us to get road points. We know Philadelphia has strengths and weaknesses and we’ll have to be ready for them.”

4. Keep an eye on ...
Union: The Union’s leading scorer with 10 goals and five assists on the season, C.J. Sapong is the engine that makes the offense tick. In his last match at home, Sapong put up a goal and two helpers, setting a career high. Eight of Sapong’s 10 goals this season have happened at home.

FC Dallas: Tied for the league lead in assists with 10, Michael Barrios could be the key to unlocking the Union back line. 

5. This and that
• The Union have never defeated FC Dallas in MLS play, going 0-5-4 all-time and 0-1-3 at home.

• While FC Dallas has no listed injuries, the Union are limping a bit. Center back Oguchi Onyewu (groin strain) and Fafa Picault (hamstring strain) join Blake as questionable for Saturday.

• The first time FC Dallas visited Philadelphia was a heartbreaker for the Union. Amobi Okugo and Aaron Wheeler scored but Blas Perez’s 95th-minute goal ended the match, 2-2.

Union fall to top seed NYCFC in regular-season finale

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USA Today Images/James Lang

Union fall to top seed NYCFC in regular-season finale

BOX SCORE 

CHESTER, Pa. — Ronald Matarrita and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi scored and New York City FC beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1 on Sunday in the regular-season finale.

New York City (18-6-10), the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, earned a first-round bye and will play No. 4 seed Toronto or fifth-seeded D.C. United in the conference semifinals.

Philadelphia (16-11-7) lost three of its last four regular-season games, falling from first to third in the Eastern standings. The Union will host the sixth-seeded New York Red Bulls in the knockout round.

Matarrita opened the scoring in the sixth minute. Valentin Castellanos, at the top of the area, first-timed a pass from Ben Sweat to Matarrita for the finish from near the spot. It was the first goal of the season for the 25-year-old defender.

Ismael Tajouri-Shradi chipped an entry from outside the area that deflected off the Union's Jamiro Monteiro into the goal to make it 2-0 in the 22nd and Philadelphia's Marco Fabian converted from the spot in the 87th minute. 

Union fall into second-place tie after loss to Crew

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USA Today Images

Union fall into second-place tie after loss to Crew

BOX SCORE

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pedro Santos had a goal and an assist in the second half and the Columbus Crew beat the Union 2-0 on Sunday night to hand the Eastern Conference's top seed to New York City FC.

Youness Mokhtar's first career goal, set up by Luis Diaz and Santos, put Columbus up in the 69th minute. Four minutes later, Santos' 11th goal doomed the Union, who fell six points behind NYCFC and into a tie for second with Atlanta United, which holds the tiebreaker with one game to play.

Eloy Room made three saves for his first shutout.

The game was delayed by almost an hour as lightning arrived with the start of halftime.

On the attack, the Union (16-10-7) failed to get a strong shot and off the block the Crew (10-15-8) quickly countered. Speedy Luis Diaz dribbled the ball across midfield on the right before sending it middle to Santos, who put it to Mokhtar in the box left. Mokhtar counted back into the middle and beat three defenders with a low drive past Andre Blake.

Off a corner four minutes later, a Union defender's header put the ball straight up in the air and Blake punched it out of the box. Santos pounced on the loose ball sending a four-bouncer through a crowd of players past the diving Blake.