Union

Union-Impact 5 things: Both teams missing key players in Eastern Conference tilt

Union-Impact 5 things: Both teams missing key players in Eastern Conference tilt

Union at Montreal Impact
7:30 p.m. on TCN

After a 13-day break from MLS play because of the Gold Cup, the Union (6-7-5) enter a busy stretch with a tricky road trip that starts in Montreal tonight and ends in Columbus three days from now. Here are five things to know for Wednesday’s matchup vs. the Impact (5-6-6):

1. Missing players
The Union will be without a slew of key guys as Chris Pontius (U.S.) and Andre Blake (Jamaica) are still with their respective national teams heading into the Gold Cup quarterfinals. And even though Alejandro Bedoya was released from the U.S. national team, that was only so he could welcome the birth of his second child, which he did Tuesday morning.

That means Bedoya understandably may not want to leave his newborn daughter, Milena, behind to fly to Montreal for Wednesday’s game. Instead, the Union captain will likely join the team for the second half of their road trip in Columbus for Saturday’s game.

“Obviously, we’re a much better soccer team when he’s there with us, but there are certain things that are more important for soccer for sure,” said Union head coach Jim Curtin, a father of three. “The birth of a child, for me, is always something that is an incredibly unique experience. … It would be pretty darn selfish to take that away from him.”

Among other injuries, the Union will also be without Bedoya’s midfield replacement in Derrick Jones, who suffered a concussion in Saturday’s friendly vs. Swansea City and will, according to Curtin, “be out at least until Saturday.”

But the Impact will also likely be without some important players, including Patrice Bernier and Anthony Jackson-Hamel (with Canada at the Gold Cup), Ambroise Oyongo (right knee surgery) and star playmaker Ignacio Piatti (groin injury).

“You dodge a bullet because he’s as talented a guy in the league that there is,” Curtin said of Piatti. “We’re missing guys, they’re missing guys — it will be a real fight.”

2. Brutal schedule
It was recently revealed that, of every team in MLS, the Union have the toughest remaining schedule for the second half of the season with trips to home powerhouses Toronto, Chicago and Atlanta looming.

That means that even though it’s tough to win on the road in this league, the Union know they need points in Montreal and Columbus — two teams near them in the standings — before coming home to face Columbus again next Wednesday.

“It’s a tricky time, with the combination of the Gold Cup and the schedule,” Curtin said. “They gave us Saturday off, which was I guess nice. But then they crammed in Wednesday-Saturday-Wednesday, so you’re playing the same amount of games. I’d rather almost that they kept us in the rhythm of a weekly game. It’s a challenge.”

According to Curtin, there is at least one positive about hitting the road for a midweek game, however.

“The old Wednesday night is good for us because it’s not quite the same atmosphere on a Wednesday night in a home stadium,” the Union coach said. “We have to jump on them and take advantage and try to take points.”

3. Ilsinho back to the wing?
With Pontius on U.S. national team duty in Philly and Fabian Herbers out indefinitely after undergoing sports hernia injury, the Union are a lot thinner on the wing — once arguably their deepest position.

Fafa Picault will start on one side and it looks like Ilsinho will slide back over to the wing from the central midfield position he had been occupying for the last couple of months. That means Roland Alberg, who had lost that No. 10 spot, is in line to start his first MLS game since early May and play alongside Ilsinho in Montreal.

“They’re both experienced players, and I’m totally comfortable with them being on the field together,” Curtin said. “We will have a little more possession. They’re guys that are very good on the ball. I’m comfortable in that regard.”

Curtin added that speedy rookie Marcus Epps will continue to be a top winger off the bench while Herbers recovers from surgery (which could be up to the next eight weeks).

“Every time he comes into a game he changes it,” Curtin said of Epps.

4. Players to watch
Union: If Bedoya doesn’t make the trip to Montreal, Warren Creavalle will almost certainly get the start in the midfield alongside Haris Medunjanin. Although it will only be his second start of the season, Creavalle is a seasoned MLS player who started 21 games last season, so he should be up for the challenge. And look for veteran Brian Carroll to back him up and possibly make his season debut if the Union are holding a late lead.

Impact: Since coming over in May as a Designated Player, Swiss midfielder Blerim Dzemaili has three goals and four assists for Montreal in only 626 minutes.

5. This and that
• The Impact are 5-1-1 all-time vs. the Union in games played in Montreal.

• The Union had a stunning collapse when the Impact visited Talen Energy Stadium earlier in the season, blowing a 3-0 lead for a 3-3 draw.

• Montreal just acquired Shaun Francis, but Curtin said he thinks the experienced Jamaican left back may be immediately thrown into the fire and see time tonight

• Union striker C.J. Sapong remains one goal away from hitting double digits for the first time in his career.

• With Blake gone, John McCarthy will get his second straight start in net after making six saves in a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City two weeks ago.

Union's Haris Medunjanin suspended 2 additional MLS games

haris-medunjanin.jpg
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_union_usopen.jpg
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.