Union

Union rally to reach Open Cup quarterfinals amid ejection-filled finish

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USA Today Images

Union rally to reach Open Cup quarterfinals amid ejection-filled finish

CHESTER, Pa. — The Union’s U.S. Open Cup magic continues. 

Extending their quest for a third consecutive Open Cup title run, the determined Union came from behind to topple the New York Red Bulls, 2-1, in the Round of 16 on Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

“That’s a big-boy win, because that’s a good Red Bull team,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “I thought we stood up in the second half and showed we’re a darn good team, too.”

As victors, the Union advance to the Open Cup quarterfinals, where they will visit the New England Revolution on July 20. The Union’s Open Cup record extends to 10-2-0 over the last three tournaments and 14-6 all time.

“We’re happy with this result and whoever we play next, it’ll be another fight,” Union veteran Brian Carroll said. “We’ll be up for the challenge when it comes. But we want to enjoy this now.”

Wednesday was a match of two completely different halves for the Union. 

“Players win games, coaches lose them and referees ruin them,” Curtin said. “It’s all credit to my players, it doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

The hosts were utterly dominated by the Red Bulls' high press in the first half, getting outshot, 13-1, and trailing, 1-0, when a free kick played into the box deflected off Chris Pontius and right to Mike Grella. The forward powered his shot to the right of Andre Blake for the 17th-minute lead.

“I tried to inform our team that in the second half Philly was going to pick it up,” said Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch, whose club was outshot 7-3 in the second half. “That they were going to get laid into by their coach because they got their butts whipped in the first half."

And Marsch was right. In the 55th minute, a perfectly played through ball from Ilsinho found a streaking Pontius, who split the Red Bulls' defense, gathered the ball and fired off a right-footed shot past Ryan Meara to tie the match at 1-1.

“I see [Ilsinho] has some space, I see they’re playing pretty flat-footed, so I made a run across,” Pontius said. “He plays me a great ball, and at that point I know Meara is going to be coming out, so I tried to chip it over him at the back post.”

With momentum leaning heavily in the Union’s favor, the pair connected again in the 60th minute. Off the rush, Tranquillo Barnetta slung a right-wing pass to Ilsinho, who, while on the move and with the Red Bulls' defense closing, launched a cross that landed at the feet of Pontius, who one-timed it home for the 2-1 Union lead.

“We were able to break pressure. That was the major turning point,” Union midfielder Warren Creavalle said. “Once we were able to break pressure, we forced them to spend a little more energy and we were able to put the game back on our terms.” 

The match unraveled in stoppage time when Union assistant coach Mike Sorber was ejected for tossing a ball onto the field of play. Moments later, Marsch was ejected for arguing a call. On his way out, Marsch picked up two game balls from the scorekeeper’s desk and chucked them at the Union bench, before storming off.

“I had to try to induce change with the referee somehow because he was basically calling every foul for the Union,” Marsch said. “Laughable.”

Curtin, a former teammate and current friend of Marsch, said the Red Bulls coach wasn’t aiming for him with his ball throw, but that the sight of Marsch red with anger brought back memories.

“Jesse and I are good friends from old times,” the coach said. “But I like to beat him and he likes to beat me. We’re competitive. I think it’s the heat of the moment. Jesse was upset with the referees, obviously. Maybe lost his temper a bit, but I’ve seen that face before in training sessions and it still does make me smile.” 

Philadelphia Union officially welcome new part owner Kevin Durant

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Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union officially welcome new part owner Kevin Durant

The Philadelphia Union on Monday officially welcomed aboard their newest part owner/investor, Kevin Durant.

Durant purchased a 5% ownership stake in the Union with the option to purchase an additional 5% in the future.

Durant, a Maryland kid, had previously tried to buy a stake in the MLS' D.C. United before joining the Union.

“I’m excited to partner with the Philadelphia Union for years to come," Durant said in a statement released by the team. "My team and I connected instantly with the Union coaching staff and leadership, as well as the team’s story.

"Off the pitch, I’m looking forward to working in the Chester and Philadelphia communities and making an impact in the same way that the [Kevin Durant Charity Foundation] has been able to in my hometown of Prince George's County.”

The partnership with Durant also includes a partnership with Thirty Five Ventures, the company co-founded by Durant and his manager Rich Kleiman. The goal is to grow "the Union footprint in the sports world, working closely with the Union on marketing opportunities, and expanding the Union’s community outreach in conjunction with" Durant's charity.

In partnership with Thirty Five Ventures, the Union has committed to:

• Developing programs in the Chester and Philadelphia areas to empower Chester’s youth to tackle social and racial injustice in their community and beyond via social justice programs and resources. 

• Address needs related to COVID-19, with support for food banks and local small business recovery efforts. 

• Support youth sports programming and development in Chester and surrounding areas.

MLS is returning, announces tournament set at Walt Disney World

MLS is returning, announces tournament set at Walt Disney World

Major League Soccer is officially returning and is heading to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida as a way to resume play in 2020. 

The MLS is Back Tournament is the first time the league is slated to play since the season was suspended due to COVID-19 on March 12. It is set to kick off July 8 and will run until August 11. 

The entirety of this tournament will be held at ESPN Wide World of Sports, where there 54 matches (39 group stage, 15 knockout round) will be played. All 26 MLS teams will be participating in the event, where the minimum of matches per club is set at three and the maximum is seven per finalist. 

Teams will start arriving at the location on June 24, but the group stage will officially begin on July 8. After the initial stage, a round of 16 will follow suit that is set to take place July 25-28. Quarterfinals are slated from July 30-August 1, semifinals will be held August 5-6 and the tournament will conclude with their final game on August 11. 

According to MLS, “The tournament will feature a continuous schedule of matches nearly every day, with games beginning at 9 a.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. EST, with the majority of matches to be played in the evening.” 

The full game schedule release will be following a tournament draw that is set to take place Thursday, June 11 at 3:30 p.m. EST. You can watch this live on MLSsoccer.com and other social platforms from the league. 

Now, while this will be separate from the regular season, play will still be factored in once the tournament wraps up. All 39 group stage games will be counted for points toward the regular season standings. Winner of the entire event will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League — whether it be a U.S. of Canadian team. For the 2020 season, this will replace who is traditionally deemed the regular season conference leader. 

There is also an opportunity for players to earn additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million price pool.

Following the conclusion of the MLS is Back Tournament, the league will continue its regular season. Though it will be a revised schedule set to be developed at a later date, it will ultimately lead to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the 25th MLS Cup.

You can find more information on the rules and how the tournament will play out here

Health and safety protocols 

A medical department has been developed by the league and has been in consultation with infectious disease specialists, government officials and public health entities — all in an effort to focus on the safety of all who will be involved (players, coaches, officials and staff). 

Here are a few key points from MLS, breaking down protocols that must be followed:

  • All clubs must arrive no later than seven days before their first match
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests will be issued to all essential members of the tournament — this can detect an active COVID-19 infection. If a player or personnel test positive, they will not be allowed to travel and will be overseen by club medical staff. 
  • Only after receiving a negative test result, will players and staff be able to begin training. 
  • Tests will be given out every other day for the first 14 days following arrival to Orlando, in addition to self-temperature screenings and standardized screening questionnaires. 
  • Players, coaches and officials are asked to exercise care when spitting or clearing their nose.
  • Players, coaches and officials located on the bench or technical area are required to wear masks and practice social distancing.
  • During a game, players have been asked to not exchange jerseys or kiss the ball.

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