Union

Union sign draft picks Aaron Jones and Jack Elliott

Union sign draft picks Aaron Jones and Jack Elliott

The Union have signed draft picks Aaron Jones and Jack Elliott, the second and fourth round picks from last month’s MLS SuperDraft. 

Jones is a 5-foot-9 defender was selected 33rd overall.

“We are pleased to sign Aaron to an official MLS contract,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said in a statement. “Aaron has impressed throughout his time with us in preseason camp, displaying quickness, his ability in passing and on free kicks, and his aggressive one-on-one defending.”

The 22-year-old originally played with Georgia State University from 2013-2014. He made 35 starts while scoring three goals with five assists. He transferred to Clemson before the 2015 season and finished his final two seasons with the Tigers. In those two seasons he made 38 starts, scoring four goals, and gathered seven assists. 

Elliott was chosen 77th overall out of West Virginia, where he played in 68 games and recorded six goals and five assists. He was named to the 2016 NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region First Team in addition to earning CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team honors, becoming WVU’s first three-time Academic All-America honoree.

“When you look at Jack, the first thing you notice is his height, an asset that we believe will serve him well as a professional,” said Stewart in a statement. “He is a good passer who reads the game well.”

Union sign manager Jim Curtin to contract extension

usa_jim_curtin.jpg
USA Today Images

Union sign manager Jim Curtin to contract extension

Change is in the air for the Union, but not where you’d expect. 

The Union on Monday extended head coach Jim Curtin's contract for the 2019 season. Terms of the one-year deal were not disclosed.

“We’re continuing our collaboration,” sporting director Ernst Tanner said at the Union’s end-of-season press conference. “If the collaboration is going well, we’ll continue it.”

Maligned by Philadelphia fans, Curtin, who was out of contract following the season, landed fourth in MLS Coach of the Year voting and is coming off a record season for the Union, earning a franchise record 15 wins and the team’s third-ever playoff berth — its second in three seasons.

“I do understand the microscope in Philadelphia shines a little tougher,” Curtin said. “That comes with the territory of coaching in Philadelphia. There’s going to be scrutiny. I’m happy to be here, this club means a ton to me. Philadelphia is where I’m from and I look forward to 2019.” 

With Tanner taking putting his stamp on the club, Curtin could have easily been a casualty of new management. However, the Philly-native did enough to convince the new boss he’s worthy. 

“Jim led us to the playoffs for the second time in a three-year period,” Tanner said. “His relationship with the players is very good. He's an expert in developing young players, which will be a clear focus in the future.”

While Curtin is remaining, Tanner does want to see some change, especially in terms of the team’s on-field flexibility, aggressiveness and unpredictability. The manager's ability to accomplish Tanner's goals could determine his future beyond 2019.

"We need to make it a little bit more inconvenient to play us,” Tanner said. “I feel we are a little too easy to reckon, especially when everyone ahead of us knows we’re playing in a 4-2-3-1."

Though Curtin is sticking with the team, a number of long-time players and former prospects won’t be. On Monday, the club announced that it has declined contract options on defenders Richie Marquez and Josh Yaro, along with midfielders Marcus Epps, Fabian Herbers and Adam Najem. High-priced forward Jay Simpson and third-string goalkeeper Jake McGuire were also cut loose. 

MLS assist leader Borek Dockal saw his loan expire from Chinese club Henan Jianye. The full purchase price on the 30-year-old’s contract could be too rich for the Union, who are expected to be in the market for a new No. 10 if they can’t retain the playmaker.

"There's a possibility to bring him back but it's not in our hands," Tanner said. "Borek told us about his situation and wish to return to Europe, something we need to respect. If there's a chance to bring him back, we'll do it."

Backup goalkeeper John McCarthy, Warren Creavalle and Ray Gaddis are all out of contract, but all three have had discussions with the team. The Union specifically announced it is working on a new contract with veteran left back Fabinho.

“We’re going to scout now,” Tanner said.

Union's season ends with loss to NYCFC in MLS knockout round

ap_union_nycfc.jpg
AP Images

Union's season ends with loss to NYCFC in MLS knockout round

BOX SCORE

After suffering a lopsided defeat to NYCFC in the season finale at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, the Union marched back up to the Bronx on Wednesday night and did it again, falling, 3-1, in the knockout round of the 2018 MLS Playoffs to end their season.

• It was the fourth playoff match in franchise history for the Union and also their fourth loss. The club has yet to win a playoff game in its nine-year history. NYCFC moves on to face Atlanta United in a home-and-home aggregate series. 

• Union manager Jim Curtin put his fingerprint on the playoff match by slotting Alejandro Bedoya in at his natural right attacking midfield side, while tapping veteran Warren Creavalle to break up the middle of the field next to Haris Medunjanin. 

• It was a creative idea that ultimately failed to impact the match. Creavalle was pulled for Ilsinho at the half as the Union pushed for a more sustained offense. It took a while but paid off in the 83rd minute, when Ilsinho found Burke for the cross and tap-in goal to make it 3-1. 

• Before that, though, off a Mark McKenzie turnover in the 10th minute, NYCFC opened the scoring on a beautiful play. A Maxi Moralez pass found Ismael Tajouri-Shradi for the half bounce rocket to beat Andre Blake and claim the 1-0 NYCFC lead. David Villa doubled the NYCFC lead in the 26th minute. 

• The Union appeared to gain traction late in the first half when Bedoya was de-cleated in the box. It should have been a penalty kick but somehow went uncalled. It was that kind of night. The Union finished the first half with no shots on goal and just two in the second. 

• It didn’t get much better in the second half. As the Union pressed, Moralez chipped Blake on a fast break for the 3-0 lead. The Union were thoroughly outclassed all match long and especially struggled to generate offensive chances.

• The sting of defeat in important matches is a familiar one for the Union, who have lost four playoff matches and three U.S. Open Cup finals in the club’s history. Wednesday wasn’t even the most painful of the season, as the Union were crushed in Houston against the non-playoff Dynamo, 3-0, in the Open Cup finals back in September.

• But despite the disappointment, it was still a record season for the 2018 Union, who claimed the franchise record in total points, wins and road wins. Midfielder Borek Dockal took the MLS assist crown and young defenders McKenzie and Auston Trusty made names for themselves. Things have been worse for the Union.