Union teammates continue to back Josh Yaro after nightmarish week

Union teammates continue to back Josh Yaro after nightmarish week

CHESTER, Pa. — It’s been a nightmarish week for Union center back Josh Yaro. But despite being at fault for two leads evaporating, the youngster’s teammates have his back. 

“Every player in his career have those kinds of moments,” midfielder Haris Medunjanin said. “You play bad and another game you get a chance and play another bad game. I had that kind of thing happen, everybody has that kind of thing happen. This is football and it can happen, it’s so quick.”

That no-good week began last Saturday when the 23-year-old made a crucial mistake. He unnecessarily fouled Shea Salinas at the goal line in stoppage time to draw what became the game-tying penalty kick for the San Jose Earthquakes. 

Yaro, who wasn’t available for comment, hobbled the Union again in the second half Saturday against Atlanta United at Talen Energy Stadium, when Josef Martinez blew past him and in alone on Andre Blake. Yaro hauled down the Atlanta striker from behind to stop the play but earned a red-card ejection. 

“The kid Martinez can run, I think Josh knew that and saw that,” manager Jim Curtin said. “He made a decision that maybe wasn’t the right choice, but at the same time, it’s a quick reaction.”

With the man advantage, Atlanta’s Tyrone Mears scored in stoppage time to tie the Union, 2-2 (see story).

“He’ll learn from his mistakes,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “He’s still young and he’s got a great future, so I just tell him to keep his head up, keep going and just learn from your mistakes and grow.”

Medunjanin also offered his diagnosis for what ails Yaro, who was making his fourth start of the season. He explained that it’s not a physical problem with the former second-overall selection in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.

“I always tell him to play with confidence,” Medunjanin said. “You’re a great football player and have all abilities to be a good center back. Maybe it’s something in his head, maybe he thinks too much, I don’t know. When you think too much in the game, you’re already late in position. It can happen to anybody.”

But with those mental mistakes adding up and options like Oguchi Oneywu and Richie Marquez on the bench, should Curtin go back to Yaro? 

“You have to,” he said. “He’s a good young player and with young players, there’s always going to be a learning curve. He’s a good young center back and he’s devastated right now. He felt he let the team down. That’s a hard thing to go through. We all feel for him and we are a team that will stick together. He’ll only learn and get better from these kinds of moments, as hard as they are.” 

Union's Haris Medunjanin suspended 2 additional MLS games

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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

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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.