Union's Derrick Jones named to U.S. U-20 World Cup roster

Union's Derrick Jones named to U.S. U-20 World Cup roster

One of the Union’s brightest young stars will get to test himself on a big international stage.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Derrick Jones has been named to the United States roster for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic, which will run from May 20 to June 11.

The news comes less than a week after Jones was granted clearance to play for the U.S. He was born in Ghana but moved to Philadelphia when he was 14 and has natural citizenship in the United States.

Union defender Auston Trusty, who played for the U.S. in the CONCACAF U-20 Championships earlier this year — which the Americans won to book their place in the World Cup — will not be joining Jones for the trip to South Korea as he missed the cut.

“As always there were some extremely tough decisions to make,” U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos said in a statement. “This is a talented age group.”

In past years, the Union have had several members of their team do well in the youth ranks, but Jones will be the first active player to participate in the U-20 World Cup. Zach Pfeffer was one of the last cuts two years ago and Amobi Okugo and Zac MacMath likely would have been there in 2011 had the U.S. qualified for the U-20 World Cup, which is held every two years.

Jones has certainly shown to be worthy of the selection. The first homegrown signing to go from the Union youth academy to the first team, the 20-year-old started the first five games of the season before settling into a reserve role when captain Alejandro Bedoya was moved deeper in the midfield. He’s been a key second-half sub in each of the last two games, helping spark a three-goal surge that led to the Union’s first win of the season last weekend.

Jones will miss several Union games as the U.S. U-20 team departs for its initial training camp in Japan on Wednesday with some players joining the group on May 17. It's not yet clear if he'll available for Saturday's Union game vs. D.C. United.

The Americans open group play against Ecuador on May 22, followed by matches with Senegal on May 25 and Saudi Arabia on May 28. All games will be broadcast live on FS1.

Sapong named MLS Player of the Week
The first hat trick of CJ Sapong’s career led to his first MLS Player of the Week award as the Union striker received the well-deserved honor Tuesday.

In Saturday’s 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls, Sapong scored in the 74th and 81st minutes before completing the third hat trick in Union history with an 85th-minute penalty kick. The 11-minute hat trick was tied for the eighth-fastest hat trick in league history.

This marks the eighth time in franchise history that a Union player has been named MLS Player of the Week. Ilsinho was the last to win it after the Brazilian scored twice against D.C. United last July.

The Union return to action against D.C. on Saturday at RFK Stadium (7 p.m., TCN).

Forgotten Marcus Epps makes most of rare opportunity in Union win

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Forgotten Marcus Epps makes most of rare opportunity in Union win

CHESTER, Pa. — He isn't the big-money, veteran scorer the Union expected to lead them out of their offensive rut, but 23-year-old Marcus Epps was exactly what the Union needed Saturday night.

"It's definitely a process," said Epps, who had a goal and two assists in the Union's 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake at Talen Energy Stadium. "You've just gotta keep your head down and keep working. And when you get moments like this, you've just gotta capitalize."

The second-year winger did just that. Epps buried the Union's opening goal off a Fafa Picault pass, then added a pair of secondary assists for good measure. For a team that managed only eight goals in the 10 matches leading up to Saturday, Epps was a difference-maker.

"We see quality, we see a good kid that wants to get better," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "We get excited when he gets on the ball. You can see how uncomfortable he can make it for defenders. We're incredibly proud of his persistence, his ability to keep going. He learned some big lessons and he's now getting the benefit of scoring big goals in front of a great crowd tonight."

Doubling his career production in one night, Epps, who had two goals and an assist in 22 games entering Saturday, started the season as low as fifth on the depth chart behind David Accam, Ilsinho, Picault and Fabian Herbers. 

Coming off a poor preseason, he didn't make the 18-man roster in the club's first seven games. 

"I knew it would come," Epps said, discussing this opportunity. "The coaching staff, they hold all the wingers in high regard. You can only just work on your game and believe in yourself and believe the chances are gonna come."

Picked 25th in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Epps earned his first start of the season last week in the form of a 75-minute, 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact. It was a roster rotation move for the Union, who were at the tail end of a three-game road swing. But against RSL, the coaches put faith in the youngster, starting him over Accam. 

"We had a long debate whether to stick with him or go back to David or Ilsinho, more experienced players," Curtin said. "But we believed in the kid, gave him an opportunity and he stepped up." 

Between his secondary assist on Borek Dockal's first-half score or his hold-up play that allowed Ilsinho to tap-in a second-half insurance tally, Epps made an impact at the perfect time for the Union. His teammates took notice. 

"I loved what I saw from him today," Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. "We talked all year about how we need to push everyone. No one is guaranteed a spot on this team, whether it's me as a captain or [Designated Player] or young guy. Everyone has to fight for a position. He's been knocking on the door all season and today he showed what he's capable of."

Union, Borek Dockal crush Real Salt Lake for 2nd straight win

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Union, Borek Dockal crush Real Salt Lake for 2nd straight win


CHESTER, Pa. — Make it two for the Union. 

With production from Borek Dockal and Marcus Epps, the Union claimed back-to-back wins for the first time this season by easily taking down Real Salt Lake, 4-1, on a foggy Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium. 

Putting together one of their best efforts of the season, the Union move to 4-5-2, while Real Salt Lake falls to a paltry 4-6-1. 

It looked like one of those snakebitten games for the Union attack in the 20th, when they pressed furiously but were solved by Nick Rimando, who made a strong diving stop on Keegan Rosenberry and then an equally impressive save on Fafa Picault’s rebound volley. 

But despite the early heroics, Rimando wasn’t able to stop Epps just a minute later. The Union found a speed mismatch with Picault against Adam Henley on the left wing and took full advantage, as he gained the box and ripped a low cross that was cleanly finished by Epps for the 1-0 Union lead. 

Rimando was still the best player on the field for RSL despite giving up four goals. He finished with five stops, many of which were eye-popping. The mercy rule would have been enacted without him. 

The 21st minute goal was Epps’ first of the season and third of his MLS career. He made the start for struggling David Accam, who is still scoreless in 10 games this season. Epps captured two assists as well. 

Dockal kept the Union momentum rolling in the 34th, when, off the rush, he accepted a smooth lead pass from Alejandro Bedoya and gently lifted his top-of-the-box shot over Rimando to double the Union’s advantage. 

It was a deserved reward for Dockal, who was arguably the best Union player in the first half. It was his second goal in 10 games. He also added two assists for two goals and four helpers on the season. 

Despite being dominated early, RSL didn’t go home empty-handed. The visitors got one back in the 65th, when a scramble in the box allowed Sebastian Saucedo to find Damir Kreilach at the top of the box for the easy low-shot goal, to cut into the Union’s lead, 2-1.

But the Union didn’t panic. Off the rush in the 74th minute, Epps dropped a pass to Dockal that sprung the newcomer in alone with Rimando. Instead of ripping a shot, Dockal chipped a center pass to Ilsinho for the easy tap-in. It was his second of the season. 

Piling on, Rosenberry decided to show off in the 81st, when he fired off a golazo from way outside the box. The rocket shot slipped through defenders and beat Rimando clean for the 4-1 Union lead. It was Rosenberry’s first goal in his last 25 games.

While it was a convincing win, if the Union want three-in-a-row, it won’t come easy. The club hits the road once against on Saturday to take on the 6-3-0 New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.