Union

Well-rounded Chris Pontius embraces 'provider' status with Union

Well-rounded Chris Pontius embraces 'provider' status with Union

CHESTER, Pa. -- It’s been a productive week for Chris Pontius. 

Prior to getting engaged Sunday, the Union attacker notched a key assist in Saturday’s win against his former club, D.C. United. He followed that up Wednesday with two primary helpers in a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo at Talen Energy Stadium.

“You can’t write it up any better,” Pontius said. “Things came pretty fast. Very, very happy right now.”

Although Pontius is happy about his production, it’s not expected. With a pair of assists Wednesday — a cross-box loft for the Fafa Picault header and centering drive for Ilsinho’s first of the season, the adept goalscorer, who led the Union with 12 goals in 2016, tied his career high in assists with six on the season. It also ties him with Alex for second in MLS in assists.

“Chris has always just been a solid, all-around soccer player,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “He has a knack in front of the goal, whether it’s to get goals or assists.”

So what changed for Pontius? He switched positions. Pontius had no goals and one assist in six games from the left side of the Union’s attack. But after moving to the right against the Montreal Impact on April 22, he still has no goals but the veteran has cashed in five assists in his last five games. 

“I think last year, whether it was Ilsinho or [Fabian] Herbers out on the right and dishing, we tend to find a little more space out wide,” Pontius said. “The guys on the left or the center are going to be the finishers. I’m happy being the provider.” 

Over that span, the Union are 3-0-2 and have outscored their opposition, 12-3. They are riding three-consecutive wins, which they’ve only done twice before in team history and have four-straight shutouts, a club record.

“He had a slow start to the year statistically but still was doing the work,” Curtin said. “Now you’re starting to see balls bounce his way. He made some really good decisive final passes tonight, he also did that against D.C. He’s confident now, a guy you can lean on and trust because he’s been through the battles. He’s playing very well right now, and happy with how he’s performing.”

Regardless of how it happens, Pontius is enjoying the success.

“There’s no better feeling than what we’re going through right now,” he said. “After a rough start, we’ve posted four shutouts in a row, three wins in a row and we have another home game this weekend, so it’s a good feeling right now. We’ve turned things around pretty quickly.”

Union pick up first point of season, tie Atlanta United

usa_leandro_gonzalez_pirez_alejandro_bedoya_ray_gaddis_atlanta_united_union.jpg
USA Today Images

Union pick up first point of season, tie Atlanta United

BOX SCORE 

ATLANTA — Ezequiel Barco came on in the 67th minute and scored three minutes later to help Atlanta United tie the Philadelphia Union 1-1 on Sunday night.

Defending champion Atlanta used a series of quick passes to move to ball from the left to the right side where Julian Gressel first-timed a high entry and Barco side-netted a header inside the far post.

Brenden Aaronson, an 18-year-old homegrown making his MLS debut, ripped a right-footer that, as it went through the legs of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, deflected off the defender's leg past goalkeeper Brad Guzan to give Philadelphia the lead in the 47th minute.

Atlanta had 71.4-percent possession — finishing with 669 passes compared to just 267 by the Union — but came up empty on a handful of chances. Josef Martinez, who set an MLS record with 31 goals last season, missed wide left on a shot early in the second half and later had his bicycle shot stopped by goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Marco Fabian given red card as Union lose to Sporting Kansas City

usa_andre_blake_jack_elliott_union.jpg
USA Today Images

Marco Fabian given red card as Union lose to Sporting Kansas City

BOX SCORE 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Ilie Sanchez scored on a penalty kick in the 11th minute, Tim Melia saved a penalty kick and Sporting Kansas City beat the Philadelphia Union 2-0 on Sunday.

Sporting KC also picked up an own goal off Union defender Jack Elliott in the 80th minute.

Melia's save came late in the first half when he dove to his right to stop Marco Fabian. Fabian, who scored the Union's only goal on a penalty in their season opener, was given a red card in the 60th.

Melia, who made four saves for his 40th career shutout in the regular season, has eight saves in 20 penalty kicks, three more PK saves than any other active MLS goalkeeper. Melia also punched away a shot from Cory Burke early in the second half.

Just after Fabian was sent off, Sporting KC's Graham Zusi sent a free kick from just outside the box off the bar. The clinching goal came when Gerso Fernandes sent a cross out front that went off Elliott, leaving keeper Andre Blake no chance.

Both teams lost their opener.