Union couldn't have asked for better season opener

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Union couldn't have asked for better season opener


CHESTER, Pa. — Delaware product Anthony Fontana opened his club’s 2018 account and C.J. Sapong piled on, as the Union rolled over the shorthanded New England Revolution, 2-0, on a frigid Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

The lopsided victory, in which the Union played up a man for much of the match, was just the club’s second opening-day win in nine tries. The Union beat the Houston Dynamo off a Danny Califf goal in 2011. They are now 2-4-3 all-time in openers.

The Union improve to 1-0-0, while the Revolution fall to 0-1-0.

• Fontana, a Union youth player-turn-pro, made his first-ever appearance with the Union Saturday. After earning the starting job during the preseason, the Newark, Delaware, native lined up at the No. 10 in place of newly signed designated player, Borek Dockal, who wasn’t quite ready to make the 18.

• Fontana, who is just 18, made the most of that opportunity in the 42nd minute when he placed home a ball from Sapong, who knocked down an Alejandro Bedoya cross. It was Fontana’s first MLS goal to put the Union up 1-0 at the half. The youngster, who showed a good feel for getting open, left the game in the 65th minute for Jay Simpson but left his stamp on the contest.

• The opening goal was set up by Sapong in more than one way. In the 24th minute, the forward launched ahead on a pseudo breakaway off a simple long ball. Just outside the box, outmatched Revs defender Antonio Mlinar Delamea flagrantly grabbed Sapong from behind to earn the easy red card ejection, putting the Union up a player.

• Looking for the elusive second goal, Union manager Jim Curtin went forward heavy. Very forward heavy. The manager pulled Fontana and Herbers out for forwards Simpson and Corey Burke in the 66th minute.

• Three minutes later, the aggressive move paid dividends. Burke beat his man on the right side of the box and slipped a light pass to Sapong for his first of the season and 2-0 Union lead.

• It was a red-card kind of night for the Revs, who suffered another one in the 86th minute. Claude Dielna simply couldn’t catch up to Corey Burke and hauled the Union forward down for his second yellow of the night. 

• It was a night of firsts for a handful of Union players. Along with Fontana, the match was first for Burke and Auston Trusty’s MLS debut.

• The Union outshot the Revs, 21-5, while Andre Blake earned the three-save shutout. It was the 18th of his career.

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.