Union

Union finally add a dangerous and dedicated playmaker

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Union finally add a dangerous and dedicated playmaker

It’s been over a year since the Union fielded a dangerous and dedicated playmaker in the midfield. On Wednesday, that vacancy was filled with a designated player.

The Union officially inked 29-year-old attacking midfielder Borek Dockal on loan from Chinese Super League side Henan Jianye. 

“When we set out to identify targets for our No. 10 position that would be a good fit within our system and parameters," Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said in a statement. "Borek stood out as a leading candidate from the very beginning.”

Dockal joined the team for the late preseason in Florida and was at Union practice earlier this week at Talen Energy Stadium. But paperwork delays forced the club to hold off the announcement. The length of the loan, which will occupy an international roster spot, is undetermined at this time and terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

“This deal took time and patience to complete and we are excited to welcome him to Philadelphia,” Stewart said.

Dockal isn’t currently with the team as he sorts out visa issues, which makes him questionable for Saturday’s match against New England at Talen Energy Stadium. Anthony Fontana is expected to start as the No. 10 if Dockal can’t.

“He wants to play a role in the match this weekend, but we have to do what’s best when everything is finalized and he’s back with the team,” manager Jim Curtin said. “There’s always a process of getting guys along. Anthony Fontana has been excellent in training and I’m happy with where he’s at.”

Dockal’s résumé is impressive. Once captain of the Czech Republic U-21 team, Dockal has made 27 appearances for the Czech national team. On the club side, he captured 30 goals and 51 assists from 2013 through 2017 with Sparta Prague before heading to China, where he made a quick exit.

“We talked about a No. 10 that is a volume guy, a guy that’s on the ball a lot but also makes everyone around him better,” Curtin said. “We feel like we checked that box. It’s an exciting day for the club. The addition of a player of this pedigree and quality is something that will make us stronger over 34 games.”

On paper, Dockal is an instant upgrade for the Union, who feature an already dangerous attack but were desperate for a consistent No. 10 playmaker.

The key to this acquisition will be how the newcomer meshes with left wing David Accam and forward C.J. Sapong. The two powerhouse finishers could benefit greatly from a dedicated attack-minded playmaker.

“We’re happy,” Curtin said. “To sign a player that makes all individuals around him better it’s something that we need and something that we now have. It adds to what C.J. Sapong does, it adds to what David Accam does, it improves Fafa [Picault], [Alejandro] Bedoya. Haris [Medunjanin] now, with his passing ability, it’s to a guy who can make a final pass in a tight space.” 

Union stun Fire in 95th minute on David Occam's buzzer-beater

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Union stun Fire in 95th minute on David Occam's buzzer-beater

BOX SCORE

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- David Accam scored in the 95th minute, and Cory Burke had two goals to help the Philadelphia Union beat the Chicago Fire 4-3 on Wednesday night.

Accam dribbled through a pair of Chicago defenders and sent home a right-footed shot just inside the left post for his first goal of the season. His game-winner came a minute after the Fire appeared to have salvaged a draw with Bastian Schweinsteiger heading home Diego Campos' corner.

Burke scored on a rebound in the 73rd minute that made it 3-2 for the Union (7-9-3) and a header at the end of first-half stoppage time that made it 2-1.

Aleksandar Katai made it 2-all for the Fire (6-9-5) in the 69th minute with a low hard shot that skipped twice into the far corner.

Nemanja Nikolic tied it at 1 for Chicago in the 39th minute, powering a penalty kick past goalkeeper Andre Blake. Mark McKenzie brought Katai down at the left corner of the penalty area to send Nikolic to the spot.

Haris Medunjanin opened the scoring for Philadelphia in the 31st minute, pouncing on a defensive miscue and finishing with the outside of his foot.

Union staggered by inability to finish vs. Atlanta United

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Union staggered by inability to finish vs. Atlanta United

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — With four losses in their last five games, the Union are reeling.

Their latest setback, a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Josef Martinez and Atlanta United on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium, was a highlight show of recent problems for the club. 

“We kicked ourselves in the foot,” said Union attacker Fafa Picault. “Didn’t do our job.”

It was a common tale for the 2018 Union, that had less to do with the competition than the Union’s inability to produce. Generate chances? Check. Fail to finish? Check. The Union registered 18 shots, 16 crosses and five corners, but had nothing to show for it. 

“That’s our problem,” said Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin, whose club has lost to Atlanta twice, Toronto FC and LAFC in recent games. “If we don’t score the first goal then we will struggle. That’s what happened today.”

The second-lowest-scoring team in MLS and lowest scoring team in the Eastern Conference has struggled to get those early goals, shutout nine times in 18 games. It’s been a grind for the troubled Union, who were impressive at times against the best team in MLS on Saturday, but are now 6-9-3 on the season. 

“This is frustrating,” Medunjanin said. “It’s important to score the goal and win games. We didn’t do that. We need to stick together.” 

It hasn’t been a blameless struggle. Forward C.J. Sapong, who signed an extension through 2019 back in March, scored a career-high 16 goals last year but has just two in 16 games this season. As a consistent starter, he’s been the poster player for the team’s inability to score.

“I chose C.J. to start,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “There was going to be fingers pointed at him after the game if we didn’t. We’re a team. We win as a team. We lose as a team. 

“He’s having a tough time scoring, that’s what he’s going to be judged on,” he said. “Fair or unfair, that’s the life of a striker. He’s still a guy I believe in.”

But fixing Sapong wouldn’t solve all of the Union’s woes. Left winger Picault only has three goals and right winger David Accam, who has been relegated to bench duty, has none in a combined 30 games. 

Even the Union's most productive player has struggled. Minutes into the second half, Alejandro Bedoya did the work to get around the Atlanta defenders and gain an edge on the right side. He placed a perfect pass into the seam for Borek Dockal, who saw his one-touch chip flew high over the net. 

Moments later, Atlanta took the lead. 

“When we arrive there in the box, we need to be sharper, all of us,” Medunjanin said. “We need to learn that because in soccer it’s about small things. If you score the first goal it would have been much easier for us, but we didn’t do it and we lost a game that we could have won.”