Union

Union-Fire thoughts: Union playing for pride as they host potent Fire

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Union-Fire thoughts: Union playing for pride as they host potent Fire

Union (8-12-9)  vs. Fire (14-9-6)
7 p.m. on TCN

Home for the first time in over a month, the Union will rely on that home cooking to try and break up a six-game winless run as they host Nemanja Nikolic and the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

Here are five things to know:

What to play for
With five matches remaining in the season for the Union, miles from the playoff picture and sitting five points from the bottom of the Eastern Conference, motivation is scarce. But according to Union manager Jim Curtin, his club has two reasons to show up Saturday and compete.

“We're playing for pride and we’re playing for positions for next season," Curtin said. "There's still a lot on the line in that regard. Pride plays a big role as professional athletes. You have to look yourself in the mirror and realize this year wasn't good enough. I think we know that. Now, you're playing for positions on the team next year.”

Expected to go on a shopping spree in the offseason, the Union will use the final five matches to evaluate talent, especially when things get tough. Of the bubble players, Curtin wants to know which players are willing to fight for the badge with nothing to play for.

He also wants some momentum.

“We have had guys who have had good seasons and we need them to continue that,” Curtin said. “Any positive momentum you can take has to be with wins. I think that will really build equity back in the fanbase and confidence in the group. How you finish is still very important.”

Elevated Creavalle
Since beating out Derrick Jones to replace suspended Alejandro Bedoya on Sept. 9 against Minnesota United, midfielder Warren Creavalle has forced himself onto the field with strong play. Even with Bedoya’s return last Sunday, Creavalle found himself coming off the bench for a solid 45 minutes.

“Warren falls into the category of a guy who could be pretty frustrated with the minutes he received this year,” Curtin said. “But when he was called upon, he really stepped up and did a good job for us.”

Creavalle has done such a good job in the midfield that Curtin, notoriously stubborn with formation changes, is kicking around the idea of adding Creavalle as the more defensive player in a triangle with Haris Medunjanin and Bedoya, freeing up both players to take chances. 

Curtin hinted we could see that change as early as Saturday.

“It’s something, moving forward, where we can invert that triangle and have Warren there with Ale and Haris, so when we have the ball it gives other teams a different look,” Curtin said. “It’s something you could see down the stretch, it plays to their skillsets a little bit. 

Fire on fire
Saturday will be a tale of teams headed in different directions. While the Union haven’t won in six tries, the Fire, who are 3-7-4 away from home this season, haven’t lost in their last three. 

“They are a very confident team right now,” Curtin said. ‘They have a strong group of attacking players.”

But that doesn’t mean the Fire, who will be without seven players, including Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho on Saturday, are overlooking the Union. Sitting third in the East with 48 points, the Fire, led by Nikolic's 18 goals, are three behind New York City FC and 14 behind league-leading Toronto FC.

“Being second is better than third always, and being first is better than anyone else,” Fire manager and former Union player Veljko Paunovic told the media. “Right now we have to chase second place. We don’t know what will happen so we have to do our job. We're looking at who is our next opponent and preparing the team every possible way.”

That makes the match against the Union a crucial one for the Fire’s playoff outlook.

“Until we get there mathematically and get the best possible spot, we’re approaching our next game,” Paunovic said. “In this case, Philly on Saturday is very, very important. We have to put everything we have there and try to get three points.”

Keep an eye on …
Andre Blake: Coming off one of the best outings of the season, an eight-save scoreless draw with New York Red Bulls, Blake was the star of the night. If the Fire want three points against the Union, they’ll have to get through a red-hot Blake first.

Dax McCarty: The veteran midfielder doesn’t put up the points needed to jump off the page but he’s an important cog in the Fire machine. "Everyone will always talk about their attack, but I think the key acquisition in the offseason was Dax," Curtin said. "I think Dax is a really good player in our league, a two-way player. His passing doesn't get enough credit. He's been their most important guy.”

This and that
• The Union are 6-7-5 against the Fire all time and 4-2-2 at Talen Energy Stadium.

• Union defender Josh Yaro (knee sprain) and midfielder Ilsinho (Achilles tendinitis) are both listed as questionable for Saturday's match.

• Union center back Richie Marquez made his first start in nearly five months Sunday. Though the club will likely go back to either Oguchi Onyewu or Josh Yaro, Curtin liked what he saw from Marquez. “I thought two guys had performances that were at the level they would expect and above,” Curtin said. “Andre was one of those guys and Richie was the other. He’s a true professional and deserves a lot of credit. He had a solid performance.”

• Although Fire coach Paunovic played one season with the Union in 2011, the experience made an impression. "I loved the time I was there," he said. "They really made me feel at home, it was fantastic. It was a special time for me."

MLS is Back Tournament 2020: Bracket, schedule, standings, odds, how to watch Union vs. Timbers

MLS is Back Tournament 2020: Bracket, schedule, standings, odds, how to watch Union vs. Timbers

Major League Soccer was the first men's American professional sports league to make its return during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the MLS Is Back Tournament kicking off July 8 at Walt Disney World.

It's a unique tournament that will set up the eventual MLS regular season, but there's a lot more on the line than just a warmup as the teams fight for a 2021 Concacaf Champions League spot.

Below, you can find a detailed walkthrough of the tournament so far -- including the hopes of the local side, the Philadelphia Union, who are on to the semifinals so far.   

What does the tournament look like? What are the key dates?

Here's a rundown of the tournament format. All games take place on the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

- First a group stage, then knockout rounds
- The group stage counts toward regular season points
- Tournament winner earns a 2021 Concacaf Champions League spot
- The regular season continues after tournament

And here are the key dates remaining. We're currently in the semifinals of the knockout stage after the group stage and the completion of the Round of 16 and quarterfinals.

- August 5-6: Semifinals
- August 11: Final

How do I watch the games?

Games are broadcast on a mixture of ESPN, TSN (Canada), TUDN (en español), FOX, FS1, TVA Sports (en français), and the respective ESPN, TSN, FOX Sports, TUDN, and TVA Sports apps, along with a few games being broadcast on Twitter.

MORE: Union honor Black victims of police violence with jersey names

Can I see the bracket?

Round of 16

Orlando City SC 1, Montreal Impact 0
July 25 - 8 p.m. ET

Philadelphia Union 1, New England Revolution 0
July 25 - 10:30 p.m. ET

NYCFC 3, Toronto FC 1
July 26 - 8:30 p.m. ET

Sporting Kansas City 0, Vancouver Whitecaps 0
SKC advances 3-1 on penalty kicks
July 26 - 11 p.m. ET

San Jose Earthquakes 5, Real Salt Lake 2
July 27 - 8:30 p.m. ET

LAFC 4, Seattle Sounders 1
July 27 - 11 p.m. ET

Minnesota United 1, Columbus Crew 1
Minnesota advances 5-3 on penalty kicks
July 28 - 8 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers 1, FC Cincinnati 1
Portland advances 4-2 on penalty kicks
July 28 - 10:30 p.m. ET

Quarterfinals

Philadelphia Union 3, Sporting Kansas City 1
July 30 - 8 p.m. ET | ESPN

Orlando City 1, LAFC 1
Orlando City advances 5-4 on penalty kicks
July 31 - 7:30 p.m. ET | FS1

Minnesota United 4, San Jose Earthquakes 1
August 1 - 8 p.m. ET | ESPN2

Portland Timbers 3, NYCFC 1
August 1 - 10:30 p.m. ET | FS1

Semifinals

Philadelphia Union vs. Portland Timbers
August 5 - 8 p.m. ET | FS1

Orlando City vs. Minnesota United 
August 6 - 8 p.m. ET| ESPN

Final

Philadelphia/Portland vs. Orlando/Minnesota
August 11 - 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

What's up with the Union?

The Union will face off against the Portland Timbers on Aug. 5. They defeated New England in the Round of 16, and Sporting Kansas City in the quarterfinals. They defeated Inter Miami and New York City FC in the group stage, and played to a draw against Orlando City SC. Philadephia finished second in Group A as a result, losing the top spot to Orlando based on goal differential. 

How did the group stage finish? 

Six groups were determined during a draw on June 10. FC Dallas and Nashville SC were forced to drop out due to COVID-19 concerns. Below is the final group stage table. Teams designated with an X advanced to the knockout stage. The top two teams from each group advanced, as well as four wild card teams. 

Group A

  1. x-Orlando City SC - 7 pts, 2-0-1, goal differential of 3
  2. x-Philadelphia Union - 7 pts, 2-0-1, goal differential of 2
  3. x-New York City FC - 3 pts, 1-2-0
  4. Inter Miami CF - 0 pts, 0-3-0

Group B

  1. x-San Jose Earthquakes - 7 pts, 2-0-1
  2. x-Seattle Sounders FC - 4 pts, 1-1-1
  3. x-Vancouver Whitecaps FC - 3 pts, 1-2-0, goal differential of -2
  4. Chicago Fire FC - 3 pts, 1-2-0, goal differential of -3

Group C

  1. x-Toronto FC - 5 pts, 1-0-2, goal differential of 1, 6 goals for
  2. x-New England Revolution - 5 pts, 1-0-2, goal differential of 1, 2 goals for
  3. x-Montreal Impact - 3 pts, 1-2-0
  4. D.C. United - 2 pts, 0-1-2

Group D

  1. x-Sporting Kansas City - 6 pts, 2-1-0
  2. x-Minnesota United FC - 5 pts, 1-0-2
  3. x-Real Salt Lake - 4 pts, 1-1-1
  4. Colorado Rapids - 1 pt, 0-2-1

Group E

  1. x-Columbus Crew FC - 9 pts, 3-0-0
  2. z-FC Cincinnati - 6 pts, 2-1-0
  3. New York Red Bulls - 3 pts, 1-2-0
  4. Atlanta United FC - 0 pts, 0-3-0

Group F

  1. x-Portland Timbers - 7 pts, 2-0-1
  2. x-Los Angeles Football Club - 5 pts, 1-0-2
  3. Houston Dynamo - 2 pts, 0-1-2
  4. LA Galaxy - 1 pt, 0-2-1

 

Who are the best bets to win?

Here are the most recent odds to win the tournament, from DraftKings Sportsbook: 

Orlando City SC: +210
Portland Timbers: +240
Philadelphia Union: +250
Minnesota United FC: +270

Are fans allowed at games?

Because of safety protocols and restrictions put in place to keep players safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, fans are not allowed at games.

Philadelphia Union honor Black victims of police brutality with amazing jersey nod

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@PhilaUnion/Twitter

Philadelphia Union honor Black victims of police brutality with amazing jersey nod

The Philadelphia Union returned to action Thursday morning in the MLS is Back Tournament, the first game since June's nationwide protests against police brutality and institutional racism.

In what ESPN's commentators suggested was an unexpected move, the Union revealed their Black Lives Matter shirts to reveal jerseys bearing the names of Black men, women, boys, and girls who were killed by police. 

Here's a look at the team's jerseys:

MORE: Everything you need to know about the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament

And here's a list of the Black lives the players honored:

No. 3 Jack Elliott: Eric Garner

No. 4 Mark McKenzie: Tamir Rice

No. 22 Brenden Aaronson: Tyree Crawford

No. 13 Cole Turner: Freddie Gray

No. 15 Olivier Mbaizo: India Kager

No. 27 Kai Wagner: Laquan McDonald

No. 12 Joe Bendik: Justus Howell

No. 5 Jakob Glesnes: Ronell Foster

No. 8 Jose Martinez: Tony Robinson

No. 10 Jamiro Monteiro: Alton Sterling

No. 28 Raymon Gaddis: Breanna Taylor

No. 32 Matt Real: Lamontez Jones

No. 14 Jack de Vries: Willie Tillman

No. 25 Ilsinho: Philando Castile

No. 21 Anthony Fontana: Natasha McKenna

No. 1 Matt Freese: Sandra Bland

No. 11 Alejandro Bedoya: Walter Scott

No. 24 Matej Oravec:  John Crawford III

No. 78 Aurelien Collin: Alteria Woods

No. 18 Andre Blake: George Floyd

No. 23 Kacper Przybylko: Michael Brown

No. 2 Warren Creavalle: Elijah McClain

The names were accompanied by messages on the bottoms of the jerseys, including "One name too many" and "Todos somos iguales", Spanish for "We are all equals".

The Union also created a custom armband for captain Alejandro Bedoya to wear, bearing the names of Black victims of police brutality:

The MLS returned to play Wednesday. The tournament is scheduled to run until August 11.

Elsewhere, the English Premier League wore the phrase "Black Lives Matter" in place of last names on players' jerseys when the league returned last month.

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