Union

Union-Fire Thoughts: Veterans fighting for jobs as unsuccessful season winds down

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Union-Fire Thoughts: Veterans fighting for jobs as unsuccessful season winds down

Union (10-13-9) at Chicago Fire (15-10-7)
5 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia+

The season that will seemingly never end for the Union continues Sunday in Chicago at Toyota Park when they take on the Fire in the penultimate game of the 2017 season.

Officially ejected from postseason contention over the international break, the Union will need to find some type of motivation to avoid being embarrassed by the playoff-bound Fire, who are still jockeying for playoff position.

Here are some thoughts on the game:

• Officially removed from postseason contention, the Union will face the Fire on Sunday in a meaningless match. But with an offseason expected to usher in significant roster change, Union manager Jim Curtin has put it bluntly: these guys are playing for jobs.

“We recognize we’re out of the playoffs now,” he said. “Which is tough for the group, but we’re still using these 90 minutes to evaluate players and get better.”

Keep an eye on Roland Alberg, Chris Pontius and Oguchi Onyewu. The three players could all be goners by the start of 2018 and could bolster their stock with a productive finish.

• Although the Union will ultimately finish 2017 with their heads down, they are ending the regular season relatively strong. The Union are 2-1-3 in their last six games, including wins over the Fire and Seattle Sounders and three draws on the road.

“It’s not an easy game for us, Philly is a good team,” said Fire midfielder Dax McCarty. “I think they were a little unfortunate to go through a tough season this year.”

• But outside of those three hard-fought road draws, the Union have been putrid away from Talen Energy Stadium this season, going 1-9-6 entering Sunday’s match. It’s been one of the primary reasons the club has suffered another awful season.

• Win, lose or draw on Sunday, with only nine points on the road in 2017, the Union will finish with the lowest road point total in franchise history since MLS added four games to the schedule in 2011.  The 2010 expansion team only managed seven points, going 2-12-1.

“Going on the road has been our struggle this year,” Curtin said. “It’s been our challenge.”

• The Union’s road struggles could prove costly against a team that plays exceptionally well at home. The Fire are 11-2-3 at Toyota Park this season, outscoring the opposition by a 38-12 margin. It’s the Fire’s final match at home this season, giving them added incentive to perform.

• If anger breeds determination, the Union will have something going for them Sunday. Both Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin were called up for World Cup qualifiers over the last two weeks and both players suffered through losses that ended their country’s hopes at a World Cup trip.

Despite scoring a rare goal, Medunjanin and Bosnia and Herzegovina lost to Belgium but defeated Estonia. Bedoya’s U.S. Men’s National Team took down Panama but had its spirits crushed by Trinidad and Tobago.

• Revenge will be on the minds of the Fire. On Sept. 23 at Talen Energy Stadium, the Union dominated the Fire, as Pontius scored twice and C.J. Sapong added the insurance. Luis Solignac scored the lone goal for the visitors in what was a lopsided match.

“They had a gameplan against us, to sit back and counter-attack us,” McCarty said. “I would imagine we’re going to see the same thing, so it’ll be on us to move the ball quicker. We need good movement and rotations behind their midfield.”

• Relatively healthy, the Union will be without Fabian Herbers, Maurice Edu and Ken Tribbett, who are all out for Sunday. Warren Creavalle and Josh Yaro are questionable.

• On the other side, the Fire are banged up. Although Bastian Schweinsteiger is questionable with a thigh injury, John Goossens, Jorge Bava, Daniel Johnson, Christian Dean, Juninho and Michael de Leeuw are all out.

• If the Union want a chance against the Fire, they will have to neutralize forward Nemanja Nikolic, who has a ridiculous 21 goals in 32 games this season. That’s including five goals and an assist in his last five matches. He’s on fire right now.

“He’s a good player and one of the top scorers in the league,” Elliott said. “We’ll have to get tight with him near the box and prevent his opportunities.”

• What makes Sunday’s match so important for the Fire is that it could change where they land in the postseason picture. Right now, the club is fourth in the East but could finish as low as fifth or as high as second.

“We did our jobs, so now we have to build good momentum for the playoffs,” said Fire coach and former Union player Veljko Paunovic. “We have a great opportunity. Playing at home, after a break, it’ll be a fantastic opportunity for us to get three points.”

• Despite an awful season from their parent club, the Bethlehem Steel, the Union's USL affiliate, have qualified for the playoffs in just their sophomore campaign. Currently holding the eighth and final position with a 12-12-7 record, the Steel will face Saint Louis FC in the regular season finale on Sunday to determine playoff seeding.

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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