Union

Youthful Union crush Kickers in U.S. Open Cup debut

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Youthful Union crush Kickers in U.S. Open Cup debut

CHESTER, Pa. — Behind a youthful roster that featured Anthony Fontana, Marcis Epps, Matt Real and Derrick Jones, the Union easily topped USL’s Richmond Kickers on Tuesday, 5-0, at Talen Energy Stadium in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.

The win advances the Union to the Round of 16, which takes place on June 20, or earlier depending on a flex schedule. They will find out their competition and whether they will host the next game following a regional draw on Thursday. 

• The Kickers entered Tuesday’s sparsely populated match sitting 14th in the USL’s Eastern Conference at 3-6-1. They defeated Reading United in PKs, then took down Penn FC, 3-2, in late May to advance to Talen Energy Stadium. That’s where their road ended.

• It took less than five minutes for the Union to claim the lead, when center back Jack Elliott easily fired home a redirection of a cross from Haris Medunjanin. Although it came easy for the big man, it wasn’t a typical sight, as Elliott scored only once last season.

• David Accam, who has had a nightmarish season in MLS, set his club up for success in the 27th minute, feeding a lead pass to Cory Burke. In a race for the ball, Burke was clipped by goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg for the penalty kick. 

• Making his way to the spot, Accam lined up and powered it in for his first goal of 2018 and first with the Union. He celebrated in relief as the hosts took the 2-0 advantage.

• Fontana made it 3-0, when he snagged a Kickers’ turnover and moved into the box. Looking to shoot the entire time, he ripped a shot through Spangenberg. That’s two 2018 starts and two goals for the local product. He also graduates high school on Friday.

• The youth brigade continued for the Union when Epps followed Fontana with a pretty goal of his own. Moving down the right side of the box, he dropped his defender before cutting left and giving his club the 4-0 lead at half.

• The Union’s in-house web stream for the game failed to launch, which is probably a fortunate thing for the Kickers, who were dismantled. Four goals is the most the Union have ever scored in a half in the Open Cup.

• Moving into the second half, Jones made a nice goal-line feed to Jay Simpson, who entered at the half for Burke, for the Union’s fifth. It was a doghouse goal for the Union, as both players have been lost in the Union’s sea of depth in 2018.

• In the 62nd minute, 18-year-old Michee Ngalina made his Union debut, subbing in for Epps. The Bethlehem Steel winger was acquired in April. His highlight? He missed a wide-open header, chipping it wide. 

• John McCarthy grabbed the clean sheet for the Union. He’s been the go-to Union goalkeeper in the Open Cup the last couple years and has played well. He made one save.

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.”