Union head into showdown with NYRB filled with confidence


The Union had a very good weekend and a good mid-week international friendly. First, goalkeeper Andre Blake and defender Keegan Rosenberry were named to the MLS all-star fan XI, and dominated rivals DC United 3-0 last Saturday evening. Then, they played the English Premier League’s Crystal Palace to a 0-0 draw. Philadelphia saw the majority of their injured players return to full strength on the weekend. CJ Sapong got his first start since the beginning of June. Rookie Fabian Herbers was back in his normal super-sub role. Sebastian Le Toux also featured a week after getting a concussion. The Union’s health helped propel them past DC. The Union’s Youth was a factor against Palace in the mid-week friendly, and the youth looks good. Players who have not gotten significant playing time featured in this one, and kept the rusty Palace team scoreless. These results have the Union riding high.

Coming into the game against DC United, The Union had lost three of their last four league games. The team were on a losing streak for the first time in 2016 and the DC game loomed large. United had put together a run of three games unbeaten, and they acquired dangerous attacker Lloyd Sam from the Red Bulls early in the week. on paper it looked like a streaking DC team would beat this slumping Union team, but that was not the case.

The Union started the game hungry. They attacked DC, and in the twentieth minute their attacking payed off. Chris Pontius ran at his former teammate Kofi Opare. Opare backed off, and Pontius pushed the ball by him into the box. Opare stuck his leg out to try to hit the ball away, but it was too late. He clipped Pontius’ leg in the box, a yellow was shown to Opare, and Philadelphia was awarded a Penalty kick. Roland Alberg stepped to the spot to take it. one on one against keeper Bill Hamid, the whistle blew. Alberg started his run towards the ball, and stutter stepped, causing Hamid to lean to the left. Alberg then smartly slotted the ball to the right corner of the goal. The Union led 1-0, but kept pushing for another goal.

Fifteen minutes later the Union were still dominating the game, and the ball came to Ilsinho on the edge of the box one on one with Marcelo Sarvas. The Brazilian’s fancy footwork got past the United player, but Sarvas decided to try to body Ilshino off the ball. This did not work, he fouled Ilsinho instead, and the Union had another penalty. After some discussion with Alberg, Ilsinho got to take the kick. His approach was different from Alberg’s. He stepped up and hit the ball as hard as he could at Hamid’s left. The ball slid right under the outstretched arm of the keeper and the Union led 2-0. This was just the beginning of Ilsinho’s great game that helped him win MLS player of the week honors.

Ilsinho scored agin in this match, and it was the only goal of the game that didn’t come from the spot. Early in the second half Philadelphia earned a free kick about twenty-five yards from goal. Alberg sent the corner into the box. CJ Sapong won the ball and headed it back to the middle of the box. Ilshino came flying in unmarked and hit the ball first time. He caught the ball perfectly and it flew past Hamid into the net. The Union had a 3-0 lead, and continued to dominate the game.

In the sixty-fifth minute Pontius ran past Opare again; the DC defender’s tackle was late. The tackle sent Pontius skywards, and earned Opare a second yellow and a sending off. The Union then cruised to victory. Creavalle, Le Toux, and Herbers made sub appearances, and Blake only had to make one outstanding save to keep the clean sheet. The Union took the three points and with the win moved to 29 points on the season, one point behind Current leaders NYCFC in the east. The major takeaway from this game was the dominant return of CJ Sapong. His hold up play and smarts in the air, allowed the Union midfielders to get into dangerous positions. That is something the Union really missed in his absence. With the three points the Union looked to prepare for another rivalry game, this one at home against New York Red Bulls.

In the middle of preparing for a huge match against Red Bulls, where first place will be on the line, the Union played an international friendly against Crystal Palace. Palace is in their pre-season. They came to the states to play the Union and some other American teams to prepare for their upcoming season. The Union treated this game as a way for all of their players, and two Bethlehem Steel players to get some time against a good English side. And that is just what happened.

The Union played twenty-one different players on Wednesday night. It was the debut for rookies Taylor Washington, and Cole Missimo, and Bethlehem Steel players Derrick Jones, and Ryan Richter. John McCarthy, and Matt Jones shined in net for the Union as they stifled all of Palace’s six shots. Andre Blake, Chris Pontius, Ilsinho, and Tranquillo Barnetta got the night off to rest for the Red Bull game this coming Sunday. This game was one where the best players on the night were Union players, but not the normal Union standouts.

This game was all about the youth that the Union have. Cole Missimo, and Derrick Jones especially. They came in in the second half and looked dominant. Missimo ran the right flank, took players on 1 v 1, and beat them; sometimes doing so with a little flair. Derrick Jones looked good too, he was playing in the number eight role and  locked down the center of the field. He looked good when moving forward, creating some good combination play with those around him. This was a monumental debut for Jones, and the club as well. Jones was a Union academy player who signed for Bethlehem Steel right after finishing with the academy, and now is getting first team looks. These youngsters played well against a rusty, but good Crystal palace side.

The Best attacking players for Palace were newly acquired English national team player Andros Townsend, and speedster Wilfred Zaha. Townsend had some good crosses in the first half and created good chances in the first half, but they all came to nothing. Zaha was frustrated all throughout the second half. The best play of the night was Zaha vs Gaddis. Zaha had Gaddis one on one, and tried to beat Gaddis, but the Union defender was not having any of it. Gaddis stayed with him, won the ball from him, and then beat Zaha back down the line. Zaha also tried to beat Marquez to a loose ball down the line, but that did not work either. All in all it was a great night for the in form Union, and a lackluster night for a Palace team that was not at full speed yet. Check out some match highlights here:

The Union are riding high going into this weekend’s game against New York Red Bulls. They will need to stay sharp if the want to keep their good form going. The Red Bulls will be looking for revenge against this Union team that beat them in the fifth round of the US Open Cup. New York did just get their first win since June 19th beating Orlando City 2-0, and now have their site set at the top of the east. A win for NYRB would put them tied with NYCFC with 30 points ahead of their NY derby match next week. Let’s hope our boys in blue beat the Deadbulls so Philadelphia can reclaim the top of the east, and take away from both New York’s.



Photo credit: Philadelphia Union/Sideline Photos