It’s amazing what a difference a week can make! This time last week, the Union were coming off a 3-1 loss to Toronto. Philly was also were getting ready to play two games in four days. A 2-1 win at Columbus, and a 2-0 win over SKC at home have the Union back in the race for the top of the east.
The Union’s drafted rookies shined against Columbus, and their revelation of a signing, Roland Alberg, stole the show Saturday night. Needless to say the Union’s first year players are paying dividends this season. Herbers and Rosenberry’s goals against Columbus righted the ship for Philly after the Toronto game. Alberg’s stunner of a goal, and set up for the second, against Sporting Kansas City legitimized this Union team.
Kansas City and Philadelphia open the match with a lot of sloppy play. The first ten minutes the ball was chased around by both teams. There was no real flow to the match. After the first ten minutes, the Union found a stride. They had long spells of possession. In this possession they created four good chances to score. Crosses from Fabinho were in towards CJ Sapong, but he couldn’t find a way to finish. The Union also drew two very important yellow cards in the same minute.
In the 20th minute of play, Sporting Kansas City defender Jimmy Medranda received a yellow for this foul. His teammate, midfielder Roger Espinoza also picked a yellow for arguing the call with the ref. In the video clip, you can see how the ref doesn’t hesitate to give a card to Espinoza. The SKC player showed his disinterest to the referee’s decision. This likely factored into a later decision regarding Espinoza, but we’ll get into to that later.
Both teams went into the locker room scoreless, after a pretty inconsistent half of soccer. The second half start much like the first; a lot of back and forth, and chances that were not finished. Then the play that would change the trajectory of the game occurred. On a transition play Rosenberry was moving down the right sideline. The only that could respond to this threat was Jimmy Medranda. He pressured Rosenberry. The Union rookie played the ball past the SKC defender, and Medranda’s momentum carried him into Rosenberry. The Kansas City defender was shown a second yellow for the foul and was sent off! With the Union smelling the blood in the water, on came Roland Alberg.
Two minutes after coming on the Union’s outstanding Dutchman scored what could be the Union’s goal of the year. Fabinho started a break for the Union, and found Alberg with some space at the top of the eighteen. Roland took a beautiful first touch that set him up for a chance. With a defender closing him down, The Dutchman took the chance. He struck the ball beautifully, and curled it over the SKC’s keeper into the top corner of the net! The Union had the lead and controlled the game up a man and a goal.
For the next twenty minutes after the goal, the Union controlled the game. Alberg was key to this, and helped the Union contain the game even more. In the 86th minute Alberg drew a foul against Roger Espinoza. Alberg seemed to be elbowed in the chest by Espinoza. Since Espinoza and the referee had their dust-up early in the game, the ref did not hesitate to give him a straight red for “violent conduct.” I’m not saying that Espinoza didn’t foul Alberg, but there may have been some embellishment from the Dutchman; seen here. Union were now two men up, and would soon find their second goal.
Alberg continued to be a dangerous force for Philly, even up two men in stoppage time. He and Barnetta had a good bit of combination play outside of SKC’s box. This led to Alberg sliding the ball into the box to Barnetta. The Swiss international coolly placed the ball around the keeper, and the Union put a fork in Kansas City! The game ended a 2-0 win for Philly!
With the win, the Union became MLS’ highest scoring team in MLS. They also broke some club records in the process. Philly now has confidence, and momentum heading into their game against Chicago this coming Saturday. The Union will be shorthanded for their match this coming weekend, but not because of injury. Alejandro Bedoya got a call up for the US Men’s national teams World Cup qualifying games this Friday September 2nd, and next Tuesday September 6th. Andre Blake also got called up for Jamaica’s World Cup qualifying games. Both these players will miss only the Chicago match, and hope to both feature for their respected national teams. Other MLS Eastern Conference sides have lost players, but not for the same reasons.
Didier Drogba of Montreal Impact, and Sebastien Giovinco of Toronto FC both got injured in their match Saturday night. There has been no word on Drogba’s injury, but Giovinco will be out 3-4 weeks. Guess who plays at Toronto in four weeks? Philly, and the possibility of playing Toronto with out Giovinco highly impacts the Union’s chance of success for the better.
Because of these injuries, and other Eastern Conference teams dropping points The Union are only three points out of first place, and it looks like any of the top four teams could take the East. Only time will tell if the Union are able to claim the East, but their chances have gone up in this past week. The Union have to have a good result against a struggling Chicago team. They will need to do it with out Bedoya and Blake. The match will be an intriguing one. Come back to Philly Sports Network for a preview of the game later this week! Until then Union fans, peace out!
Mandatory Photo credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports