Category Archives: Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union

Don’t Play the Blame Game

Mercy Payba - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

 By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Sunday, June 18: 0-2 Loss

Late goals are the demise of Philadelphia Union. Out of the nineteen goals the Union has conceded in the regular season, twelve of them have been in the second half. Bradley Wright-Phillips capitalized on the red card given to Derrick Jones in the 53rd minute of the game to tidy up the match with two goals. Was it straight red card worthy? I would disagree, but that’s not exactly the problem to focus on. If anything, the red card gave us the lens to focus on the real issue.

Is it creating chances? Is it defending our goal? Is it our persistent gap in the midfield? These questions have been percolating in the fan base for a long while. No one has a concrete solution and no one can settle on one answer (because there are multiple.) Management tells fans to be patient because change is a-coming and the team is building. At this point, all we’re building is sandcastles. It’s understandable to invest in the academy, in home-grown players that could be the future of the team, but the fact of the matter is we’ve been sitting for seven years on the promise of the future.

  • One more year of waiting isn’t going to make a difference, if the Union can’t see where the problem lies.
  • Yes, the back line isn’t perfect; our CBs need to figure out fluidity, and the combinations currently being used aren’t foolproof.
  • Yes, the midfield is lacking a playmaker, an attacking mid that can not only help pass but create more chances, give vision to more offensive plays. 

If the Union wants to build a bridge to the future, there’s got to be traffic on that bridge for it to be useful. In this case, traffic is getting the money to spend on players for these ‘interim’ seasons. Philadelphia is a small team playing in a league that’s outpacing them every year they stick to building up.

Don’t get me wrong, the Union have done some great things with what they have. There have been ups and downs but in the past five years, Philadelphia seems to sputter and stop in the middle of the pack. The middling status isn’t going to be sufficient enough as the league grows, as talent is fielded from international waters, and the Union has nothing to offer. I’m not an advocate of buying superstars for the sake of it, but I am an advocate of commitment. There’s a certain commitment to being in Philadelphia, to watching games like these and wondering if it’ll ever change.  

There is great talent in the rookies we have playing (Jack Elliott, Marcus Epps, and Derrick Jones) and the B team in Bethlehem Steel. The problem with always looking to the future is neglecting the now. Philadelphia Union has to pick a direction and once they do, commit to it.

Next week: another rivalry game against DC United who are at the bottom of the table. For the sake of the home fans, Philadelphia will try to snap this three game losing streak. Will they succeed? I hope so. The last time the Union faced DC was at RFK with a lot of firsts on the scoreboard ending in a four-goal win.

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“A Safe Win”

Mercy Payba - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Wednesday, June 14: 3-1 Win

As I mentioned in my getting to know me post, my first match watching the Philadelphia Union was an Open Cup match, so I get inordinately excited to watch the boys in blue in this tournament. Wednesday’s match against the Harrisburg City Islanders was an expected win with ample minutes for some fresh faces.

Andre Blake was still on duty with the Jamaican national team, so the starting goalie for the night was John McCarthy, who would be very familiar with the City Islanders through his time with the Union’s USL side: Bethlehem Steel. Haris Medunjanin continued to wear the captain’s armband through the absence of Alejandro Bedoya (recovering from a tweak during international play with the U.S.) Up top, Jay Simpson, CJ Sapong and Marcus Epps took care of the offense. It was Epps’ first start for the Union and he did an excellent job to connect with Derrick Jones up the right side of the field.

Keegan Rosenberry got a start as Ray Gaddis was resting on the bench and Josh Yaro got his first start of the season for the Union after a long injury setback. Giliano Wijnaldum took over as leftback for Fabinho and Roland Alberg was back in the midfield to help Haris Medunjanin and Derrick Jones deliver the ball.

The Union goals came early with a distance shot from Derrick Jones that was unable to be stopped by Harrisburg’s Sean Lewis. Simpson recorded his first assist with Jones’ goal and his second by cutting across the box and finding Sapong, who had no problem getting the ball into the back of the net.

Harrisburg wasn’t sitting on their hands though, as Johnny Mendoza helped the USL team get one back in the 37th minute of play. The defensive breakdown from a counter isn’t exactly a surprising move by the Union, but something tells me the switch of Jack Elliott to work with Wijnaldum on the left contributed to the mistak

While the Union’s defense still needs some experimenting, the attack prospered with the new combination of Simpson, Sapong, and rookie Marcus Epps. Epps got the third goal for Philadelphia just minutes into the second half with a cheeky toe-in past Lewis for his career first. Simpson had some good looks on goal without any luck, but I think his awareness of the space in the final third along with helping with giving the other’s team defense someone else to worry about will be key for the rest of Philadelphia’s season.

Another stand out player in this game for me was Derrick Jones working with Haris Medunjanin in the midfield. It was a different role for Jones, more fluidity in his responsibilities unlike what we’ve seen from him previously. I would argue we saw more of what Jones could bring to the table beyond defensive capabilities. With Bedoya still off the roster, Medunjanin and Jones had to juggle around the number 8 position and their usual duties. Jones had a high passing accuracy along with a couple of clearances that helped keep the game in the Union’s favor.

John McCarthy also pulled off some great saves to keep the scoreline 3-1 when Mendoza’s cross landed at Pedro Ribeiro’s feet in the box. Philadelphia also had a bit of luck when a rebounded header from Josh Grosh hit the crossbar. McCarthy had six saves in the game and most of those came in the second half as Harrisburg wasn’t willing to leave Talen without a fight.

The Union suffered a 2-1 loss in New York before the international break at the hands of NYCFC and this weekend, the New York Red Bulls come to Talen fresh off of their USOC win against NYC. This will be the second game against the NYRB in the season. Their last meet-up was in May, when CJ Sapong got a hattrick and the Union broke their winless streak. Philadelphia will also meet the Red Bulls for the next round of the Open Cup on June 28th.

My prediction: We’ll really make that rivalry label stick and get the win at home.

Featured image of Jones and Epps courtesy: @PhilaUnion

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Taking the Bad with the Good

Mercy Payba - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, May 27: 1-0 Loss

It wasn’t a surprise that the Philadelphia Union’s winning streak was snapped in Rio Tinto Stadium. The odds were against the Philly team. If they had been able to produce a result against RSL, it would’ve been the first in the Union’s favor over the ten games they’ve played against Real Salt Lake. This game will be the only meeting between the two sides for this season.

Joao Plata got the only goal of the game after breaking away with the ball thirty-six minutes into the first half. Andre Blake had to make more saves in total than the amount of attempts the Philadelphia Union players made on Real Salt Lake’s net. Whether it was the altitude or the trip from Pennsylvania to Utah, the Union looked tired and disjointed. The only notable performance was Blake’s seven clearances, the highest of the season for him.

The first forty-five minutes was a single-minded attack by Plata that got the best of the defense after his fourth attempt. The Union had been caught off-guard before–and though Fafa Picault had a great attempt on goal that was first saved by Nick Rimando and ultimately cleared off the line by Aaron Maund–they did not rectify it like in previous instances of conceding a first half goal. Philadelphia attempted to find the weak spot of RSL’s defense with set piece plays with an early Jack Elliott header that hit the crossbar and a miss by Picault from a Haris Medunjanin cross to no avail.  

The first sub of the match for the Union was Jay Simpson for Picault to give a boost to the attack and give CJ Sapong a shift of pace on the left side of the field. Roland Alberg having been sidelined with an injury got subbed on for Chris Pontius on the wing. It was a painfully uninspired second half with RSL driving the ball where they wanted it for a majority of the time. The last thirty minutes saw little to no activity on the attacking side from Philadelphia with only a shot from distance by a desperate Medunjanin and a blocked kick by Fabinho. The Union debuted Marcus Epps in the dying minutes of the half in hopes of making a difference in the midfield where Ilsinho had been having trouble.  

Frankly, you could’ve skipped the entirety of the match to only see the first thirty minutes and known how the game was going to unfold. By the thirty minute mark, Rimando had made two saves and Blake three. It was down to the keepers and their defensemen in this game and the Union didn’t make the cut this weekend.  

The team boasted about a depth in squad earlier in the week and hinted that was the reason for their winning streak, and while I agree the subbing and implementation of players in different roles i.e. Ilsinho as a number 10, Pontius switching to the right wing, Alejandro Bedoya finding his role in the midfield worked for us, it doesn’t account for human error.

I mentioned before how Jim Curtin might have a problem with the word ‘rotation’ but he’ll have to keep it in mind in the following weeks. Medunjanin and Bedoya have been called up by their respective national teams for the world cup qualifiers during the break. We still have injured players (most recently Fabian Herbers) so Curtin will be put to the test following the international break.

Not to mention the next game Philadelphia has on the road against NYCFC will be no picnic. The team will be slipping down the table. There is no doubt about that, but what matters now is finding the spirit to keep fighting for a good position come September. June comes with the first game of the Open Cup for the Union along with two of the three consecutive home games and they cannot afford to repeat the March homestand.

Memories of the recent past aside, this could’ve just been a bad game and I’m hoping to see more of the Philly of weeks past than the team with the winless streak going forward. In this sport, you have to take the good with the bad. You never know what will happen in MLS.

My prediction for the next game: a Sapong goal, and depending how gracious NYCFC is feeling, a win.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

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“Colorado Ugly”

Mercy Payba - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, May 20: 2-1 Win

As a Philadelphia Union fan, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop and I expected it to be in the mid-week match against Houston Dynamo who was looking strong in the West. Instead, we extended out shutout streak in a solid 2-0 game with some strong defending to keep our early lead. My anxiety naturally turned to Colorado Rapids who was last on the table even though on paper, it should’ve been easy. If I’ve learned anything about the MLS, it is nothing will ever go the way you expect.

Jim Curtin doesn’t believe in rotation as far as we know but the lineup against Colorado brought two changes to the starting eleven. Fabian Herbers replaced Chris Pontius on the wing and Giliano Wijnaldum got his first MLS start as a left back.

Colorado started on the offensive and found a lax defense on the Union side fifteen minutes in with a goal by Caleb Calvert. The next thirty minutes were painstakingly slow as the Colorado Rapids tried everything in the book to keep their lead. Fabian Herbers had to be subbed off for injury early after making a good play with Ilsinho. Tim Howard should have been booked for time wasting but the referee mysteriously left his cards in his pocket to the ire of the home fans.

Pontius managed to get his head on a cross by Wijnaldum, but tilted it over the bar at the 35th minute for one of the only looks on goal for the Union. The dying minutes of the second half saw the first booking for Colorado’s Mohamed Saeid and CJ Sapong heading in a ball only to get it caught by Howard’s gloves.

It wasn’t a surprise that once Colorado saw the opportunity to build something like momentum, they would defend it with everything they had, including some overlooked fouls (mostly against Sapong.) The Rapids only had one win in the last five games. They were clearly desperate for points and not afraid of getting dirty.

A team effort between Pontius, Ilsinho, Fafa Picault to Sapong’s head saw the ball get bounced off a Colorado defender unluckily as soon as the second half started. The Union substituted Picault for Jay Simpson who gave Sapong more space on the wing while Simpson focused on the central attack. Colorado didn’t give up though, as they got a free kick just outside the box in the 63rd minute from Alejandro Bedoya’s foul or a very convincing dive from Kevin Doyle. Three minutes later, there was a golden opportunity for Philadelphia in the form of a handball by Kortne Ford.

 Sapong went up for the penalty and, needless to say, sent Tim Howard the other way. With that goal, the Union equalized and the tide seemed to be turning. They couldn’t stop there, not if Philadelphia wanted to show they weren’t going to be stopped by a shaky start. The last few weeks, if anything, had unleashed the threat Union could pose as a team that was no longer disjointed and disheartened. This team wasn’t the same one as the one in March. They had the confidence to stage a comeback…

And they did.

Before that, the game took a bizarre turn that was possibly influenced by a certain Justin Timberlake song. Both Colorado’s assistant Conor Casey and the first goal scorer Caleb Calvert were sent off in the 69th minute marker. Calvert was booked for time-wasting with a flop and then coming back on the field before the ref’s signal in around thirty seconds.

Casey was escorted away for arguing with the official. This episode didn’t stop Joshua Gatt from trying his luck with a tackle on Bedoya just as he shot the ball into the distance. The referee saw reason and issued a yellow, and the free kick that would lead to Philadelphia’s second goal. A left-footed beauty that curled just right by Haris Medunjanin from 20 yards out gave Union the victory.

With this result, Philadelphia Union set a new club record of four consecutive wins. Next week, they face Real Salt Lake after some rest. My prediction is a win as we creep closer to the competition for a spot in the playoffs.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

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Farewell to RFK

Mercy - Philadelphia
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, May 13: 0-4 Win

The possible last voyage to Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium ended in a nice win for the Philadelphia Union. If you weren’t already aware, DC United will be leaving RFK behind for a new stadium at the end of this season. The last time the Philadelphia Union met DC, the scoreline told a different story. Union fell 2-1 with a Jose Ortiz goal and a converted penalty by Luciano Acosta early in the first half.

If someone had predicted the next game going Philadelphia’s way by four goals, it probably would’ve been a good April fool’s joke considering the Union’s record at that time.  The strange thing is, beyond some lineup changes, the Union had around the same amount of shots in both games. They had less possession than in the April matchup yet managed to capitalize in the final third much better. That combined with the defense being aware of the spaces created on their end before Lloyd Sam and Patrick Mullins could strike inside the box gave Union the advantage.

Even with early yellow cards issued to Fabinho and Alejandro Bedoya, the Union had a good first half with three set pieces and a sharp midfield that wasn’t afraid of helping the defense clear some balls. A midfield role that is usually minded by Derrick Jones who was called up for the U.S. Under-20 Men’s’ National Team camp this week. Haris Medunjanin got his chance to wow the crowd with his first MLS goal in the 39th minute with a stunner.  

The second half started with a saved header by Fafa Picault courtesy of Chris Pontius who was largely invisible against his former team. DC could have been awarded a penalty from a Fabinho foul on Sam that was in the box, but curiously the ref let it slide. Five minutes after that challenge, Luciano Acosta was shown a straight red card for a heated lunge against Ilsinho after getting knocked out of the way by Oguchi Onyewu.

Speaking of Onyewu, he headed in Union’s second goal of the night from a corner kick taken by Medunjanin. Oguchi, more fondly known as “Gooch”, celebrated his 35th birthday in front of his hometown with his first goal in MLS. He ended a goal drought that stretched back to January 2014.

Haris Medunjanin kept the assists coming as Fafa Picault finally got the goal he sought after the entire game in the 78th minute. Picault was shortly after subbed out for Jay Simpson. The only shot on goal for DC United came late in the 82nd minute from a direct hit into the center by Lamar Neagle which was easily saved by Andre Blake. Then, the game was sealed by a Fabian Herbers goal into the upper corner of Bill Hamid’s net, giving him his first of the season and Bedoya his first MLS assist. Herbers came on as a sub for Ilsinho who was filling in the Roland Alberg’s usual no. 10 spot at the 63rd minute marker.

With plenty of career-firsts put on the map for Union players, the spirits are high for the mid-week battle against Houston. Some niggling doubts on my mind: when will we see Chris Pontius’ comeback to his form from last year, or rather be more of an impact than he is right now? Don’t get me wrong, he’s had some crucial passes and looks in these last three games.

CJ Sapong is two away from his career-high goal tally for the season and Picault is well on his way to applying his speed into good spaces, but I’ve been waiting for some real Pontius magic to happen. Ilsinho in the no. 10 didn’t feel like it worked all that well in creativity. There is yet to be a definitive playmaker for the Union and that will rear its head sooner rather than later as we fight for the playoffs.

This game was great. It was the best shut out I’ve seen out of the Union, but there will always be caution in the wind if the team doesn’t take these opportunities to build. Our set pieces haven’t been much to talk about, often missing a target, and three out of the four goals the Union scored against DC were long-ranged strikes. There’s no guarantee that will work against other opponents, especially ones who aren’t in a slump. I’ll definitely be looking forward to these next two home games as an indication of what’s to come out of the Union.

Next week: We face the top team in the west, Houston Dynamo. My prediction: a conservative tie, the challenge we’ve been waiting to see against this refreshed Union team.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

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Praise to the Prince

Mercy - Philadelphia
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, May 6: 3-0 WIN!

Right, so what can I say that hasn’t been said about this game? As always, the Philadelphia Union managed to surprise me (and probably the rest of the league) with the result on Saturday’s throwback night. I prepared myself diligently to say we made an effort, but couldn’t manage to pull through. Once I heard Richie Marquez, our CB constant, was going to be out of the lineup due to illness, I thought that was it. The New York Red Bulls were comfortably in the top part of the table while we had a 15 game winless streak as our claim to fame this season.

But CJ Sapong, our Fresh Prince of Chest-air, managed to break that streak with a hat-trick of goals in the second half, the third hat-trick in Union history.

Whatever might be happening in the business end of the Union, and as much faith as Earnie Stewart has in our team, this result was a visible step in the right direction. It couldn’t have been possible without Andre Blake in goal and Sapong up top. It couldn’t have been possible without our subs and it couldn’t have been possible without the whole team putting in the effort. Dare I say that the Union was a cohesive unit for the first time in months?

That is what Philadelphia needs to win games and that is what we need to show our potential; the potential that Jim Curtin and the rest of management have been reassuring fans has been there from day one.

I can’t tell you what stars aligned for this to happen. To be frank, the first half was possession heavy for the Union but there wasn’t much action. Our wingers were well-marked by the Red Bulls backline and ineffective overall. Oguchi Onyewu and Fabinho managed to scrape up key clearances and Blake was on top of things as the chances for the Bulls kept coming. The set pieces plays managed to be over-hit every single time by Haris Medunjanin from corners to free-kicks. It wasn’t all bad as Alejandro Bedoya managed to show off some of his skill just outside the box to stop Daniel Royer in his tracks and get a shot saved by Luis Robles.

Union ended up with a clean sheet by half-time, but the second half started with the Red Bulls on the offensive. It was to be expected; they lost in their midweek game against Sporting Kansas City and they wanted some road points to take back home with them. Philadelphia had to sub out Raymon Gaddis and Roland Alberg in the 62nd minute as the game got chippy and both men suffered a knock they couldn’t shake off.

In came the substitutions that made quite a difference to the back and forth play between the Bulls and the Union: Keegan Rosenberry and Derrick Jones. I don’t know if it was just fresh legs or a can-do attitude, but the fans could see a visible regroup by Philadelphia once they got on the field. It was the ‘do or die’ moment or perhaps the ‘join or die’ moment as the club’s motto goes.

Rosenberry had been benched since the home game loss against NYCFC in favor of starting Gaddis. He had something to prove out on the field and he wasn’t going to be stopped by the Bulls. His partnership with Chris Pontius worked in our favor as Bedoya moved into a no. 10 position. Pontius who had seen little of the ball in the first half managed to get in some good crosses to Sapong and put a little more pep in his step around the 72nd minute mark.

Anticipation was building. The air was filled with chants and support. The goal had to be coming and Sapong didn’t disappoint with a rocket to the top left corner of the net.

Seven minutes later, he does it again with help from a knockdown by Pontius with his head. At that point, I had never been happier to hear the DOOP song play again. The last time Philadelphia had a two goal lead at home was back in August of last year against SKC. Incidentally, it was also part of a second half effort with goals late in the game.

After all the excitement of the second goal, the Red Bulls got a corner kick off Jack Elliott. Bradley Wright-Phillips missed his chance, the ball going high above the net. A counter run by the Union ended in a penalty given by Damien Perrinelle’s handball. The man who stepped up to take it was, of course, CJ Sapong.

A hat-trick in a game most had dismissed as clear-cut in favor of the visiting team. Home ground advantage hadn’t exactly panned out for the boys in blue lately and the winless streak had been gaining an edge of optimism but was it really enough for Philadelphia to succeed?

The resounding answer was yes.

By the end of the game, no one could say it was a fluke that Philadelphia won. It was a moment long-awaited for the team and it came in a spectacular fashion. It only took eleven minutes in total for Sapong to give us a win, but it took all eleven men on the field to give us a victory.

As an end note, there was some criticism for the amazing remake of the “Fresh Prince” opening made by the team during the week, but I’m inclined to agree with my friend who said after the win: “It’s that Fresh Prince jawn that did it.” Maybe I’m a tad too superstitious but how could we not come out as winners with this masterpiece throwback?               

Next week: Union goes on the road to the capital. My prediction: A win for the Union. Things are looking up.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

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Luck of the Draw

Mercy - Philadelphia
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, April 29: 0-0 Draw

The horizon was bleak for Philadelphia Union after the comeback Montreal Impact mounted last weekend, but if the draw last week felt like a loss then this draw feels like we can hold our heads up higher. It wasn’t quite a stellar performance but the Union managed to buckle down defensively and most importantly, not concede a goal since their season opener in Vancouver.   

Andre Blake made three fantastic and crucial saves in the nil-nil draw on Saturday but the most spectacular save was made by the posts behind the goalkeeper. At the 21st minute mark, LA Galaxy’s Joao Pedro made an effort on goal from outside the box that bounced off both posts to roll out harmlessly into Blake’s arms. Bad luck had struck early for LA to the astonishment of both sides. Not to say that the Union was particularly lucky as our shots went mostly wide of the goalposts throughout the game.  

The match had some early excitement in the form of chances for both LA and Philadelphia. A bad clearance from the Union gave Romain Alessandrini a shot to put the Galaxy ahead if not for Blake’s block in the first few minutes. Roland Alberg had the best chance in the first half for Philadelphia from an excellent cross by Alejandro Bedoya, from the right, that was thwarted by goalkeeper Brian Rowe.

Bedoya celebrated his birthday by assisting every way he could, up to and including a nice little header to Richie Marquez in a decent set piece play. It was a markedly different performance in the midfield from last week, even though the lineup was the same, with the exception of Ilsinho, who was ill. Our captain was positioned up high in hopes of turning the tide to a more pressing forward mentality for Union without real success. Haris Medunjanin, on the other hand, attempted to find forgiveness with a goal for his unhelpful finger-pointing routine while getting outrun by the opposition’s attack.

The second half of the game was lackluster in attack with LA poaching most of the possession. Derrick Jones, the Union’s homegrown talent, was subbed in for Alberg in the 65th minute of the game to steady our backline and force a counter attack into the Galaxy’s side of the field.

All in all, Philadelphia must keep building on this foundation. Jack Elliott continues to impress on the back line, knocking heads with both Jelle Van Damme and Daniel Steres, just to keep going and make a huge clearance against Bradley Diallo in the dying minutes of the game. Alberg didn’t manage to find the net this time but it is only a matter of time and effort. Our offense still needs fine-tuning but in this test against LA, we managed to play it safe and smart. All the game needed was a goal.    

Maybe Lady Luck will stay by our side as we come back home.

Next Week: Union face the New York Red Bulls. My prediction: Optimism still standing, we manage to score a few goals but not enough to win.

Featured image courtesy: Philadelphia Union facebook

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A Lead Lost, A Rough Draw

Mercy - Philadelphia

By Mercy Payba @mercpay

Saturday, April 22: 3-3 Draw

“A tale of two halves,” is an apt summary by manager Jim Curtin of the disappointing draw in Chester today. Philadelphia Union started on the right foot with an early goal by Roland Alberg and kept up the pace through the first 45 until Montreal Impact struck right before the halftime whistle. It was disheartening to regress back to the same failing tactics in the second half of the match instead of pushing forward on a 3-1 advantage.

Even gaining the fast and fresh legs of Picault in the 66th minute for Ilsinho didn’t help as much as it should have in opposition. He had some good runs into the box and a shot or two that was blocked by Bush but in the end Jackson-Hamel proved too able and our defense too clumsy to stop Montreal’s comeback. It didn’t help that the ref missed some chances to pull out his cards from his pocket.

The first Montreal goal by Piatti was a disaster. He outran half our men, including Bedoya, Medunjanin, Pontius and Marquez to get it past Blake. We all knew Piatti would be a dangerous player, the one to watch out for coming back from injury and hungry for goals. Montreal wasn’t going to take a deficit lying down. Both teams had to prove themselves out on the field, but Philadelphia came out on the losing end as they rescued a point in their three-game homestand.

I don’t think we can point fingers at a single player to blame. The flaw doesn’t lie in management either. We cannot say Curtin hasn’t tried to adapt and change over the past two games as the pressure of a winless streak has been on the Union to produce results.

In last week’s game we saw Alberg and Elliott start and this week we saw why they got to start yet again. Elliott didn’t play a perfect game but he certainly showed up to play. His long ball started the play that would lead to the Sapong header 23 minutes in. He also got the penalty for Alberg after Dominic Oduro fouled him.

The Bedoya-Alberg-Medunjanin midfield is reaping results slowly and hopefully will continue to build as more games pass. Bedoya is more promising in his role as a number 8 and had a relatively good game today. He stepped in where he was needed and even dropped back further to help put bodies in defense at times. There is no doubt that Bedoya is fully committed to his leadership role and feels the weight of performing better into his second year with the Union. His post-game words belied the frustration he felt after losing the 3-0 lead, saying “this team deserves a lot better, the fans deserve a lot better.”

We have been hearing the same lines over and over again in the last couple of weeks. Jim Curtin insists the players are working hard, Earnie Stewart says the board fully supports Curtin in his decisions and tactics, but the fans are still waiting for results. The message was clear as the stadium had plenty of empty seats this rainy afternoon.

If we deserve better, where can we find a better Union?

Our aggressive attack in the first half was a step above last week because we converted enough of those chances with Sapong and Alberg. The switch on the wings with Chris Pontius and Ilsinho worked to set up stronger flanks with Fabinho and Elliott. Our possession wasn’t very high but when we did have the ball, we utilized it smartly (in the first half.) We lost our cool once we conceded, but if we want to find a better Union, it’s already there, just stubbornly buried. Perhaps we will see it emerge in the next couple of weeks. It’s still early enough in the season to bring it back and leave the sting of this draw behind.

Next week: Union goes on the road to face LA Galaxy. My prediction: Not great, but at least they won’t have to hear the disappointment of the home fans.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

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Home Is Where The Heart Is

Mercy - Philadelphia
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba @mercpay

It was a sunny day in August when I went to my first Philadelphia Union game. I was completely new to MLS, and the only things I knew about the match and the team were:

  1. The precursor team of Philadelphia Union was Bethlehem Steel F.C. from the 1900s (the Union had a third kit in 2013 with homage to the team and has now gone on to sponsor a new reincarnation of BSteel in the USL)
  2. That same Bethlehem Steel team had won the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup five times in their day and Philadelphia was gearing up to get their first title, having come close in 2014 as well. This would be their year to add a little more history to the area.

The friend who had invited me out to the game was a bit of a history buff and I was always enthusiastic about soccer wherever it was found so we met in the middle with football facts. I adjusted my expectations accordingly because, well, Philly teams have great fanbases but not-so-great records when it comes to winning.

Our group had seats right in front of the midfield, and we were surrounded by seasoned followers and a few season ticket holders of the boys in blue. We were in good company is what I mean to say, but I was taken by the stadium itself. There is something special about the people that wait, that watch as the teams warm up. They are a banked fire ready to come alive at the sound of the whistle starting the match. This is no different around the world whether it is a rec league or in Camp Nou.

I fell in love with the Union, not when Sebastien Le Toux netted the winner in the second half of the semifinal, not when the funny little DOOP tune played over the speakers or the crowd erupted into cheers and swept us up in the feeling, but in that quiet moment before the game even started. There is a lot I could say about Talen Energy (or as I knew it PPL Park.) It is a smaller venue, and the home crowd has some colorful and self-deprecating chants. You get a lungful of the riverfront mixed in with the general city air that stays in your sensory bank and possibly your throat after a visit. The skyline painted in orange and violet as the sun sets, is the most beautiful sight next to blue smoke rising from the River End signifying a goal for the Union.

I found myself in that strange little waterfront stadium, amongst the blue and gold that fateful August day. When I try to put into words how I became a fan of this team, the Dennis Bergkamp quote comes to mind:

“When you start supporting a football club, you don’t support it because of the trophies, or a player, or history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there; found a place where you belong.”

As for the more mundane things, I’m a Jersey transplant living in Pennsylvania, went to school near Pittsburgh and came back home to the east end of the state. I watch the Bundesliga religiously and strive to infect all of my friends with the football bug when the World Cup comes around.

I grew up watching my father and brother play the beautiful game. Coming from a Peruvian family, one of the best soccer moments in recent history for me was the third place finish for Peru in Copa America Centenario last year. Philadelphia Union is the only blue team in my red, red heart.

I am a member of the Bayern Red Ladies, an all-women fanclub for Bayern Munich, and am always looking for more people to talk to about my teams in English or Spanish.

Featured image courtesy: Jeff Zelevansky

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @mercpay

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