Tag Archives: Haris Medunjanin

The Hunt for a Home Playoff Match Continues

Cait Costello - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Cait Costello // @caitcostello

Fresh off an international break that saw both Andre Blake and Borek Dockal serving as captains for their respective national teams, the Philadelphia Union faced off against the New York Red Bulls for their home season finale.

The Union’s defense thwarted Bradley Wright-Phillips and the Red Bulls’ offense, holding them scoreless until the 69th minute. A hand ball in the box by Alejandro Bedoya and a lengthy VAR review resulting in a penalty kick gave Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra all the opportunity he needed to get one goal up on the Union. Though the Union took more shots throughout the game, they weren’t able to turn any of their chances into a goal, and the match ended in a 1-0 win for the Red Bulls.

The Good

Homegrown hot shots Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty yet again proved themselves as valuable members of the Union’s defense. At only 19 and 20, Philly may not have much time left with these two, but it will be exciting to watch them grow in their careers.
The Union held up well against the No. 2 team in the league, leading both in shots and possession. Before the penalty kick, a 0-0 finish and 1 point felt like a real possibility.

The Bad

Bedoya’s hand ball dashed the Union’s hopes for a draw, but an earlier tangle with Fafa Picault in the 40th minute cost them a chance at a goal when Bedoya inadvertently blocked Fafa’s shot.

It was a rough game all around, with both teams each netting 13 fouls. Three of the match’s five yellow cards went to the Union—CJ Sapong (37’), Auston Trusty (47’), and Picault (66’).

The Ugly

The tension on the pitch only increased when a scuffle broke out just as the first half ended. Luckily for all the players, the shoving didn’t result in any further penalties or cards, and the teams headed into the locker rooms to cool off.

After the match, Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin took some time out of their post-game remarks to take the Union front office to task for Sunday’s field conditions, with Medunjanin going so far as to say he’d prefer an away playoff berth unless the situation improves.

Longtime Union fans know that this is a team that does better while playing consistently, and they tend to come back from a bye week or international break below peak form.

This Sunday, the Union face off with NYCFC in Yankee Stadium for their last chance to secure a home playoff game, and they’ll be doing it with DC United breathing down their necks. Let’s hope they can get back into their groove this week.

Featured image: Ardell McDuffie

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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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