Tag Archives: Roland Alberg

No Move is the Best Move for Union

Locria Nyla - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Philadelphia Union Key Contributor

By Locria Nyla Fox // @LocriaOnSports

The Philadelphia Union‘s decision to not make any major moves during the summer transfer window is the right one.

A lot of Union fans are going to disagree with my opinion, and I get that. But hear me out.

Right now, the Union are stuck in a bad salary cap situation. The MLS salary cap this season is $3.845 million. Right now, the Union have over $5 million against the cap according to the numbers provided by the MLS Players’ Union. That number, of course, does not include the team’s Generation Adidas players (Fabian Herbers and Josh Yaro), Homegrown Players (Auston Trusty and Derrick Jones), the loaned-out Eric Ayuk, or the extra salary over the DP threshold on Alejandro Bedoya and Maurice Edu.

To stay cap-compliant, the Union used Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to buy down the cap hits of Ilsinho, Haris Medunjanin, and Jay Simpson, in addition to the transfer fees of the latter two from Maccabi Tel Aviv and Leyton Orient respectively.

Oh, and along with using TAM to buy down three players, they also traded away TAM to pick up Bedoya (via the allocation order) and Charlie Davies (via trade with New England) last year. So the Union are in a bad cap situation. They’re also out of roster spots with 30 players.

How did they get thrust into this bad cap situation? Bad contracts. Simple. Four in particular stand out right now.

First there’s DP midfielder Maurice Edu ($480,625 cap hit). As of this writing, Edu’s last game with the Union was September 30, 2015, when the Union fell to Sporting KC in the US Open Cup final. He’s taking up a huge chunk of salary to not play for two years. Even if he comes back healthy, where do you play him? I would not want to break up the central midfield pairing of Medunjanin and Bedoya, and even if you did that you’d also be cutting off Derrick Jones’s opportunities at first team football, which goes against the team’s best interest (and Earnie Stewart‘s plan which relies on the talent in the Union Academy developing into first-team footballers).

Then there’s Jay Simpson ($465k salary + TAM buydown) – The justification for splashing TAM on Simpson was that the Union were hoping he would be Bradley Wright-Phillips 2.0. That completely ignored that BWP didn’t get his hefty contract until after a season where he potted 27 goals and EARNED a huge pay hike. Simpson just sorta got big money coming out of League Two despite not being all that prolific at that level.

Ilsinho ($465k) is a weird case. On his day, he is very effective – just ask FC Dallas who he brutalized on August 5 for a goal and assist – and can be a treat to watch with his bag of tricks. But other days, he’s just invisible.

And finally we come to Roland Alberg ($345k salary). Alberg’s attitude has been a huge problem for the Zolos this year. After the departure of Tranquillo Barnetta, Alberg basically had the #10 spot handed to him on a platter. Cue him showing up to camp way out of shape, and when he gets on the pitch, he’s not been good enough to win anyone over. He’s twice fought with CJ Sapong over who would take spot kicks, and doesn’t have the final ball the Union needs from a #10.

“But wait, Locria,” you may be asking. “What about that glaring hole at the #10 spot? Don’t you want that filled?”

Of course I do. The Union need to clear up space and allocation money first, though. If you let these guys go at the end of the season, you find a team that now has cap space (especially if a few other players, such as Chris Pontius and Brian Carroll, also leave or take a pay cut), a couple open DP slots, and three international slots (the one recently traded to Columbus will be coming back in 2018). That’s when you take DP money, throw it at a veteran that can help teach young midfielders Adam Najem and Anthony Fontana how to play at a high level. Don’t lose your patience, make a horrible move now, and leave yourself screwed over come the winter.

Making a panic move now would probably not save this season. But staying patient and not making a short-sighted move can set the Union up to be better in 2018.

Featured image courtesy: philadelphiaunion.com

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“The good, the bad, and the ugly”

Mercy Payba - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Thursday, July 6: 1-1 Draw

A point on the road is as valuable as a win, at this juncture of the season. Philadelphia Union’s record away from home has been pretty lackluster with the last win being against DC United in May. This was going to be a tough match from the start for the Union, missing key players like Alejandro Bedoya and Andre Blake on the roster. Another player they will be missing due to the call ups is Chris Pontius who will fly out after this game to join the Gold Cup squad.

Sporting Kansas City was by all means and stats, supposed to be the victor of the midweek battle but even though Diego Rubio scored an absolute rocket of a goal that the Union’s backup keeper John McCarthy had no chance of saving, the game ended in a heated draw.

The penalty awarded to Philadelphia brought a skirmish on between the team, especially with the home side dominating possession and being in the lead. CJ Sapong in the box. SKC did not agree with the call which ended with Feilhaber and Haris Medunjanin getting yellow cards. An incident that didn’t get carded was Ilie Sanchez’ hand on Oguchi Onyewu’s throat, but it was definitely caught.

Roland Alberg was the man who equalized the game for the Union in the 69th minute, beating out the ex-SKC man Sapong for the honor. It isn’t all that surprising, between the game against New England last week and this one, Alberg looks determined to show Jim Curtin that he is the man to start over Ilsinho. I’m not sure I agree, even with that fantastic first-touch goal he launched past Revolution’s keeper Cody Cropper.

After all, the Union aren’t playing their regular game with Bedoya in the midfield, and while Derrick Jones has flashes of brilliance, it’s not the same. Perhaps staying on the bench will enable the Union to use Alberg as a cache in the arsenal (not unlike the one expected out of Jay Simpson) especially in this stretch of games coming up after the break.

The man of the match was definitely McCarthy who took a tumble and still had the mobility to go the distance with saves against Daniel Salloi and Latif Blessing. His six saves over the course of the game were crucial to keep it level. Especially with our defense only rallying after being down a goal and our offense not creating much traction at all. 

The next game on the road for Philadelphia Union is against Montreal Impact who are directly below them on the Eastern Conference table. It’s a whole week of regeneration for the players not called up for international duty that should be taken advantage of, if the Union wants a hope at climbing the table. After Montreal, it’s back to back games with Columbus Crew which might bring the tides of change, if positive results are yielded.  

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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.

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