Blogs > Union Tally

A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Friday, August 19, 2016

Oh, say can you see the Union's new approach

Something unusual will happen Saturday evening when the Philadelphia Union host Toronto FC at Talen Energy Stadium: Of the 22 players chosen to start the game, nearly half will have experience playing for the U.S. National Team. And for once, the Union will actually contribute significantly to that tally.

The Union’s summer dealings can be characterized by many lenses. But one is the acquisition of players in Alejandro Bedoya and Charlie Davies, who’ve represented the U.S. internationally.

And so Saturday, using the Union and Toronto rosters, you can cobble together a fairly cogent starting XI of fully capped American internationals.

There’s some fudging position-wise. Chris Pontius is included, and while he has never appeared for the U.S., he’s twice been invited to camps and traveled internationally without getting in a game, and it’s reasonable to assume that had he not experienced such bad injury luck, he’d have that cap by now. (Consider this the start of the campaign for Pontius to play the role Ethan Finlay did at January camp and beyond last year.) There’s also no capped goalie, but Alex Bono, the former Reading United player, has played for the U.S. Under-18 team, so he’ll do.

The spine of the team is formidable. It features, when healthy, the U.S.’s top striker for the next World Cup cycle (Jozy Altidore), its captain (Michael Bradley) and arguably one of the first two or three names coach Jurgen Klinsmann pencils into the lineup in Bedoya.

That isn’t a bad team, if you could swap a forward for a truer fullback. It’s certainly a darn good one from a marketing standpoint, and it reveals a point about the Union’s direction.
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Monday, August 15, 2016

The silver lining in the Union's recent struggles

Back in 2012, a youthful Brian Carroll helped the Union navigate
a late-summer rough patch akin to the one they've just endured.
The sky was never quite falling in on the Philadelphia Union in the last month or so, even as they won one MLS game in seven and slid from jockeying for first place in the Eastern Conference to fifth. But it was a certified rough patch as the club came to terms with its early success and was forced to adjust, no longer able to take teams by surprise.

The causes for that tumble are myriad and not entirely cured by Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of New England, though that road result goes a long way in augmenting players’ intangible confidence category.

Using history as a guide, though, there wasn’t much reason to panic, and Saturday’s result more affirms that the Union can turn things around rather than providing the outright proof.

The Union’s past is limited; instances where they have been in playoff position as they are now are even scarcer. Time and again this season, I’ve returned to the 2011 season as the blueprint of a playoff campaign, the only time the Union have qualified for the postseason. And while the seasons are vastly different in construction and approach, the ebb and flow of a playoff chase in a marathon season remains applicable. And through that lens, the Union from late June on have merely been ticking off another box on the 2011 replication checklist.

Travel back to that summer, and you may recall the dreadful stretch the Union endured, an eight-game winless run (0-3-5) from late July to mid-September that threatened to derail their playoff hopes. Read more »

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

The million-dollar question of Alejandro Bedoya's position with the Union

Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, right, defending Colombia's Juan Cuadrado
for the U.S. during this summer's Copa America, can play multiple positions.
But where will he fit with the Union? (AP)
The press conference at Talen Energy Stadium Wednesday took an interesting turn midway though, pivoting on a simple premise. The Philadelphia Union, a team in desperate need of a No. 8, signed a midfielder who isn’t known for playing as a No. 8.

In itself, the signing of Alejandro Bedoya to be an integral part of the Union’s multi-year rebuild is an excellent move. We can quibble over the rumored cost paid or the cost at which Bedoya’s services come. But as the Union have proven all season – and proved again Thursday with the signing of Charlie Davies – Bedoya falls in line with the prevailing trend of acquiring players of a higher caliber than ever before.

Within the framework of a team struggling in MLS and coping to fill a gaping void in central midfield, Bedoya’s acquisition is more quizzical. In the grand scheme, 12 games only mean so much (though I’d argue the Union’s playoff fate over the last dozen games is instrumental to several figures’ futures).

This is where an unusual degree of friction (you can watch the video and read the transcript here) was introduced Wednesday, as manager Jim Curtin was pressed on how Bedoya would fit into midfield. And Curtin said everything but what is likely to be the truth, that Bedoya will be slid back into the No. 8 midfield role.

Now a dose of pessimism: The Union last year spent considerable funds to acquire a career winger in Europe with better credentials from a better league at a lower cost, then moved him centrally and eventually into an ill-fitting No. 8 role. As with Tranquillo Barnetta for the last two months, it’s easy to see Bedoya as not quite a square peg for a round hole, but at least one that requires some sanding.

Here’s what the Union could look like at this time next month, provided that Bedoya’s former Rangers teammate Maurice Edu returns to health:

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Training notes: In with the new, out with the old

The chemistry between Chris Pontius, left, and Charlie Davies, center,
goes back to their days with D.C. United in 2011. The hope is that it carries
over to the Union. (AP)
The Philadelphia Union were among the most active teams in the last day of the summer transfer window and beyond, with Alejandro Bedoya and Charlie Davies coming in and Sebastien Le Toux heading out, with all manner of MLS financial devices switching hands.

What did all that mean at Union training Thursday? Some reaction from Chester:

- Davies, acquired from New England Thursday morning some eight hours after the close of the transfer window, will arrive late Thursday. He played last week for New England after three months out for what was revealed to be cancer treatment for a disease now in remission and will likely be available for selection Saturday at D.C. United.

- Bedoya, coming in from French club Nantes, will meet the team in D.C. He’s ramping up his fitness from the European preseason, and manager Jim Curtin said Bedoya played 60 minutes in a friendly this week. But the travel calendar makes it unlikely he’ll debut Saturday.

- The Union, Curtin said, are not done in the summer window. Though the MLS secondary window is closed, teams can still add out-of-contract players in the coming weeks ahead of a mid-September roster deadline that is hard and fast. Curtin said, “there are a few trialists that will be coming in for the next few weeks,” primarily on defense. Expect a long-term solution at left back to be one of the top priorities. The Union have one roster spot to play with.

- Both of the Union’s moves were attacking in nature, for a team that has struggled mightily in giving up goals. Here was Curtin’s reaction when that apparent conflict was posed:
“It does need to be said that as you do improve with the ball, the other team can’t score. So we need to improve that part of things. Getting Alejandro, while he is a great attacking player, he will do the defensive running that strengthens our team in that regard. Our breakdowns right now, we are still looking. … We don’t neglect what our weaknesses are. I think we have a good idea what our weaknesses are and what we need to improve.”
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Union cap summer spree with Davies trade

Charlie Davies, left, playing for New England against Orlando City last week,
is the newest member of the Union after a trade completed Thursday morning.
The final move in a hectic final day of the MLS transfer window needed an extra eight hours to clear. But when the dust settled Thursday morning, the Philadelphia Union had achieved clarity on its aim this summer.

The Union capped a flurry of deals by acquiring forward Charlie Davies from New England along with a 2018 third-round SuperDraft pick in exchange for a 2018 first-round SuperDraft pick, general allocation money and targeted allocation money.

Capped with the transfer of designated player Alejandro Bedoya and the departure of Sebastien Le Toux to Colorado, the Union don’t exactly overhaul the roster but put on some important finishing touches for what they hope is a playoff run.

All told, the Union acquired Bedoya, Davies, the third-rounder and GAM from Colorado. They spent GAM, TAM (both to New England and Chicago for the top spot in the allocation order to get Bedoya), a discovery rights swap with Chicago and first-round SuperDraft picks in 2017 and 2018 while also bidding farewell to franchise all-time leading scorer Le Toux.

In Davies, the Union get a workhorse depth forward who brings as much off the field as on, though at a third of the cost of Le Toux and two years younger. Davies, 30, has been limited to just nine games this season as he battled cancer that was recently declared in remission.

He had a breakthrough 2015 season, scoring 10 goals and four assists in 33 games, but he was marginalized in New England with the arrival of Kei Kamara.

Davies, like Bedoya a Boston College grad, spent much of his career in Europe. Like Bedoya, he played in Sweden with Hammarby and France with Sochaux, where he was a teammate of former Union player Vincent Nogueira. He also used a successful loan stint with D.C. United to earn a season-plus in Denmark with Randers.

Davies, who becomes the fifth member of the Union with U.S. National Team caps, has played 17 times for the U.S. from 2007 to 2009, when his career trajectory was infamously altered by a car accident that cost him over a year on the field.

Davies’s cap hit is a shade under $107,000 this year, compared to Le Toux’s $300,000. More important than his role as a reserve forward could be his veteran presence with a young squad, and the wise-beyond-his-years Davies certainly provides a benefit there.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Union clinch signing of Alejandro Bedoya

Alejandro Bedoya, playing for the U.S. National Team in Copa America
this summer, is set to be the Union's newest signing. (AP)
CHESTER >> The Philadelphia Union’s two-summer chase of Alejandro Bedoya is all but over.

The Union sealed the transfer of the American international Wednesday, per the website of his former club, French side FC Nantes.

The deal sealed the deal by reportedly shipping general allocation money, targeted allocation money and a first-round SuperDraft pick to Chicago to swap the Union’s No. 2 allocation order pick with Chicago at No. 1 to acquire Bedoya’s rights.

Reports indicate that Bedoya will earn a salary near $1 million in addition to a transfer fee of nearly $1 million to Nantes. Bedoya will occupy a designated player spot on the Union roster.

Bedoya, 29, is a native of Englewood, N.J., who’s spent his entire pro career in Europe. He played in Sweden with Orebro and Helsingborgs and Scotland for a season at Rangers alongside future Union teammate Maurice Edu. Since 2013, Bedoya has been at Nantes, the club of former Union young DP striker Fernando Aristeguieta. The Union attempted to sign Bedoya last summer, but the deal fell through.

“Alejandro is a good player,” Edu said. “I think anyone who’s seen him play for the national team or for his club teams, they know technically he’s a good player. He works hard on both sides of the ball. He’s a player who can create plays for himself and for other players. In any team that he plays, he’s shown that he’s a quality player and can impact a team.”

Bedoya has earned 53 caps with the U.S. National Team. He’s played primarily as a winger, but he’s likely to be deployed centrally with the Union to fill the void left by Vincent Nogueira at the No. 8 role.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Union-Real Salt Lake: Lineups and prematch observations

UNION (4-2-3-1) 
Bench: McCarthy, Yaro, Gaddis, Fernandes, Le Toux, Herbers, Restrepo. 

Real Salt Lake (4-3-3) 
Bench: Attinella, Glad, Wingert, Kavita, Stertzer, Holness, Sandoval

- The Union ring the changes after last week’s embarrassment in Montreal. Ken Tribbett and Fabinho return to the lineup, and the suspension of Tranquillo Barnetta requires Warren Creavalle to play as the No. 8. Derrick Jones, signed midweek, isn’t ready to play just yet.

- It’s hard to pinpoint the defensive changes, though both all-stars Andre Blake and Keegan Rosenberry are straight back into the squad. Josh Yaro and Ray Gaddis, both a party to last week’s drubbing, make way. Let’s see if that makes a difference in the recent defensive slide.

- Nominally, it’s a 4-3-3 for Real Salt Lake, which is missing Yura Movsisyan up top with a hip flexor injury. But the action of Javier Morales flitting between the lines creates the difference in shape that should look more like a 4-2-3-1 in attack. The Union fullbacks will have their hands full corralling the pressing runs of Joao Plata and Juan Manuel Martinez.
- Jamison OIave shakes off a calf problem to start in central defense for RSL. He should be the big target to get moving to create gaps, particularly for Roland Alberg to exploit. CJ Sapong will certainly get his licks on Olave in the physical back-and-forth, but Alberg’s ability to capture second balls in the space between the center backs and Kyle Beckerman is vital.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Rosenberry, rookies seting records for Union

The Union's Josh Yaro, defending against Crystal Palace in a recent friendly,
is part of a rookie class that has contributed more than any other
in franchise history. (AP)
Thursday night, Keegan Rosenberry will represent the Philadelphia Union, along with Andre Blake, in the MLS All-Star Game. It’s a tremendous honor for a rookie to be playing with the league’s best and most expensive talent against a club with the quality and history of Arsenal.

But Rosenberry in particular symbolizes another aspect of the Union’s resurgence this season: His All-Star nod epitomizes a stellar rookie season being compiled by the Union’s SuperDraft picks.

Just 21 games into the season, Rosenberry has already set the Union record for minutes in a season by a drafted rookie. Likewise, the Union’s rookie contingent has bested the club mark for most combined minutes in a season by a draft class. In the process, they’re showing that the methodology of Earnie Stewart that prizes building through youth is on solid footing.

Here are the rookie numbers, which paint a rarely rosy picture for the Union:

Rosenberry has played every minute for the Union this season in MLS play, 1890 in all. He’s tied for second in MLS in minutes played, trailing only New York City FC’s David Villa (1906). Rosenberry is also one of three field players not to have missed a single minute for their teams this season, joining D.C. United outside backs Sean Franklin and Taylor Kemp (1800 minutes each).

Rosenberry’s total supplants the previous rookie mark for a Union draft pick, held by – appropriately enough – the man he replaced as the starting right back, Ray Gaddis. The second-round pick in 2012 logged 1,475 minutes that season, narrowly edging out Danny Mwanga in 2010 (1,461) and Michael Farfan in 2011 (1,460).

Rosenberry has vaulted past that with room to spare. And he’s still got nearly 40 percent of the season to go.

“I would date it back to day I was drafted, just how thrilled I was and blessed to have the opportunity to play for the team I wanted to, close to home and in a familiar organization,” Rosenberry said this week. “Every time I’m put on the field, it continues to build confidence that the coaching staff and the team believes in you, and it breeds more confidence. That I’m continuing to play and earn starts, it means I’m doing my job right or the way it needs to be completed.”

But it’s not just Rosenberry. The four Union SuperDraft rookies on the roster – Rosenberry, Josh Yaro, Fabian Herbers and Taylor Washington – have combined for 3,277 minutes. That exceeds the total set by six draft picks who made the roster in 2010 and logged a collective 3,087 for the inaugural Union. The Union’s rookie minutes bottomed out last year at a grand total of 12, all by the readily-released Ray Lee.

MLS minutes played by Union rookies per season.
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Monday, July 18, 2016

Training notes: Reenergizing after the Red Bull wears off

Per Union coach Jim Curtin, the club is weighing an appeal to the red card
shown to Ilsinho in Sunday's draw with the Red Bulls.
(Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)
The price of national-television exposure Sunday night is a quick turnaround Monday morning – and all week, really – for the Philadelphia Union. Some 10 and a half hours after a contentious encounter with the New York Red Bulls ended in a 2-2 draw, the Union returned to the training pitch, prepping for an Open Cup tie with the New England Revolution Wednesday and a trip to Montreal Saturday.

A few notes from training:

- With time to reflect on Ilsinho’s red card in the 72nd minute, the Union are considering an appeal to MLS, manager Jim Curtin said. The final decision hasn’t yet been made, but as it’s a straight red, there is an avenue to protest. From Curtin:
“We’re just discussing talking about maybe appealing it. I don’t think it’s a straight red. You could see maybe if they give a second yellow in that case, you could maybe understand it. But it’s for me not a straight red, especially with different tackles that were happening in that game. There was a lot far worse than that. You just want the consistency to be there. Again, it’s a hard call for the ref in the heat of the moment; I wish he just maybe took a moment to take a breath, think about it, talk with his fourth official who maybe has a different view. But when you go quickly to the red, once it’s gone, you can’t go back on it.”

Ilsinho wasn’t available to comment Sunday, but Curtin spoke to the Brazilian winger about the incident, which occurred after Ilsinho, carrying a yellow card, was fouled by Red Bulls left back Connor Lade, a tactical infraction for which he was shown a yellow.

“I talked with Ilsinho, and he didn’t even know the whistle was blown,” Curtin said. “He was trying to continue. He had Lade on his back for a while and he was just trying to keep playing and maybe stuck his arm out. I don’t think it was malicious. I think to give a straight red means that it was a malicious act, and it wasn’t for me.”

- Maurice Edu (left tibial stress reaction) trained fully Monday, a third time in four days for the captain who’s been out since the start of the season. His progress continues to please Curtin.
Read more »

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Union-Red Bulls: Lineups and prematch observations

UNION (4-2-3-1) 
Bench: McCarthy, Yaro, Gaddis, Creavalle, Fernandes, Le Toux, Herbers

Red Bulls (4-2-3-1) 
Lade-Perrinelle-Collin -Zizzo 
Bench: Reynish, Zubar, Bilyeu, Zubar, Duvall, Davis, Veron, Etienne 

- Jim Curtin isn’t one to change after a clean sheet. So coming off last week’s blanking of D.C. United, he sticks with Ken Tribbett even though Josh Yaro is back from suspension. Tribbett’s physicality will be helpful against Bradley Wright-Phillips, though he has to be careful to limit his penchant for stepping into midfield rashly, since the Red Bulls’ creativity can punish the slightest of openings. Tribbett’s passing also gives him an edge; it was when the Union made a concerted effort to split the center backs wide, get fullbacks forward and drop the central midfielder deep to receive possession that they started making progress against the Red Bulls in the Open Cup win two weeks ago

- Without injury restrictions, the Union go with their prized front five, naming an unchanged XI from last week. The danger of Dax McCarty as a late runner in the box and as a deep-lying connector for 1-2s puts a big responsibility on Roland Alberg and Tranquillo Barnetta to be vigilant tracking back.

- The Red Bulls are playing a third game in seven days, so the lineup is a mashup of the last two. Damien Perrinelle makes his first start of the season after knee surgery last October. He pairs with Aurelien Collin, alleviating the need for Ronald Zubar to start a third game in seven days. Alex Muyl gets the start as Gonzalo Veron has failed again to prove he’s worthy of playing every game.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Rivals and friends, Marsch saw coaching in Curtin from a young age

You can't tell from this tantrum in a June 29th Open Cup game,
but Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch, right, and Union boss Jim Curtin remain
close friends from their playing days. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)
Jim Curtin can scarcely get through a press conference relating to the New York Red Bulls without mentioning his personal connection and professional admiration for the team’s manager, Jesse Marsch.

The two go way back, teammates with the Chicago Fire from 2001-05 and again in wrapping up their careers with Chivas USA from 2008-09. They were both part of the 2003 Chicago Fire team that came within a win of the American soccer treble, finishing as MLS Cup runner-up to complement capturing the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield. The Fire lost in the Open Cup final again the next year.

Curtin and Marsch now find themselves on opposite sides of a burgeoning MLS rivalry, which pens another installment Sunday when the Red Bulls visit the Philadelphia Union.

Marsch this week spoke glowingly to reporters in New York about his former teammate and mentee (Curtin is five years Marsch’s junior). The remarks come midway through the video:

Marsch recognized coaching aptitude and interest in Curtin from a young age, and his description of a young Curtin coaching in the youth ranks early in his days with the Fire tracks with Curtin’s ascent to the Union top job via success in the Generation Adidas Cup in 2012.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Missimo nutmegs his way to a memorable Union debut

Cole Missimo made his Union debut
Wednesday night against Crystal Palace.
The roar went up at Talen Energy Stadium just as Connor Wickham’s shoulders slumped.

Away scampered Cole Missimo, like a culprit from the scene of the crime, ball in his possession, along with a moment he won’t forget.

That nutmeg, Missimo slipping the ball through the legs of the Crystal Palace forward and recollecting it, presented one of the highlights for the rookie in his Philadelphia Union debut, a 0-0 draw in a friendly with the English Premier League side Wednesday night.

Missimo was one of three members of the Union to make debuts, joining fellow 2016 SuperDraft pick Taylor Washington and Union Academy product/Bethlehem Steel short-term loanee Derrick Jones. In a game generally bereft of memorable instances, Missimo provided one.

“I was a little worried because I thought it was Ray (Gaddis) who played it down the line to me and I don’t know what else I could’ve done with it because I don’t think I could’ve gone backwards with it,” Missimo said. “So I was just hoping I’d just put it around him, and I guess I got kind of lucky that I got by him. Pretty cool moment."

That passage of play was one of several that will stick with Missimo. The 64th pick in January’s SuperDraft from Northwestern played the second half with the reserves. He’s logged 12 games for Bethlehem Steel and twice been named as an unused sub by manager Jim Curtin.

Missimo has been among a group of reserves that Curtin has touted for their aid preparing first-teamers weekly in training, keeping regulars sharp and healthily fearing for their jobs under the pressure applied from the fringes. For whatever drawbacks posed by a midweek international date inserted between MLS dates with Eastern Conference foes, the chance to reward players like Missimo for their toils feels worthwhile.

“This is probably the biggest moment of my career, to be honest,” Missimo said. “It’s a dream come true. It’s what I’ve been working towards my whole life. So whether it’s an MLS game or an exhibition game, it doesn’t matter. It’s truly a special moment.”
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