Blogs > Union Tally

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

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.

Read more »

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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.”
Read more »

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

More than just tricks, Ilsinho earns Player of the Week honors

Union winger Ilsinho, playing against Chicago last month,
has raised his level in recent weeks, earning MLS Player of the Week honors.
(Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)
For weeks, Jim Curtin has struck the “just wait” refrain about Ilsinho. Just wait until he’s healthy and fit and acclimated and over all those minor obstacles of adjusting to MLS, particularly after being without a club for the better part of a year.

In Saturday night’s 3-0 win over D.C. United, MLS saw the potential Ilsinho has, for which he was Tuesday crowned MLS Player of the Week by the North American Soccer Reporters (NASR) for Week 18 of the season.

“Very happy,” Ilsinho said after training Tuesday, via translator Leo Fernandes. “But the most important thing is that the team won and that we're playing well. It was good to get three points.”

Ilsinho is the third Union player tabbed as player of the week in the last six weeks, joining Roland Alberg in Week 16 and Chris Pontius in Week 14.

Ilsinho scored twice Saturday, once off a penalty kick that he drew. His 47th minute goal from the run of play was a Goal of the Week nominee, a rocket after CJ Sapong knocked down an Alberg free kick.

Getting his first goal with a team is a poignant moment of arrival, as Ilsinho appreciates.

“When you come into a new team, to score that first goal, that's really one of your main goals,” he said. “It took more than 15 games. But it's good for the rest of the season and my confidence just keeps growing.”

It’s also fulfills the promise that Curtin has long touted. Ilsinho, who was last with Ukrainian club Shaktar Donetsk until the end of the 2014-15 season, played his way onto the team from a preseason trial but required time to come to grips with MLS’s physicality and fitness demands. He started the first four games of the season, going the full 90 in the loss to Chicago, but then suffered a hamstring injury and a quad knock that cost him five games.

He went from April 2 to the June 15 Open Cup match without making a start, limiting his brilliant trickery on the ball to flashes in substitute appearances.

Despite the stop-start open to his Union career, Ilsinho has earned an impressive distinction. He’s played 14 games for the Union this season, which overtakes former Red Bull midfielder Juninho Pernambucano and Columbus defender Glauber as the second-most MLS games played by a capped Brazilian national. First on the list is Kaka, the Orlando City all-star, who’s played 37 and counting.
Read more »

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Alberg's goal goes down as historic for the Union

Roland Alberg bagged his sixth MLS goal of the season Saturday
against D.C. United. (Courtesy of Philadelphia Union/Sideline Photos)
Lost in the onslaught of goals in the Union’s 3-0 win over D.C. United Saturday night, Roland Alberg earned a double dose of club history.

The Dutchman converted a 20th-minute penalty kick to open the scoring, his sixth goal of the season in MLS and eighth in all competitions, including the U.S. Open Cup. Alberg is tied for the team lead with Chris Pontius for most goals in MLS and total this season.

In the longer view, Alberg’s goal earned two other distinctions: He is tied for the most goals scored in a single season by a Union midfielder and the most goals scored in a single season by a Union foreign signing.

Alberg is level with Gabriel Gomez for both honors. Gomez scored six goals in the ill-fated 2012 season, the Panamanian setting the standard for Union midfielders. Vincent Nogueira scored five goals from midfield last season, as did Freddy Adu in 2012. Both are in Alberg’s rearview mirror.

Gomez owns the slight edge in style points, since only one of his goals came from the penalty spot, as opposed to three of Alberg’s. Alberg also forced the own goal by Chicago a few weeks back, so it’s really 6.5, like an away-goals tiebreaker kind of thing.

As far as foreign signings go, Alberg and Gomez are even again. The Union’s most productive seasons in terms of goals scored have been monopolized by American forwards, draftees and acquisitions from other MLS clubs, as is the case of former Seattle Sounder Sebastien Le Toux, who owns three of the top four and four of the top seven scoring seasons in Union history. Others that Alberg is chasing include Conor Casey (twice), Jack McInerney (twice), CJ Sapong, Danny Mwanga and Andrew Wenger.Read more »

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Union-DC: Lineups and prematch observations

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

D.C. United (4-4-2) 
Bench: Worra, Boswell, Robinson, Vincent, Sam, Saborio, Acosta 

- For the first time since June 1, CJ Sapong reenters the Union starting lineup, bringing an end to the false-nine experiment. This introduces a tantalizing first for Union fans – the first minutes all season that Sapong, Tranquillo Barnetta, Ilsinho and Roland Alberg are on the field simultaneously. You would think that with the success of those other pieces sans Sapong over the last month, the Union should kick it into another gear with the center forward back. Time will tell.

- Ken Tribbett comes back into the lineup with Josh Yaro suspended. That enforced change means Jim Curtin keeps the fullbacks the same around him.

- On the injury front, the Union get some relief for their forward line. Fabian Herbers and Sebastien Le Toux have both shaken off injury problems to get back to the bench.

- D.C. changes things up against this week. It’s a two-forward look, with both Alvaro Saborio and Luciano Acosta on the bench and Fabian Espindola pairing with Alhaji Kamara, presumably. Newly acquired Lloyd Sam also makes the bench, while Kofi Opare is preferred to Bobby Boswell in central defense. That’s a lot of options at Ben Olsen’s disposal on the bench and a lot of ways they can change the formation from the 4-4-2.

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Union's Blake, Rosenberry get All-Star nods

Union goalie Andre Blake will join teammate Keegan Rosenberry
in the 2016 MLS All-Star Game (AP).
Before the Union suited up against D.C. United Saturday night, the club got a pair of accolades that emphasize how far it has come this season.

Rookie Keegan Rosenberry and goalie Andre Blake were selected to the MLS All-Star Game as part of the fan XI vote. The MLS All-Stars will take on English giants Arsenal July 28 in San Jose.

Blake has played in all but one Union game this season, when the Jamaican was away with his national team at Copa America Centenario. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 SuperDraft is among the MLS leaders in saves and goals against average.

Rosenberry, the No. 3 pick in January’s SuperDraft, is the only member of the Union to play every minute this season. The right back also has one goal, coming against the L.A. Galaxy.

The two all-star berths for the Union are the franchise’s first since 2014 when Maurice Edu was selected as an injury replacement by coach Caleb Porter and played the second half of a win over German club Bayern Munich.

It’s the first time since 2012 that the Union have multiple all-star nods. That year, a contest hosted by PPL Park against Chelsea, featured Carlos Valdes (selected by commissioner Don Garber) and Michael Farfan (a last-minute replacement to fill out the bench). Valdes played 54 minutes, and Farfan logged 24 in a 3-2 win.

Other Union all-stars include Jack McInerney in 2013 (an injury replacement who played 33 minutes as a sub against Roma), Faryd Mondragon in 2011 (who played the first half, giving up two goals in a 4-0 loss to Manchester United) and Sebastien Le Toux in 2010 (who played the first half in a 5-2 loss to Man U).

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Back at it: Notes from Tuesday's training

The Philadelphia Union returned to training Tuesday morning after two days off following Saturday’s disappointing 1-0 loss in the swelter of Houston. Manager Jim Curtin wrapped up a few news items after the session.

- First, the long-awaited reaction to Josh Yaro’s second yellow card in the 87th minute Saturday for a take down on Mauro Manotas that looked for all the world like a well-sold dive. 

Curtin was predictably decisive on his viewing of the event, which put the Union down to 10 men and paved the way for Cristian Maidana’s game-winning free kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
“No, it’s not a second yellow,” Curtin said. “The ref made a mistake. The kid (Manotas) did a good job baiting him into a play. Josh got one-vs-one in a situation off of a kind of one-touch through ball. Obviously as a center back, you don’t want to get isolated. But at the same time, it doesn’t take a genius to look at the tape and see it’s not a second yellow card.”
Curtin pointed out how far behind the play referee Edvin Jurisevic was, as you can see in the video. He’s not in frame when Manotas hits the deck, and he’s coming from the center of the field after a long ball to the wing, so he’s screened by Yaro from seeing what contact, if any, transpires between the bodies.

The rookie Yaro was diplomatic about the decision, which represented his first two career MLS yellow cards.

“It’s the referee’s decision,” Yaro said. “I personally didn’t feel that it was a foul. But then again, I’m not the one in charge of the game. He’s in charge of the game. It’s his decision, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to live with it and move on.”

Curtin confirmed that there’s no appeal process for a yellow card, meaning Yaro will be suspended for Saturday’s visit from D.C. United. Manotas could theoretically be given a fine as supplemental discipline for simulation if the MLS Disciplinary Committee reviews it, but that does the Union no good.

- On the injury front, neither Sebastien Le Toux (concussion) nor Fabian Herbers (hamstring) trained with the team Tuesday. Le Toux passed an early phase of his concussion protocol testing, with more on tap Wednesday if he continues to progress. “Sebastien is pushing for this weekend,” Curtin said, but any setback would likely write him off for D.C. Next week is probably more likely. Herbers tested his hamstring, and Curtin said the rookie confirmed to him that he had no pain, reinforcing the original diagnosis of a minor problem. Curtin added, “it looks like he’ll be available for the weekend.”
Read more »

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Union-Red Bulls: Open Cup lineups

Union (4-2-3-1) 
Le Toux 
Bench: McCarthy, Gaddis, Tribbett, Carroll, Missimo, Fernandes, Restrepo

Red Bulls (4-2-3-1) 
Bench: Robles, Bilyeu, Duvall, Felipe, Veron, Allen, Muyl

 - Fabian Herbers misses out with an undisclosed injury, so an already thin frontline looks even thinner. (CJ Sapong is still out with an ankle injury.) Sebastien Le Toux is drafted in to start, and there are no options behind him on the bench. Chris Pontius could conceivably start up there, but that’s not a great option.

- Besides that, changes are minimal. Warren Creavalle is in for Brian Carroll. Josh Yaro holds his spot in central defense. And red-hot Roland Alberg is still there looking to add on to his seven games in four games.

- The Red Bulls name a pretty solid team, save for Luis Robles getting a night off. Bradley Wright-Phillips is up top, and the bench still looks strong with Gonzalo Veron and Felipe on the bench. Mike Grella and Sasha Kljestan are in the center of midfield to create chances.

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Monday, June 27, 2016

A numbers game: Measuring the loss of Vincent Nogueira

The Union are certainly different with Roland Alberg, right,
in midfield as opposed to Vincent Nogueira. Whether that's for the better
remains to be seen. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)
Let me start this with a slight mea culpa: Sunday morning, I tweeted out some stats about the Union’s defense that were slightly inaccurate. The point being illustrated remains the same, but my math needs a little refining. So here goes.

Since Vincent Nogueira played his last minute with the Philadelphia Union June 15 against Harrisburg City, the Philadelphia Union have surrendered 11 goals in three-plus games (i.e., 287 minutes, since Nogueira was subbed off in the 73rd). That’s an average of 3.45 goals per 90 minutes.

In the 757 minutes that Nogueira played in all competitions this season, the Union surrendered just 10 goals. That’s an alarmingly lower rate of 1.19 G/90.

That should set the record straight, but it got me wondering (with an assist from some questions on Twitter): If we look at these numbers as a barometer of Nogueira’s impact on the Union, what else can we glean from it?

Here are three things the numbers tell us:

- The Union’s struggles aren’t all about Nogueira. When Nogueira wasn’t in the lineup this season (he missed two games with an ankle injury, then three with an oblique strain), the Union allowed 17 goals in 863 minutes. That’s 1.77 G/90. Since his departure two weeks ago, the Union’s concession rate has nearly doubled. That indicates that something (likely somethings) else is in play.

- It’s not Roland Alberg’s fault. Well, not entirely. If we run the same analysis looking at the Dutch midfielder who has more or less replaced Nogueira, the correlation isn’t clear. The Union are worse defensively with Alberg, that’s for sure. They’ve allowed 14 goals in 602 minutes with him, a g/90 of 2.09. Without Alberg, the Union have allowed just 13 goals in 1,018 minutes, nearly halving the rate to 1.15.

- It’s not all that uneven. In the minutes Nogueira played this season, the Union are plus-2 on goal differential (12 scored, 10 allowed). With Alberg, the Union are plus-2 (16 scored, 14 allowed). The Union scored less but conceded less with Nogueira; with Alberg, they score more goals but also allow more goals. On each player’s account, neither is necessarily better or worse. But it is a matter of working with what the team has to be most successful.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Union-Fire: Lineups and prematch observations

UNION (4-2-3-1)
Fabinho- Marquez-Tribbett-Rosenberry
Bench: McCarthy, Gaddis, Yaro, Creavalle, Fernandes, Le Toux, Restrepo

Chicago (3-5-2) 
Bench: Lampson, Rodrigo, Conner, Goosens, LaBrocca, Meira, Morrell 

- Against a team that hasn’t won on the road since 2014, what better time to try some new things? That’s why Ilsinho gets his first start in MLS since April 2 (against Chicago) and why Roland Alberg gets the nod for the first time since April. It’s the long-awaited first start for the threesome of Alberg, Ilsinho and Tranquillo Barnetta.
- Jim Curtin swaps in his home fullback (Fabinho) for the road fullback (Ray Gaddis). Sebastien Le Toux heads to the bench, a wise choice given that he’s the reserve forward for Fabian Herbers with CJ Sapong still out.

- The Fire miss Matt Polster tonight with a concussion. Former Union man Vlejko Paunovic goes back to the 3-5-2, with rookie Brandon Vincent the danger man in on the wing. If the Fire are going to be dangerous, it’s through the action of Kennedy Igboananike and David Acccam, likely going it alone with the rest bunkering in. This is a team that remains dangerous on the counter.

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