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

Friday, June 30, 2017

After the Cup: Union training notes, June 30

In his first 'real game' with the Union, rookie Adam Najem impressed Wednesday.
(For Digital First Media/Mikey Reeves)
The Union are facing the last two installments of six games in 21 days, and the more granular stretch is a Wednesday-Sunday-Thursday span around the Fourth of July in an quirky schedule. The big news from training Friday was the return to full work for Maurice Edu, who’s approaching two years since his last Union game. You can read his reaction to this step in his recovery here.

A few other notes to send you into your holiday weekend:

- Let’s start on a positive note, shall we? Jim Curtin on Roland Alberg in Wednesday’s PK loss to the New York Red Bulls in the fifth round of the U.S. Open Cup: “I thought Roland Alberg had his best performance in a Philadelphia Union jersey. He was excellent.” Alberg scored in the 86th minute to send the game to extra time.

- Injury updates bring good news that extends beyond Edu. Andre Blake’s rib injury isn’t a concern, and he’s ready to go Sunday against New England, a team he’s demonized in the past. He got through training without issue Friday.

- Fabian Herbers cleared what Curtin called “the last hurdle,” shooting at full strength with his adductor strain that his cost him four MLS games. Sunday will be the fifth, as Herbers will join Bethlehem Steel for a home game with Richmond Saturday.

- Warren Creavalle is “ahead of schedule,” Curtin said, on his hamstring strain. But Sunday appears to be a bit too quick for the midfielder.

- Derrick Jones, who left Wednesday’s game with a knee knock, trained fully Friday, as did Ilsinho, who missed the RBA trip after a kick to his calf that led to bruising and swelling, which has dissipated.

- CJ Sapong left the Red Bulls game in extra time after a scary looking fall. Though he wasn’t out on the field for the entire session Friday, Curtin said he’s fine. Though the forward is sporting knocks to his shoulder and leg (“a little bit of a dead leg feeling that goes up into his back,” Curtin said without apparent concern), he should be fine for Sunday, though you wonder if Jay Simpson might be in line for the start to save Sapong for his return to Kansas City Thursday.

- The Union had 27 shots and just one goal Wednesday. That speaks to suspect finishing, and while Fafa Picault created a number of chances for himself and others, Curtin admitted he could’ve been more clinical in front of goal, along with a number of teammates on several breakaway looks. But finishing the chances they generate doesn’t appear to be a long-term concern, even if much of training Friday was been geared toward improving their hit rate. Curtin:
“Twenty-seven shots and to only score one is tough. We hit the post, couple that could’ve deflected off the post and in. Again, we are creating the chances. Do you wish we were a little more clinical? Absolutely. Again, we’ve worked on some finishing now and the past couple of days of training. With the hard work that the guys put in each and every day, those ones that come off the post will start to go in.”
- On the positive side, Curtin pointed out the youth with which the Union finished Wednesday – Keegan Rosenberry, Josh Yaro and Jack Elliott at the back; Jones giving way to Adam Najem; Marcus Epps in midfield with Picault (just 26) up top. That group thoroughly dominated the Red Bulls in extra time and was unlucky not to win, but it’s an encouraging step. I tweeted yesterday about Epps’ excellence:

Here’s Curtin on Najem, who particularly impressed him and who showed that he’s capable of playing as a No. 10 as well as a No. 8. Until Alejandro Bedoya returns from international duty, Najem is a decent option as an offense/defense platoon at the No. 8 for Jones or Creavalle:
“I thought he came into a game that’s, I call them real games, they’re high intensity. And you only play a certain amount of them per year. It’s usually, we got a taste in the playoffs for sure, Red Bull tends to bring it out of us because it’s high energy, it’s a high-press system and they’re fast. It’s different than some of the other games look. When you get the opportunity to recreate them, those are the teachable moments for young players. When you’re in those games, you feel it. It’s hard to explain to people, but you know when you’re in one. And Adam stepped into one and thrived. I thought he did really well. He got us out of a lot of tight spots. I think we were at our most dangerous when he was on the field in terms of in waves of us going at them, really, really pushing the tempo of things, turning them over, winning balls. Happy with his performance. Again, he’s been a guy we’ve challenged now to impact the Steel games more in terms of getting assists and goals. We all see him play in tight spaces, his ability to keep possession is excellent. But then the next challenge is to impact the game with the final pass, to do a good job in and around the goal and he did that. He got assists and goals in the Steel games. The next step is to trust him in a game of the magnitude of (Wednesday) night.”

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