Philadelphia Union

Depth scoring helps Union take down Crew

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Depth scoring helps Union take down Crew

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. -- In a span of six minutes, the Union routed the Columbus Crew.

Despite not getting any production from leading scorer Jack McInerney, the Union received first-half goals from Brian Carroll, Sheanon Williams and Conor Casey to take down the Crew, 3-0, on Wednesday night at PPL Park.

“We were due one of these games,” said Union coach John Hackworth, whose club is coming off a tough draw to Toronto FC. “We felt like it would happen sooner or later. We’re glad it happened in a game as important as this one.”

The win gives the Union some space in the Eastern Conference standings. At 6-5-4, they are now in a three-way tie for third place with 22 points, while the Crew remain outside of the playoff picture with 17 points.

“For us to be able to put on that kind of performance and get the three points, get the separation from Columbus,” Hackworth said,” it was important for us.”

After trading minor chances with the Crew for the opening 25 minutes, Carroll broke the contest open with a headstrong play at the top of the box. Jumping into space to take control of a loose ball, Carroll gained possession and fired off a low shot that deflected off of Crew defender Eric Gehrig and trickled slowly inside the right post for the 1-0 Union lead.

“I was happy to get us off on the right foot and happy we were the first ones to score,” Carroll said. “Deflection or not, I’ll take it.

“It was open. I just wanted to put something on target and see what happens. It found its way in.”

Carroll and the Union were just getting started.

Four minutes later, on a corner kick, the Union’s leading assist man Sebastien Le Toux drilled a ball into the box that was flicked to the far post by Carroll. Beating his man to the cross, a streaking Williams got a head on the ball for the 2-0 Union advantage.

“It was a great flick from B.C. and I did whatever I could to put it on target,” Williams said.

Feeling left out of the scoring, Casey got in on the action.

Off a fast break in the 31st minute, Le Toux, from the right side of the Crew box, centered a low cross that was easily headed in by Casey at the top of the crease. The veteran scorer didn’t miss, making it 3-0 Union at the half.

“I can’t tell you how nice it was to be in the last 15 minutes of that game and not have it be a drama show,” Hackworth said. “It felt like -- finally, we deserve this. We’ve been working so hard, it was nice and well deserved.”

With two assists, Le Toux took the MLS lead with six.

“The ball he played into Conor was a fantastic ball,” Hackworth said. “He always does so much work. I’ve said he was going to be so important to our club, we knew he had to be for us to be successful. He’s a guy who brings it in this building.”

Minus striker Jairo Arrieta to international duty, Eddie Gaven and defensive rock Chad Marshall to injury, the Crew were unable to muster much momentum or stop the Union’s attack. They managed seven attempts on net in the first half with only two on goal.

“This one was the kind of game we needed,” Hackworth said. “There were so many questions being asked of us -- from consistency to if we’re fit. I think we answered a lot of those questions tonight. It’s nice for the guys because they deserved it. It was a well-rounded performance from everybody. I told the players at halftime, this was the best team defense we played. Everybody did their job and did it well.”

Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath recorded his fourth shutout of the season and finished with four saves.

“Everything was important,” Williams said. “We’ve been going through a tough stretch, not playing the kind of soccer we know we can play. Tonight was a good example that when we put it all together, that’s what we can do. There are a lot of positives to take out of this.”

In the waning moments of the contest, McInerney nearly added to his MLS-leading goal total of 10 when he found space in the right side of the box and plenty of time to shoot. Taking the right-footed shot, McInerney beat the goalkeeper but missed the net wide. It was the closest he would come.

“I would have bet the house that Jack would have scored at the end,” Williams said.

Inside Doop: Blowing a lead ahead of toughest game of the season

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Inside Doop: Blowing a lead ahead of toughest game of the season

The Union traveled all the way across the country, scored a couple of goals, and came within seconds of pulling off a huge win over a team that rarely loses at home.

In the end, of course, that will only make Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes even more frustrating as Union coaches and players are well aware that stringing together wins is the only way to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.

In this week’s Inside Doop, we’ll take a look at how a win turned into a draw and the brutally tough week that lies ahead.

Three thoughts about Saturday’s game
1. Anyone who’s watched the Union for the last eight seasons knows one-goal leads are never safe in the final minutes, especially on the road. And in San Jose, some of those old ghosts came back to haunt the Union again as a late penalty called on Josh Yaro allowed Chris Wondolowski’s 95th-minute PK to tie the game and spoil an otherwise positive performance. Afterwards, Haris Medunjanin threw his arms up in the air and stormed off the field, the team’s first-year midfielder perhaps learning some of the many frustrations that comes along with being a Union player.

2. Yaro has now made critical mistakes in each of his last three starts, all filling in for Oguchi Onyewu. That’s surely a tough thing for Union fans to swallow considering Yaro was the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft and is not really progressing as well as he should be, injuries aside. Contrast that, meanwhile, with Jack Elliott, the 77th pick in the 2017 draft. Elliott continued to build his case for Rookie of the Year with maybe his pest performance yet, scoring his first MLS goal and looking far more comfortable defensively than Yaro, his center back partner.

3. Questions certainly remain about Roland Alberg’s consistency and chemistry with teammates, but we can’t forget that he’s one of the better ball strikers this team has ever had. He showed that again Saturday with a very nice goal that put the Union ahead 2-1 early in the second half. With Ilsinho hurt, some may have thought promising rookie Adam Najem would assume the No. 10 role. But until the team is eliminated from the playoff contention, Alberg will likely still get the chance to show just how dangerous he can be and perhaps keep racking up the goals.

Three questions for the week ahead
1. Any time a team has to play games Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday, it’s a rough stretch. This one is even harder for the Union considering they had to fly back to Philly from San Jose before they quickly turn around to head to Toronto and face the league’s best team Wednesday, and then come back home to host upstart expansion side Atlanta United FC on Saturday. As always, there will be questions as how head coach Jim Curtin deals with minute management to keep everyone fresh. It might be especially interesting to see if he’d consider resting anyone in Toronto considering even a full-strength Union team has little chance of knocking off Toronto FC, who are currently 9-0-3 at home and maybe even one of the best MLS teams ever assembled. That said, if the Union can pull off the upset, it would be a huge boost toward their playoff push and a moment they’ll remember for a long time.

2. Remember Maurice Edu? The Union midfielder hasn’t played an MLS minute in nearly two years but suited up for USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel on Sunday, playing just over 30 minutes vs. Louisville City. Does that mean he’s ready to play for the Union? Not necessarily. Last year, he made three rehab appearances with Bethlehem, before then getting hurt as he was set to play for the Union. So the coaches may still want to give it a bit more time with the Steel, meaning a trip to Toronto is unlikely.

3. Another player who’s probably closer to returning is Andre Blake, who’s now missed eight straight games because of the Gold Cup and hurting his hand in the tournament final. John McCarthy continues to play well in his absence, but getting Blake back in time to face a star-studded Toronto attack could make a huge difference north of the border.

Stat of the week
With his goal Saturday, Alberg is tied for second on the team in goals this season with five. He also finished second on the team last season in that category, and his 14 total goals in nearly two seasons ranks fifth all time.

Quote of the week
“Both teams needed three points to be honest, so a tie kind of doesn’t do much for either of us at this stage.”

— Union head coach Jim Curtin, after Saturday’s 2-2 draw

Player of the week
On top of his goal, Elliott also helped set up the team’s second goal and made a couple of huge clearances in the box. The rookie was, by far, the team’s best player on the night.

Union squander late lead in San Jose, finish with draw against Earthquakes

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Union squander late lead in San Jose, finish with draw against Earthquakes

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Chris Wondolowski scored on a penalty kick in stoppage time to give the San Jose Earthquakes a 2-2 tie with the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night.

Shea Salinas drew a foul on Joshua Yaro in the penalty area to set up the penalty kick in the 95th minute. With his 10th goal, Wondolowski became the first player in MLS history with eight straight double-digit seasons.

Roland Alberg scored in the 55th to put Philadelphia (8-11-6) up 2-1.

Valeri Qazaishvili scored three minutes for San Joe (9-10-6). He eluded two defenders before punching it between two more defenders.

Jack Elliott tied it in the 35th with his first goal of the season, knocking the ball in on the left side of the net.