Kleberson wants to make championship impact with Union

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Kleberson wants to make championship impact with Union

CHESTER, Pa. -- Days after being introduced to his new team, new city and league, Brazilian midfielder Jose Kleberson made his first public Union debut on Wednesday night at na’Brasa Brazilian Steakhouse in Horsham, Pa.

Even though Union rookie Leo Fernandes had to translate the Brazilian’s words, Kleberson made his expectations clear.

“Not only am I going to bring my experience, but I will bring that Brazilian football to help the Philadelphia Union,” said Kleberson, who was loaned by Brazilian club Bahia for Freddy Adu. “I want to be very successful with my teammates and I want to win an MLS Cup and make the Philadelphia Union into champions.”

Although the 33-year-old has been with the Union for only a handful of training sessions, Union coach John Hackworth was almost giddy with excitement over his new midfielder.

“We’ve had him in training and it’s been good to have him,” said the coach, whose club is 2-2-0 this season. “His quality is evident the minute he steps on the field. He is still in the process of adapting to our team, coaching style, teammates and cold weather in Philadelphia. I don’t think that will change too fast. So far, so good.

“It’s great to have him. I'm really excited to have the kind of quality he has and experience and a player, a man who has won so many trophies in his career, the value he brings is immeasurable.”

Similar to how Adu was banished from the Union for his expensive contract and limited production, Kleberson was pushed out of Brazil. But that doesn’t mean the former Manchester United player is soured by the move.

“I’ve heard a lot about MLS through the years ever since [David] Beckham arrived,” said Kleberson, who was a major player in Brazil’s 2002 World Cup run. “I’m very interested in the league. I’ve always wanted to play here. The soccer is growing a lot and it’s changing a lot, and that’s what interested me the most. With my career and what I have done over the years, it is a good thing to come here. When Philadelphia first contacted me, I was very happy and I had only one thing on my mind, to come over here.”

The Union front office was also thrilled to not only have a good designated player -- but one that isn’t playing toward opportunity elsewhere in the world.

“I can tell you this man wants to be here,” Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz said. “And it’s really gratifying to me to see an international player that respects Major League Soccer, that respects the way we play and has a high regard for the league. So I’m really delighted to welcome Jose.”

With a struggling midfield, Hackworth is eager to get Kleberson’s talents on the field. Bad enough, that despite Kleberson just joining the team, Hackworth hasn’t ruled him out for Saturday’s road match against Columbus Crew.

“He’s a guy we’re talking about a lot right now,” Hackworth said. “He has to be the right choice to give us the best chance to be successful in Columbus. The following point is that we feel like our midfield needs to do a better job with the ball and needs to be better in possession. I don’t think that’s a secret at all. He is certainly a guy who has a really good tactical sense and sense of where he can find the ball, his touches are exceptional. If we feel he’s the best choice for us, he’s available for selection on Saturday.”

Union on Derrick Jones' red card: 'It killed our game'

Union on Derrick Jones' red card: 'It killed our game'

CHESTER, Pa. -- Without hesitation, referee Allen Chapman changed Sunday’s match.

“It killed our game,” Union captain Haris Medunjanin admitted.

Looking to put out a New York Red Bulls fast break caused by a turnover in the 53rd minute at Talen Energy Stadium, rookie midfielder Derrick Jones sliced in on Felipe with the intention of separating the ball from the player.

The attempt led to a screaming Felipe crashing to the grass. 

“Derrick has to leave his feet for the tackle,” said Union manager Jim Curtin, whose club has lost three straight games (see game story). “Derrick does tackle over the ball, but he doesn’t really touch Felipe. You can get into all kinds of different arguments on the call, but obviously, red cards change games.”

And it changed Sunday’s game in a big way. Chapman immediately whipped out the straight red card for what was deemed violent conduct, ejecting Jones, who was unavailable for comment after the game.

“You would like to see the referee maybe pause, take a deep breath and think about it,” Curtin said. “Not just be so quick to show the red.”

Despite tilting the field against the Red Bulls in the first half, the Union were forced on their heels in the second as a result of the call. And with the temperature exceeding 90 degrees on the field, it was a bad mix for a Union team looking for points.

As a result, Bradley Wright-Phillips eventually wore the Union defense down, scoring twice in the 87th and again in stoppage time for the 2-0 victory.

“When you play with 10 men against Red Bull, it’s always difficult,” Medunjanin said. “We kept defending until they scored the goal and after that, it was difficult to come back.”

Union defender Jack Elliott felt the same.

“It’s a hot day and the sending off really hurt us,” he said. “We were keeping the ball well in the first half and created a few chances. Even with 10 men, we could’ve nicked a goal but in the end, the heat really got to us with 10 men.” 

Because of how the call dramatically changed the match, Medunjanin spoke clearly about what he saw. He was one of the few Union players who admitted to watching a replay of the red card. 

“I just saw it and I don’t think it’s a red card,” he said. “Jonesy went for the ball and with a player like Felipe who likes to jump, I think everybody saw it was not a red card. It was the first card in the game and he gave directly a red card. It was not even on the leg. He went for the ball and I don’t think he even touched him.” 

Shorthanded Union fall to Red Bulls for 3rd-straight loss

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Shorthanded Union fall to Red Bulls for 3rd-straight loss

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. -- Playing down a man and working through heat that required league mandated water breaks, the Union valiantly battled but were unable to overcome the obstacles as they fell to the New York Red Bulls, 2-0, Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium.
 
“We were playing short for 30-plus minutes, it was tough,” said Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, who finished with one save. “It was a hot day, but we will not let this affect us. We have to bounce back.”
 
While the contest was marred by referee decisions, the loss was still the Union’s third straight, dropping their record to a near Eastern Conference-low, 4-7-4. On the other side, the victory was the Red Bulls’ second in their last seven matches as they move to 7-7-2.
 
“We’ve been here before in the beginning of the season,” said Union captain Haris Medunjanin referencing the Union’s four-game losing streak in March and April. “We lost a lot of games. Like I said before when you play with 10 men, it doesn’t matter who you play, it’s going to be difficult.” 
 
The match changed drastically in the 53rd minute. It was scoreless when Union midfielder Derrick Jones, playing for injured Alejandro Bedoya, received a straight red on what was interpreted as a studs-up midfield challenge on Felipe that sent the Red Bulls player screaming and grabbing at his ankle. 
 
“I just think it was a little bit rushed,” Curtin said. “I don’t think it warranted a red card. I think maybe a yellow. But again, he made a quick choice and we have to live with it.”
 
Although Felipe wasn’t injured and on replay, the tackle looked more clumsy than aggressive from Jones, the rookie put the Union at a disadvantage. From there, it was the Bradley Wright-Phillips show.
 
“Felipe is a guy we talked about all week in terms of a guy that can get under your skin and frustrate you,” Curtin said. “Don’t fall into any of the fighting or any of that. I think he may have baited the ref a little bit, made it look a little worse than it was. He’s drawn five red cards this season on opponents. Not a surprise there.”
 
Wright-Phillips broke through in the 87th minute when a Kemar Lawrence cross from left to right found the scorer on the inside of his defender and able to deflect the helper past Andre Blake. Wright-Phillips scored again in stoppage time, this time from Sal Zizzo to cement the 2-0 victory.
 
“Today I was dreadful,” Wright-Phillips said. “I was dreadful. I hear I was close to coming out of the game. I did think I would get a chance. I wanted to stay in for that because I didn’t do much else in the game.”
 
But the Union did have their chances early. While neither team was particularly sharp in the opening 45 minutes of the scorching Sunday contest, the Union were the more dangerous side. Their best chance came in the 22nd minute when Chris Pontius outplayed Damien Perrinelle on a bounce into the Red Bulls' box. The veteran attacker flicked a quick shot targeted for the far side that Luis Robles gloved away miraculously. 
 
Pontius nearly capitalized again off a Ray Gaddis play into the box but headed it wide to end the half.
 
“Chris had two really good looks,” Curtin said. “Robles makes the save and then the header before the half. Obviously, it would have been better to get one of those. We didn’t.”