Philadelphia Union

Union bolster camp roster, sign two former trialists

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Union bolster camp roster, sign two former trialists

The Union added roster depth on Saturday, signing towering forward Aaron Wheeler and Trinidad and Tobago defender, Damani Richards.

The move comes just two days before the Union open training camp at YSC Sports on Monday.

Considered one of the smaller teams in MLS last season, the Union picked up size with Wheeler -- a former team trialist. Standing at 6-foot-7, with some outlets reporting 6-foot-4, the 24-year-old Baltimore native used his size to win a one-year contract with FC KooTeePee in Finland last season, scoring four goals in 19 games.

But the Union wont be Wheelers first stint in the MLS. In 2009, the long attacker signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps but was unable to break the clubs roster. Wheeler joins Jack McInerney, Sebastien Le Toux, Chandler Hoffman, Antoine Hoppenot and newly drafted striker, Don Anding, up front for the Union.

What the Union gained in forward size with Wheeler, they added in youthful talent in Richards. At just 18, Richards, 6-foot, is another Union trialist that caught on. Hailing from the T&T U-20 team and national program, Richards is a moldable defensive talent that Union coach John Hackworth could be drooling over.

Richards joins Bakary Soumare, Jeff Parke, Gabe Farfan and Sheanon Williams on the Unions back line.

E-mail Ryan Bright at RyanBright13@gmail.com

Union goalie Andre Blake injures hand in Jamaica's loss to U.S. in Gold Cup final

Union goalie Andre Blake injures hand in Jamaica's loss to U.S. in Gold Cup final

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As the victorious American players bounced so hard the podium shook, medals round their necks, a beaming Bruce Arena in the back raised his arms to the air right along with them as gold confetti began to fall.

The U.S. resurgence is off to an impressive start since Arena returned late last year. Another CONCACAF Gold Cup crown, and now on to more important business: qualifying for next year's World Cup.

Former Stanford star Jordan Morris scored a tiebreaking goal in the 88th minute , and the United States beat Jamaica 2-1 on Wednesday night for its sixth Gold Cup title and first since 2013.

Jozy Altidore's goal on a 28-yard free kick in the 45th minute beat backup goalkeeper Dwayne Miller after Jamaica captain Andre Blake left early with a hand injury.

Je-Vaughn Watson tied the score when he got away from Morris for a 4-yard volley off Kemar Lawrence's 50th-minute corner kick.

Morris, who left nearby Stanford in his junior year, has won the 2015 NCAA title, the 2016 MLS championship with Seattle and now the 2017 Gold Cup. He got the breakthrough goal with a 14-yard right-footed shot after Gyasi Zardes crossed. Jermaine Taylor tried to clear with a header and the ball was knocked by Clint Dempsey with a leg back to Morris.

"I was nervous. It was my guy that scored on the goal, so I was trying to make up for it any way that I could," Morris said. "Obviously. I take responsibility for that. But luckily I could put one in the back of the net."

It was the fifth international goal for the 22-year-old Morris, who tied 16-year-old Canadian Alphonso Davies for the tournament lead with three goals.

"That was like a dagger in the heart," Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said.

Arena took a moment after the final whistle to congratulate Morris for the pretty shot but also for how he answered from a mistake.

The U.S. extended its unbeaten streak to 14 games (9-0-5) under Arena, who became the first coach to win three Gold Cup titles.

"Bruce brought in a new energy," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "He just gave us a tremendous lift."

The Americans had a chance to go ahead in the 19th minute when Altidore's swerving 30-yard shot was parried by Blake, who dived left and then beat Kellyn Acosta to the rebound at the 6-yard box. Acosta collided with Blake and appeared to kick the keeper's right hand before Jamaica's Damion Lowe cleared. Blake's hand was wrapped but he couldn't continue and was replaced by Miller four minutes later. As Blake left the field, he acknowledged the cheering fans with a wave of his left hand, then later emerged for the medal ceremony with his hand bandaged after receiving seven stitches that will be in for 10 days. Nothing was broken.

"It was a pretty bad cut, I knew I wasn't able to continue," Blake said. "It happens sometimes."

Altidore put the U.S. ahead with a curling shot past Miller's outstretched right hand into the upper corner of the net just beneath the crossbar, his 39th goal in 108 appearances.

Lawrence, who scored in a 1-0 semifinal win Sunday against Mexico, took another corner kick in the 75th minute moments after Alvas Powell's shot from close range deflected off Graham Zusi -- a sequence that had Howard yelling at his defense.

U.S. captain Michael Bradley earned the Golden Ball at the tournament's top player.

Using a lineup with about half its regular starters -- the rest are in preseason with European clubs -- the U.S. reached its record 10th final. The Reggae Boyz were a surprising final opponent after they stunned Mexico in a semifinal Sunday to reach the title match for a second straight time.

With 18 of 22 starters from Major League Soccer, this was a rematch of the 2015 Gold Cup semifinal won 2-1 by Jamaica at Atlanta. For the first time since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann in November, Arena kept his lineup unchanged. He inserted the 34-year-old Dempsey in the 55th minute.

Chunks of turf came loose yet again at Levi's Stadium, the $1.2 billion, 3-year-old home of the NFL San Francisco 49ers. The field has been an ongoing issue.

The Americans hope for momentum built during this run as they prepare to resume World Cup qualifying. The U.S faces Costa Rica in a rematch of the Gold Cup semifinal on Sept. 1 at Harrison, New Jersey, and play four days later at Honduras. The hex concludes against Panama on Oct. 6 in Orlando, Florida, and at Trinidad and Tobago four days after.

"We're not worried one bit about World Cup qualifying today. I can promise you that," Bradley said. "This was about a group of guys winning a trophy and that's been the only goal."

Arena already was looking ahead.

"We're a long way from qualifying for a World Cup, and that's the objective, for sure," he said.

Serious? You bet. But he also had a little fun with his players as the bubbly flowed.

"I told the players if anyone sprays champagne on me they will not be considered for the next World Cup qualifier and also the World Cup if we reach the World Cup," Arena said. "So I'm dry right now. It's surprising, isn't it?"

C.J. Sapong, Union roll over shorthanded Crew

C.J. Sapong, Union roll over shorthanded Crew

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — Led by an offensive explosion from C.J. Sapong, the Union rode the early lead and man advantage to easily defeat the Columbus Crew, 3-0, on Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

“One of our hopes is to be in the playoffs and our home games are most important,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “Hopefully this gets some momentum going. I told them it was imperative that we win this game.” 

Avenging last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to the Crew, who are now 10-11-1, the Union snapped a two-game losing streak to keep pace in the Eastern Conference. Five points behind the Crew for the final playoff spot, the Union desperately needed a positive result to move to 7-9-5 on the season.

“We had a bad taste in our mouth,” Curtin said. “I think the guys really responded tonight.”

John McCarthy completed the two-save shutout.

That desperation was on display early as the Union capitalized off some in-box confusion and an impressive pass from Sapong in the 20th minute. Jumping on an errant clear by the Crew, Sapong completed a bicycle kick centering pass to Ilsinho, who placed his rocket shot past Downingtown, Pennsylvania, native Zack Steffen for the 1-0 Union lead.

The match drastically changed in the Union’s favor in the 35th minute.

Causing a Justin Meram turnover in the defensive zone, Haris Medunjanin played the ball ahead to Ilsinho, who skillfully found Roland Alberg streaking down the right side. With his head up and the defense outnumbered, the midfielder played a perfect lead pass that broke Sapong in alone on goal. But Sapong was immediately hauled down from behind by Jonathan Mensah to earn the Crew player a straight red card and the Union a penalty kick.

Crew manager Gregg Berhalter was not happy with the call.

“We’re putting the result away,” he said. “I already told the guys after the game, we didn’t get beat by Philadelphia tonight, we got beat by the three men in red. We’re OK. We’ll regroup. We’re gonna be fine. The morale’s gonna be fine.”

Yet, the Union were unable to capitalize right away. Alberg and Sapong were caught in a heated conversation over who takes the shot with Alberg eventually lining up, despite a strong protest from his teammate. The gamble wouldn’t pay off for Alberg as his shot found the hands of Steffen and the crossbar to stay out.

“I had the ball and was thinking I was going to score today,” Alberg said. “I missed, but last year and this year, I took a lot of PKs and didn’t miss. It was a chance for me to score but sometimes it happens and you miss. It’s unlucky, but the most important thing is three points today.” 

Playing a type of half-court offense as a result of total possession, the Union pressed for the second goal. But it took until the 66th minute for them to get it. Off a lofted pass from Giliano Wijnaldum, Sapong headed the ball off the right post and back to himself for the unconventional goal and 2-0 Union advantage. 

It was Sapong’s career-high 10th goal of the season.

“I think in the moment it meant more for me than I would’ve thought,” Sapong said of his 10th. “It’s always good to break any barriers. But again, that’s still just a stat. I want to continue to keep helping my team. This next half of the season, I need to keep performing and producing to help my team.”

Things unraveled further for the Crew in the 76th minute when Lalas Abubakar received a straight red for what referee Ismail Elfath deemed violent contact in a collision with Ilsinho. With room to run, Marcus Epps scored his first MLS goal in the 81st minute off a pass from Sapong and Ilsinho. The rookie finished with eight shots on goal.

“I was getting frustrated for a minute but my mindset from the beginning of the game was to get shots off and be aggressive,” Epps said. “So I’m just happy one of them went in the net.”