Union loan Valdes to Independiente Santa Fe

982715.jpg

Union loan Valdes to Independiente Santa Fe

With Sebastien Le Toux, Conor Casey and Jeff Parke leading an offseason of positive additions for the Union, one subtraction has set them back.

The Union announced Tuesday they have loaned captain Carlos Valdes to Colombian club team Independiente Santa Fe. The loan is for the length of the Liga Postobon Primera A season.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Although the Union have made questionable decisions featuring their high-profile players in the past, the move to loan Valdes came per the central defenders request. With Colombia working to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Colombian national team coach Jose Pekerman was rumored to want his players closer to home, where they could be analyzed more efficiently.

"We will certainly miss Carlos for this season, but this is a unique situation, Union coach John Hackworth said. We have done everything possible to make sure this move works for both the player and our club. Our hope is that this allows Carlos the best chance of reaching his dream of playing in the 2014 World Cup."

Valdes, 27, received his first MLS All-Star nod in 2012, starting 33 games and scoring two goals. He started 65 games over two seasons with the Union.

Acquired via loan from Sante Fe in early 2011, the Union bought out Valdes full rights on Aug. 5, 2011. Because of his success with the Union and budding role with the Colombian National Team, many speculated the defender would garner interest abroad, thus making his loan less than surprising.

For the Union, replacing the team minutes leader at central defense will fall into the hands of either Bakary Soumare or newly acquired Parke, who joined the team this offseason in a trade with the Seattle Sounders. Midfielder Amobi Okugo will work in the rotation as depth.

E-mail Ryan Bright at RyanBright13@gmail.com

Union's home win streak snapped, fall to Whitecaps, 3-2

usa-union-whitecaps.jpg
USA Today Images

Union's home win streak snapped, fall to Whitecaps, 3-2

CHESTER, Pa. — Roland Alberg continued his scoring run (see story), but it couldn’t cover up for defensive mistakes, as the frustrated Union fell to the Vancouver Whitecaps, 3-2, on Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

It’s not a feeling the group is used to or likes,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “The guys are disappointed, upset, frustrated.”

The loss, their second in three games, snaps a 10-game home unbeaten streak for the Union and sinks their record to 7-5-5 on the season and 6-1-2 at home. The Whitecaps move to 7-7-3.

“It’s difficult to lose at home here,” Curtin said. “But we had a good undefeated run and we’re going to start another one.”

Thing were looking up for the Union early. The hosts opened scoring in the 14th minute with an eye-opening display of skill from Tranquillo Barnetta, Ilsinho, Fabian Herbers and Alberg.

Barnetta began the play upfield off a turnover from Pedro Morales. And after ticky-tac passing at the top of the Whitecaps box, a one-touch delivery eventually found the feet of Herbers on the right side, giving the rookie space to fire off a right-footed volley that decked the upper left corner post.

That’s where Alberg pounced. The red-hot midfielder settled it off a Sebastien Le Toux deflection and easily placed it home for his fifth goal of the season — all of which came in the Union’s last three games.

“The feeling is great, but it’s a different feeling than Wednesday,” Alberg said, recalling his three-goal game against the Chicago Fire. “I’m disappointed about the result. I think we deserved more today, we played a great game. But in the end, no points and that’s a disappointment."

But the Whitecaps would counter just five-minutes later on one of many Union mistakes. A corner cross into the box slipped through the hands of Andre Blake and onto the head of Andrew Jacobson and in.

“I’m disappointed,” Blake said. “It’s a mistake, and as a professional player, there will be times when you make mistakes. Unfortunately, that mistake cost a goal. I can’t dwell on it, it’s the past and I have to move on.”

The Whitecaps made it 2-1 in the 42nd by catching the Union overcommitted as a result of a Barnetta turnover in the midfield. On the counter, Kekuta Manneh torched Union defender Josh Yaro, cut to the middle and fired off a low shot that cleanly beat Blake. In the 84th minute, Christian Bolanos added the insurance when his shot was deflected in by Keegan Rosenberry.

"It was judgment," Yaro said. "That's part of playing. You make mistakes that cause a goal like that. It's not great, but there's nothing I can do about it now. I just have to let it go and move on."

It was the eighth goal the Union allowed in their last three games.

You win or you learn,” Curtin said. “And we’re learning right now.”

The Union fought back in stoppage time, when a corner was headed by Walter Restrepo back into the crease where Chris Pontius was waiting to make the finish. However, the match ended seconds after, 3-2.

“It’s a big win for us and a very important win,” Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson said. “Today, we wanted to show a little character and I think we showed a lot of character. Credit to the guys, it’s not an easy place to come. We’ve never won here, but we have tonight.”

Union-Whitecaps 5 things: Looking to make history at home

Union-Whitecaps 5 things: Looking to make history at home

Union vs. Whitecaps
7 p.m. on CSN (Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.)

Fresh off a wild win over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, the Roland Alberg-led Union (7-4-5) look to continue their winning run at home against the Western Conference Vancouver Whitecaps (6-7-3) Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Alberg’s explosion
For much of the 2016 season to date, Alberg appeared to be the odd man out in the Union’s lineup. While Alberg worked on his defensive posturing, Union manager Jim Curtin stuck the Dutch midfielder behind Tranquillo Barnetta and Chris Pontius on the offensive depth chart.

But since being let loose in the first game of the U.S. Open Cup, Alberg has proven he belongs.

“He’s great around the goal, that is for certain,” Curtin said. “He hits a heavy ball, great left foot, makes great decisions around the goal, can pass. It’s good to get him going in terms of defensive running, he has really worked hard on that, he’s worked his tail off.”

The work is paying off for the first-year Union attacker, as he scored twice against the Harrisburg City Islanders, notched a goal against New York City FC and then buried the Chicago Fire with a hat trick.

It was a lucrative week and a promising development for the Union heading into Saturday. 

“He give us a calmness on the ball, and we were very happy for him,” Curtin said. “He’s put in a lot. He did a great job getting the goals for us, he’s carrying us to be honest.”

2. Sloppy defense
Though the Union found an offensive answer in Alberg, they haven’t found one recently on defense. The once defensively-stout Union have relaxed a bit, allowing three goals in two consecutive games.

“Three goals given up is not something that we want each game,” Union fullback Keegan Rosenberry said. “Jim talks about it game in, game out, the one goal per game average. We can do better. We can do better in possession, we can do better in limiting counterattacks.”

But if the Union have a surprise characteristic this season, it’s the ability to fight through defensive adversity and fight back in games. Despite going down 3-0 against NYCFC, the Union nearly fought back to tie the game, eventually losing, 3-2. Against the Fire, they gave up the opening goal to David Accam just two minutes into the game before scoring four unanswered. 

“No one hangs their head here,” Pontius said. “We all get back to work. That’s been the mentality of the group. Even 3-0 down at NYC. No one gave in. We kept working at it and ended up tying that game. The resilience of this group is good.”

3. Skillful but inconsistent
Consistency, or lack thereof, has been the theme of the season for the Whitecaps. After ripping off three straight wins in early May, Carl Robinson’s club went 0-2-1, or 1-4-1, if you count the Amway Canadian Championship (Canada’s Open Cup).

But despite their record, the Union are wary of the Whitecaps’ skill.

“They find ways to get points,” Curtin said. “They’re a team that has individual guys who can beat you off the dribble. They have crafty, clever, dynamic individuals. But they’ve conceded some goals this year, so we’ll be looking to attack on our home field.”

Making matters worse, the Whitecaps, who are sitting sixth in the Western Conference, haven't defended well of late, giving up 15 goals in their last seven MLS games.

“You always try to get better,” Whitecaps midfielder Andrew Jacobson said. “I think we just expected to be great defensively, but I think it’ll come. As the team starts playing better and gets rhythm in the attack, it’ll help our defense as well.”

4. Keep an eye on ...
Union: Although Fabian Herbers has done a commendable job filling in for injured C.J. Sapong, the Union could use their physical leading scorer back. Lucky for them, that could happen this Saturday in a minor role, according to Curtin. “C.J. has been working out on the field, he’s able to cut and he’s running hard,” the coach said. "We’re optimistic that he’ll play a role [on Saturday].”

Whitecaps: On a team full of skillful talent, Pedro Morales, a midfielder, leads the Whitecaps in goals with six and assists with three. “The key is Pedro Morales," Curtin said. “He draws a lot of penalty kicks, so you have to be smart with one-on-one defending in the box.”

5. This and that
• The Union are 2-2-2 against the Whitecaps all-time and 1-0-2 against them at Talen Energy Stadium. 

• With a 6-0-2 record at home this season, the Union are riding a 10-game unbeaten streak at Talen Energy Stadium, tying a franchise record. “That’s a credit to our fans, our players, we’ve made it a tough place to play,” Curtin said. “We’ve been good at home and want to keep that going.”

• The Union are looking for a set back line. But that hasn’t been an easy task with Ken Tribbett and Josh Yaro competing admirably for the spot. “We have four good center backs,” said Curtin, who wouldn’t reveal who will play next to Richie Marquez on Saturday. “Ken brings a different skill set, he has the aerial presence and size. Josh brings a little more speed.”

With Vincent Nogueira gone, Roland Alberg surging at right time for Union

With Vincent Nogueira gone, Roland Alberg surging at right time for Union

CHESTER, Pa. — Roland Alberg is on fire.

The Dutch newcomer ripped the Chicago Fire apart on Wednesday at Talen Energy Stadium, piling in three goals on goalkeeper Sean Johnson for a 4-3 Union win.

He even had the primary hand in a Fire own goal.

“It’s incredible,” Alberg said. “The fans are great. Everybody — the fans, the staff, my teammates — I don’t know the word but, yeah, they love me. It’s good. Look, I’m sweating now. It’s good.”

Wednesday's outburst was just a continuation of potent play from the elated midfielder, who scored his first MLS tally on Saturday against New York City FC. And even that goal was a continuation of momentum, as Alberg potted two goals against the Harrisburg City Islanders in the Union’s U.S. Open Cup opener on June 15.

That’s six (and a half) goals in one week.

“You can see when his number was called he was ready to come in,” midfielder Warren Creavalle said. “Even in the New York game, that shows his mentality. When it’s game time, he’s ready to play.”

But if you ask Union manager Jim Curtin, Alberg’s breakout was expected, if not overdue. Acquired this offseason from ADO Den Haag, the 25-year-old fought to break into the Union lineup since his 53-minute performance against the Seattle Sounders on April 16.

Since then, Alberg only played 15 total minutes, before being set loose against NYCFC.

“He’s great around goal, that’s for certain,” Curtin said. “He hits a heavy ball, he has a great left foot and he makes good decisions around the goal. There’s an adjustment period for everyone coming into this league; it’s a unique league. The dirty running, he’s really improved. We had a group that created a lot of chances tonight and he was a big piece in that.”

And Alberg’s surge happened at the perfect time. With Vincent Nogueira leaving the team as a result of health issues (see story), the Union needed to revamp with Tranquillo Barnetta playing a deeper role.

Enter Alberg.

“The beginning was difficult to find my way,” he said. “I think the last couple of weeks, it’s been going well. The team knows the way I play now so that’s important. I feel comfortable, good, relaxed. It feels good.”