Union trade striker Le Toux to Vancouver

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Union trade striker Le Toux to Vancouver

Forget England, Union star Sebastien Le Toux has been traded within the MLS.

Just days after returning from a fruitless trial with Barclays Premier Leagues Bolton Wanderers, the Union simply had no room for their leading scorer, as they traded him to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Tuesday for allocation money.

Just got traded to Vancouver! Le Toux said on his official Twitter, @SebastienLeToux. Saddest day for me in my Philadelphia Union story.... Still can't believe it.

For Union coach Peter Nowak, the move was all business.

Feelings are not included in my job description, Nowak said. I have to ensure the team is good and they have a goal set up in front of them. Its my job to make sure that the team will have a future. I have to see the overall picture and how the pieces fall into place.

Nowak added that the move was made to create space and had nothing to do with Le Touxs position or a specific formation the coach was trying to implement.

We have a commitment, said the coach. This is about the team. If you want to have a competitive sustainable advantage, you have to create room. We have to be secure for the future and have a group that can develop over a couple of years.

Its not about one player, its about the team.

Shortly after the Le Toux trade was finalized and made official, the Union purchased the full rights to midfielder Roger Torres from America De Cali. It was a re-investment of the teams future, something Nowak wanted to accomplish by moving Le Touxs money and getting some back in return. Nowak also mentioned extending the contracts of current players with the extra payroll.

I believe that we have to understand that the soccer part is completely different than other sports in the US. Soccer is different, Nowak said, alluding to the fact that international teams often lose top players. We made it no secret that were looking to build a franchise around the entire team. A championship team isnt about having the best players, its about having the best team. Thats our philosophy.

A fan favorite and productive striker, Le Toux was a Union original, picked up in the teams inaugural 2009 expansion draft from the Seattle Sounders. From there, the 28-year-old scored 25 goals and 20 assists in 62 games over two seasons, pacing the Union in nearly all on-field records.

His success made him the face of the franchise. Always spending extra time with fans, Le Toux was an integral part of carrying the unknown expansion franchise into the Philadelphia main stream.

From the beginning, he was very recognized and associated with our franchise, thats no secret, said Nowak. He represented our club in a good way, theres no question.

The shocking move comes just one day after the Union lost goaltender and captain Faryd Mondragon, who dissolved his contract with the Union to return to his hometown club in Colombia, Deportivo Cali (see story). But as Colombia takes, it also gives.

The Union are rumored to be in the process of acquiring striker Lionard Pajoy out of Colombian first division club Itagui Ditaires. Pajoy would join Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney, Josue Martinez and first-round draft pick Chandler Hoffman up front for the Union.

Were going to work toward finding the right guys and providing competition up front, said Nowak. Well let them figure out what to do, help them develop and get ready for the season. Its too early to see who will take control. I dont work in hypothetical world. Im sure they will fulfill the responsibilities and develop.

Le Toux will return to PPL Park on March 31 when the Union host the Whitecaps.

E-mail Ryan Bright at ryanbright13@gmail.com

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.”

Roland Alberg hat trick propels Union past last-place Fire

Roland Alberg hat trick propels Union past last-place Fire

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — It was Roland Alberg’s night.

With two goals in the first half and one in the second, the Dutch midfielder’s hat trick single-handedly propelled the Union past the Fire, 4-3, on Wednesday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

“The feeling is incredible,” Alberg said. “I’ve never scored a hat trick in my life. This is the first time for me. I’m happy and I want to enjoy tonight.”

It was the second hat trick in Union history. Sebastien Le Toux owned the first, scoring three on April 10, 2010. Alberg, acquired in the offseason, now has four goals on the season, as he opened his MLS account on Saturday against New York City FC. 

“It’s great, I’m happy for him,” Le Toux said. “I already wrote the story, now I’m glad somebody else can step up and have a good game like that. I’m happy for him and mostly happy we won. He’s in good confidence right now, so it’s good he’s scoring.”

The win erases a bitter taste left by a loss to NYCFC on Saturday while keeping the Union atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 7-4-5. The Fire continue to struggle at 2-7-5. 

Before Alberg could take control, the Fire took the early lead, giving up a stunning fast-break goal from the Fire’s speedy David Accam in the second minute.

“He’s fast, he’s dangerous,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “We got caught, he punished us.” 

Down one, Alberg took control.

In the 11th minute, on a play started by Chris Pontius, rookie Keegan Rosenberry whipped a cross from the right side that found the feet of Alberg in the box. The Dutchman faked the shot with his right, pulled left and fired off a shot that hit goalie Sean Johnson, banked off the post then deflected off Jonathan Campbell and in, tying the match at one. It was ruled a Fire own goal.

“It was phenomenal, man,” Warren Creavalle said of Alberg’s effort. “For me, he had four goals. He was great tonight. He really propelled us to this victory today. He was phenomenal.”

But that phenomenal game was just getting started.

The hosts grabbed the one-goal lead in the 15th minute, when Tranquillo Barnetta’s shot was saved by Johnson but still deflected off the right post. The rebound found Alberg, who easily scored. He followed that up with a finish off his own rebound just seconds before the halftime whistle. 

“We know that he’s really good in the box and his shot is incredible,” Barnetta said. “Then it’s our work behind him to give him the ball and help him that he can score. He had a great game, and that was really important for us.”

The 25-year-old continued rolling over the Fire in the 55th minute, when Pontius was blatantly pulled down in the Fire box. Without hesitation, Alberg jumped on the spot, where he easily fooled Johnson for the hat trick and 4-1 Union lead.

“Let him have it there, he was feeling it,” Pontius said. “That’s for the hat trick, so there’s no argument, that’s his.” 

The Fire would storm back, however, when Razvan Cocic made it 4-2 off a set piece in the 69th minute and Khaly Thiam scored in the 80th to bring his club within one. 

“There’s a lot of things we can learn from at the end of that game,” Curtin said. “We made some poor decisions but the guys did stick with it and closed it out.”

Union-Fire 5 things: Ready for redemption vs. last-place opponent

Union-Fire 5 things: Ready for redemption vs. last-place opponent

Union vs. Chicago Fire
7 p.m. on TCN

Suffering an uncharacteristic defeat Saturday at the hands of New York City FC, which snapped their eight-game unbeaten string, the Union (6-4-5) look to rebound quickly against Eastern Conference basement dwellers the Chicago Fire (2-6-5) on Wednesday (7 p.m./TCN) at Talen Energy Stadium.

Here’s five things to know:

1. Looking To Rebound
When the Eastern Conference’s top team travels to face one of the league’s worst home teams, it would be safe to expect a result. That didn’t play out for the Union in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to NYCFC at Yankee Stadium. 

Union manager Jim Curtin called it a wake-up call. 

“I said it to the guys, it’s the first time in 10 games we’ve been beat, so it feels bad right now," he said. "It’s an unfamiliar feeling and we need to get that out of our systems quickly.”

It’s the swiftness of that turnaround that has Curtin feeling optimistic. Following Saturday’s uncharacteristic loss, the Union immediately turn their attention to the last-place Fire on Wednesday. And they aren’t taking them lightly.

“The quick turnaround is good,” he said. “After a performance that you’re not happy with, to get back out on the field - we have a Chicago team coming in here that doesn’t concede a lot of goals. We’ll need to be sharp in both boxes to get three points here at home.”

2. Herbers and Sapong
After being without forward C.J. Sapong with a sprained ankle last weekend, Curtin hinted that his leading scorer could find the field on Wednesday, in limited duty. 

“We’re happy with how he’s progressed,” Curtin said. “He’s a good piece to be back in the mix, whether it’s Wednesday or Saturday is still to be determined. He’s progressing well.”

If Sapong can’t go in full, or at all, rookie Fabian Herbers would make his second consecutive start. He played the full 90 against NYCFC, impressing Curtin.

“I was happy with the chances he created against New York, especially in the second half,” Curtin said. “He makes good decisions around the goal.”

3. Fire’s struggles
Although the Fire have struggled of late, winning just one of their last six games and scoring just four goals over that span, they do own two wins on the season, including a a 1-0 victory over the Union on April 2. 

“The game in Chicago was in a tsunami blizzard, that gets thrown out,” Curtin said. “That was a frustrating game for us, we were disappointed with the result. We actually played pretty well. But I think both teams are a lot different now.”

The Union, yes. The Fire, not so much. The rare win aside, Veljko Paunovic’s club has struggled all season. Though the Fire were competitive against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, they lost, 2-1, keeping them at a league-low 11 points in 13 games.

“We have to fix our losing mentality,” said Paunovic, who will be without injured midfielders Matt Polster and Arturo Alvarez. “It’s not enough to participate in the game. It’s not the Olympics. It’s MLS, competitive level and we want to win every single game.”

And the Fire are halfway there. The club has only allowed 16 goals in 13 games – good for third best in MLS. Their downside is that they can’t score, owning just 11 goals all season, easily the lowest in the league.

“They don’t concede a lot,” Curtin said. “They’re fairly organized and don’t give up a lot of chances. When you do break through, you have to take advantage and you got to be really wary of the counterattack.”

4. Keep an eye on ...
Union - Roland Alberg: Just when you think Alberg might not be the right fit for MLS, he pops in a pair of goals in his U.S. Open Cup debut last Wednesday and scores his first MLS goal on Saturday against NYCFC. With Vincent Nogueira out of the picture, Alberg’s surge came at the perfect time. “I think he’s given us a real lift,” Curtin said. “He’s worked very hard on his fitness, he’s worked hard on the defensive side of the ball and he’s rewarded us.”

Fire - David Accam: The Fire are a team that doesn’t normally score. But when they do, there’s a decent chance Accam is the guy who does it. He has three of the Fire’s 11 goals this season, and he's done it in just six games. “He’s an incredibly dangerous player,” Curtin said. “He’s very fast, so we’ll need to be focused on him.”

5. This and that
• The Union are 5-6-5 all time against the Fire. 

• The Union are one of two teams (Orlando City SC) in the Eastern Conference undefeated at home. The Union are a powerful 5-0-2 at Talen Energy Stadium this season. 

• Meanwhile, the Fire are one of two teams (Columbus Crew) in the Eastern Conference without a win on the road. The Fire are 0-4-2 away from Toyota Park.