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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Consistency is Pontius's secret to comeback success

Time to heal and consistency helped Chris Pontius launch
his Comeback Player of the Year season in 2016.
(Times File)
Chris Pontius’s first reaction two weeks ago at being named a finalist for the MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award struck at the fundamental conflict in the award: It’s nice to win, sure, but you’d rather avoid being in a position to.

That contradiction is fitting, since it informs how Pontius got to a point where the 2016 award was bestowed on him Wednesday. By not constantly considering the injuries that had dogged him for the better part of three years, Pontius finally moved past them to compile a career season.

“I tried to not think about it,” Pontius said Thursday by phone. “Late on in the season, maybe 27 games in, I was like, ‘holy cow, I haven’t missed a game yet.’ And it was just trying to (think), let’s keep this thing going, not thinking about it. I just was like, let’s keep this thing going and doing what I was doing, just week by week and focusing on the week ahead.”

For the first time since 2012, Pontius enjoyed a season not defined by injuries. He scored a career-high tying 12 goals to go with a career-best six assists. Including the U.S. Open Cup, he bagged 14 goals. The winger also set career marks in games played, starts and minutes.

In his first season with the Union, Pontius doubled his combined goal total from 2013-15.

And as Pontius explained Thursday, from out on the golf course with former D.C. United teammate and roommate Steve Birnbaum, one of the keys to a change in outcome was consistency of approach. Read more »

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The 2016 Stephen Okai Award goes to ... Kevin Kratz

Where have you gone Toni Stahl? (AP)

Among the least consequential yet most puzzling moments of last Wednesday’s valedictory address by Earnie Stewart and Jim Curtin concerned Kevin Kratz, a bizarre coda on a quizzical and abbreviated tenure with the Philadelphia Union.

Stewart in the press conference announced that the Union wouldn’t be retaining Kratz’s services and that he “was on loan so he’ll go back to Atlanta at one point,” referring to MLS expansion side Atlanta United FC. An Atlanta spokesman later clarified that the Union had agreed to trade Kratz’s rights to Atlanta in a deal that is pending the reopening of the trade window Dec. 11. Very MLS.

Either way, the German midfielder’s career with the Union, which started ahead of the Sept. 15 roster freeze and ended with nary a bench appearance, has come and gone in a blink of an eye. Kratz was originally announced as midfield cover, yet even as Alejandro Bedoya, Warren Creavalle and Maurice Edu picked up injuries (which the previous two played through), Kratz never entered the picture. Yet the player with Bundesliga experience presented an intriguing piece, perhaps even to build with next year, and seemed an engaging interview subject excited to be in Philly. Yet still, his blink-and-you-missed-it tenure came to nothing but a footnote to view someday and wonder, ‘who was that guy?’

Which got me thinking – Kratz isn’t the first player that Union have brought in to flesh out a roster late in the season. He’s not the first player to pop up, generate speculation, pique fan interest and vanish into nothingness. He’s not the first member of the Union whose tenure was so evanescent as to make you wonder if he really was even here or if it was all a peculiar dream caused by some by some bad Thai food too close to bedtime.

So to commemorate Kratz’s time in Philly – and in a vain effort to actual have him leave some tangible legacy besides his 5-foot-8 frame filling in at center back in practice during the October international break – I hereby bestow upon Kratz the 2016 Stephen Okai Award.

What is that, you may ask. It’s a way to mark the passage of Union time by enshrining each year’s most head-scratching personnel move of a certain exalted kind. It’s the one player each year who brings an abundance of under-the-radar hope, whose resume succeeds in raising the possibility that he could be something, whose praises are sung a bit too disproportionately by management, but who ends up never impacting the club. Sometimes it’s the player whose past travels make us in the media go, ‘but this guy was at (blank), wasn’t he?’ Others, it’s a player that so thoroughly impresses in practice and is recognized for it, but never translates it to a game.

In short, it’s inspired by the player who generates the most lopsided proportion of fan-generated Twitter mentions directed at Union writers to actual contributions on the field.
Read more »

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Edu's bad breaks the outlier for the Union's healthy season

Maurice Edu, seen in last year's U.S. Open Cup semifinal against Chicago,
was dealt a difficult hand of injuries this season, but he's the outlier
for a mostly healthy Union squad. (Times File)
Earnie Stewart and Jim Curtin covered a bevy of topics Wednesday in their end-of-season media address. From specific personnel groups to philosophy on changes to a vote of confidence on Curtin from Stewart, the full range was covered.

But one particularly perplexing aspect of the Union’s season didn’t quite receive a definitive answer, and perhaps that’s because one doesn’t exist.

The travails of Maurice Edu have been a constant story line dogging the Union this season. His injury has followed a devastating trajectory, from a groin tear last year to sports hernia surgery in the offseason to a stress fracture to a more severe leg fracture. Somewhere along the line – perhaps at many junctures – reality deviated from the rigorous plan that the Union set for Edu’s rehab. So the question, more genuinely curious than accusatory, from me Wednesday was, does the handling of his injury by the staff require any reevaluation?

Stewart’s answer in full:
“Oh, yeah, also that, except that it’s, like you say, it goes from one into the other, and a lot of times you see that. If you have an injury left, you favor something else right and that might happen. I’d have to say a lot of things are very, very unfortunate, too, in the way that it went from, one, having a surgery, to it going into a stress fracture — a stress reaction first, and then a stress fracture. I mean, that has a lot to do with favoring and all that kind of stuff so it’s very unfortunate, his season is.”
That answer would seem to shift the reasoning – not blame, per se – for the injury onto the circumstances surrounding it. Edu had never before dealt with bone injuries, and he’d discussed that the process for rehabbing them is different that with muscle problems. By all accounts, the re-injury before the Red Bulls game in the season finale was a fluke on the training ground. How the original stress fracture was sustained has never been discussed beyond that Edu wasn’t progressing in his rehab in the preseason then got a scan showing the fracture that drastically altered estimates of his return.

The timeline set then, at the beginning of March, called for three to four months. Edu returned to the practice field four and a half months later, on July 15, and played for Bethlehem Steel for the first time Sept. 4 (six months after the original diagnosis). Edu made the Union bench for the first of three times Sept. 24.

Understandably, the Union aren’t placing a timeline on this latest injury. But the club also isn’t providing much explanation for the protracted saga beyond bad luck. Read more »

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

'I still think that there's more': Brian Carroll ready to return for 2017

Union midfielder Brian Carroll, right, defending Columbus' Justin Meram
in a game June 1, is preparing to return next year for his 15th MLS season
and seventh in Philadelphia, at age 35. (AP)
Brian Carroll’s first comments assessing the 2016 Philadelphia Union season Wednesday were optimistic about what had gone and bullish about what could lie ahead. Implicit in that answer is that Carroll wants to be around for the latter pursuit.

So when it came time to fulfill the journalistic duty of asking a 35-year-old player, one just two years younger than his coach and older than Jim Curtin was in taking over the Union, the answer seemed a mere formality.

“I still think that there’s more,” Carroll said.

With the season that the club captain put together, it’s hard to argue with that appraisal. It’s been clear for months that Carroll’s level of play warranted another season in MLS if he so chose. And Carroll confirmed Wednesday that retirement isn’t in the cards just yet.

“Obviously (I’m) getting up in age and it’s going to be a year-to-year thing at this point,” Carroll said. “I think I proved to myself that there’s a little bit more left in the tank, and I’d like to have a strong offseason and I’d like to contribute similarly next year. I didn’t know how much I’d be able to be called upon this year, but I think when I was called upon, I handled my end of the bargain and maybe exceeded my own expectations. I’m willing to put in the work, continue doing this next year and see how next year goes and make a choice after that.”

Rather quietly, Carroll assembled an extremely strong season. He played 26 games and started 23, both his highest totals since 2013. He logged more than 2,000 minutes for the 10th time in his illustrious career. And he didn’t look outpaced by improvements in an increasingly technical Union side.

Per WhoScored’s metrics, Carroll’s passing percentage dipped slightly to 82.2 percent. But he had his most combative season with the Union at 2.6 tackles per 90 minutes, up from 2.3 last year and 1.8 in 2014. That speaks to a simplified role for the No. 6, and when surrounded by playmakers, Carroll can be an important, steady cog focused on breaking up opponents’ attacking moves.

Carroll entered the season with modest expectations. When questioned Wednesday, he threw out numbers of “maybe … five starts and play in 10” games as a for-instance. But he played well enough to earn considerably more time, partially due to Maurice Edu’s injuries. Read more »

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wrapping up 2016: 30 good minutes with Earnie Stewart

Jim Curtin, left, and Earnie Stewart wrapped up the Union season
with a lengthy press conference Wednesday.
For over an hour Wednesday, members of the Philadelphia Union worked either on the field or in the weight room, a coda on a long campaign and a gateway to the offseason. Then coach Jim Curtin and sporting direction Earnie Stewart fielded questions for 30-some minutes, wrapping up a playoff season that was and previewing an offseason of tinkering rather than rebuilding.

Those two, particularly Stewart, discussed a wide range of topics. Some takeaways:

- First, big picture. The Union announced options declined on six players: Loanees Anderson and Matt Jones, plus Cole Missimo, Taylor Washington, Walter Restrepo and Kevin Kratz (more on that later). It’s still mulling decisions on Charlie Davies and Leo Fernandes. Everyone else is back. That is a level of decisiveness and transparency that past squads have lacked.

- Breakup days of seasons past have been helter-skelter affairs – exit interviews, players slinking back to their personal lives, some informal workouts organized. This year, the Union are in Chester for two weeks after the season, working with the staff to prep for the offseason. Captain Brian Carroll indicated that that was a stark departure from the past, emblematic of the changes Stewart has instituted.

- Plenty of fans have opined about Curtin’s future as the coach of the Union. Stewart was unequivocal in assessing his performance:
“Really good, and I say that with a lot of confidence too. The way we set out the start of this season, I was curious in the United States how we go about practicing and do we go out with purpose, and Jim has exceeded those expectations in going out every single day. When we talked about roles and responsibilities as the players, you can go out and play games, or you can put a purpose behind everything that you do in the exercises that we have and in trying to create those moments of, the angled passes that we always talk about, playing forward that we always talk about. You can say it, or you can go out and practice it. I have to say Jim and his technical staff have been excellent in that in what I’ve seen, the level of training. And that’s my form of recognition to seeing how things go. If you see the progress in the beginning of the seasons in our keepaway and if you see the process now of where we are in our keepaway games, that’s a major, major difference and a lot has to do with the coaching staff in that.
“I think the beginning of the season showed that confidence level that we have, the way we can play. Do things happen during the season that we can’t reach that totally? Yeah. Do I feel that there’s open discussions about trying to tweak it left and right within our formation, within our style, within our system in getting better and getting those results? Yeah, they’ve been there. We’ve had open, honest discussions with each other which I think is fantastic and a very good way of working. That evaluation has been really good.”
- The Union adapted to a new training load, with two-a-days and other new tactics. Stewart was adamant that the increased burden didn’t precipitate the late-season swoon. “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I do know how it works from a player perspective. That’s my own experience. When you win games, you’re never tired, and when you lose games, you’re very tired. And that’s just it. A human body can do way more than we think, so I don’t believe in that. That’s not an excuse.” Curtin added that per team data, he didn’t see players late in the season failing to reach the physical outputs they did early on. “To put in on fatigue, I don’t buy it,” Curtin said.

- The reasons for the late struggles remained elusive. Some of it was a young roster in the heat of a playoff chase for the first time. Some was untimely injuries. Part of it was the schedule getting tougher, leading to crises in player confidence. Some of it, as Stewart pointed out, is simple perception. Said Curtin: “We are examining and trying to pinpoint exactly what it is, too, and the harder we search and the more we look at the data, the analytics, the games, it comes back that it’s a variety of things.”

- Stewart has said that the club hasn’t received concrete offers for Andre Blake. The goalkeeper, who graduated Generation Adidas Monday, will count on the Union’s salary budget for the first time in his career in 2017. Stewart concurred that Blake has earned that and he would listen to offers for the Jamaican goalie, but they haven’t yet materialized. Stewart: Read more »

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Expanding on the horizon: Eyeing the Union's expansion draft plan

What do the futures of Brian Carroll, center, and Warren Creavalle, right,
with the Union look like? The MLS Expansion Draft could provide hints. (AP)
It’s the first week of November, and the stage is ready to discuss how the Philadelphia Union should guard against losses in an upcoming expansion draft. As some things change, others stay the same.

The Expansion Draft to boost the rosters of incoming Atlanta United and Minnesota United will take place Dec. 13. Unlike the last such draft in 2014 to populate New York City FC and Orlando City’s rosters (aside: Do paired expansion teams have to have identical naming structures?), Atlanta and Minnesota will each pick five players from MLS rosters, as opposed to 10 each last time. That lessens the risk of loss for current clubs. There’s also a limit of one players picked per team, as opposed to two last time.

All the rules briefings are here, and I’m not the first to share thoughts on how the Union should approach the expansion draft.

Here’s the list of who I would protect, in no exact order:

1. Alejandro Bedoya
2. Keegan Rosenberry
3. CJ Sapong
4. Chris Pontius
5. Richie Marquez
6. Ilsinho
7. Roland Alberg
8. Warren Creavalle
9. Ray Gaddis
10. Andre Blake
11. Eric Ayuk

Exempt from protection: Fabian Herbers, Josh Yaro (both Generation Adidas), Auston Trusty, Derrick Jones (Homegrowns)

Not protected: Matt Jones, Anderson, Tranquillo Barnetta, Taylor Washington, Cole Missimo, Maurice Edu, Kevin Kratz, John McCarthy, Ken Tribbett, Walter Restrepo, Leo Fernandes, Brian Carroll, Fabinho, Charlie Davies.

That’s all 29 players on the Union roster. Here’s the logic behind it, with players broken up into categories.
Read more »

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Monday, October 24, 2016

The struggle is real: How the Union's end-of-season winless streak stacks up

The Philadelphia Union are limping into the playoffs, or backing in, or whatever verb-euphemism-in you’d like to deploy. The achievement of the club’s first playoff berth since 2011 is marred by a seven-game winless streak dating to the start of September. Over that stretch, they’ve gone 0-5-2, taking a mere two points from a possible 21. It’s not an ideal finish to the regular season by any stretch of the imagination.

So I wondered, how does it stack up historically? What is the longest winless streak for a playoff team? And how did struggling teams fare in the playoffs?

First off, it’s hardly unprecedented, since the Union aren’t even the only 2016 MLS Cup playoff qualifier with such a streak of futility. The sixth-place team in the West, Real Salt Lake, has endured an 0-4-3 stretch in its last seven, matching the Union’s winless run. None of the other playoff teams, though, have gone more than two games without a win.

Only one other team in the last dozen years has entered the playoffs on a seven-game winless run: The 2013 Seattle Sounders, which stumbled into the playoffs on an 0-4-3 record. That team won a Wild Card playoff game, 2-0 against Colorado, before losing in the Western semifinals to Portland.

In the past, how have similar strugglers fared? For this, I looked at MLS Cup playoffs dating to 2004. I defined the category as any team with a winless streak of five or more games to end the regular season or just one win in their last seven or more games. Eleven teams fit the bill (record to end the regular season in parenthesis):

2013 Montreal Impact (1-6-1)
2013 Seattle Sounders (0-4-3)
2012 Vancouver Whitecaps (1-6-3)
2011 Real Salt Lake (0-4-2)
2010 Columbus Crew (1-3-3)
2009 Chicago Fire (1-2-4)
2008 New England Revolution (0-4-2)
2007 FC Dallas (1-5-2)
2006 D.C. United (1-4-2)
2006 Colorado Rapids (0-2-3)
2004 San Jose Earthquakes (0-3-4)

Of those 11 teams, none lifted MLS Cup. But five of the 11 won playoff ties. Four of those won two-leg ties, while Seattle in 2013 is the only to win a one-game wild card, though that is a newer addition to the playoff scheme. Three of the strugglers have played wild card games; Seattle in 2013 is the only one to win, though they were also the only one to host their game.

Four teams have won two-leg games: RSL in 2011, Chicago in 2009, and D.C. and Colorado (in PKs) in 2006. None of the teams has even made the MLS Cup final, the closest being Chicago in 2009, losing in PKs to RSL.

That sets long but not unreachable odds for the Union to extend their postseason.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Union-Red Bulls: Decision Day lineups

UNION (4-2-3-1) 
Blake 
Fabinho -Marquez-Tribbett-Rosenberry 
Creavalle-Bedoya 
Ilsinho-Alberg-Ayuk 
Herbers 
Bench: McCarthy, Gaddis, Trusty, Carroll, Pontius, Sapong, Barnetta 

Red Bulls (4-2-3-1) 
Robles 
Lawrence-Collin-Perrinelle-Duvall 
McCarty-Felipe 
Grella-Kljestan-Muyl 
B.Wright-Phillips 
Bench: Reynish, Zizzo, Zubar, Davis, Damari, Veron, S.Wright-Phillips

- Jim Curtin promised changes, and he delivered, at least up top. Eric Ayuk makes his first start of the season after 28 appearances last year. He hasn’t made the bench yet this year for the Union. Ilsinho starts for the first time since Aug. 20. Roland Alberg starts for just the second time since the end of July. A reminder that the Union need to give up fewer than 12 goals, and they have probably the most defense-averse attacking midfield possible. This could get interesting.



- CJ Sapong makes the bench after a concussion. Charlie Davies is the conspicuous absence from the squad.

- The worst news the Union could possibly have also dropped today: Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula in practice Saturday. Reports had surfaced yesterday that he left the field with a non-contact injury, and a Union source confirmed that today. No timetable was offered. Edu has not played in over a year after a sports hernia and a stress fracture in his leg.

- It’s all about the milestones for New York Red Bulls in a full-strength lineup. Bradley Wright-Phillips is in the race for the golden boot with 23 goals. New York City FC’s David Villa can catch him; he’s got 22 goals and starts for NYC at home against Columbus. He can also solidify his record for the best three-year goal-scoring stretch in MLS history (he has 67 since the start of the 2014 season). Sacha Kljestan can get to 20 assists this season, becoming just the second player ever to do that in league history, joining Carlos Valderrama.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The good, the bad and the thought-provoking for Week 34

The Philadelphia Union’s regular season draws to a rare, meaningful conclusion Sunday. The club’s playoff inclusion is about as assured as it can be without being official, which sets up some puzzling motivations for this weekend’s visit from the New York Red Bulls.

Among the injuries and the usual spate of mid-week updates, three other thoughts occurred to me Wednesday at Jim Curtin’s press conference.

- The good news: About those playoff chances…



I’m not going to dig up the odds of Leicester City winning the Premier League title last year, because no one needs that. But in case there’s any lingering pangs of worry, try this tonic. The only way the Union miss out is if they lose AND New England wins AND the margins of victory/defeat sum to 12 goals. Per MLS's fact book, in 21 seasons, only eight games have ever decided by the six or more goals the Revs need to win by/the Union need to lose by (three seven-goal margins, five six-goal games). Only once (2009) has two such games fallen in the same season, and we’ve already had one monstrous margin, the 7-0 Hudson River Derby, this year. So the Union need a catastrophic set of circumstances to happen to miss the playoffs.

- The bad news: barring that volcano erupting during a hurricane bringing a plague of locusts, the Union’s postseason stay could be brief. Last week’s loss to Orlando City guaranteed the Union won’t host a playoff game, locked into either the fifth or sixth seed.

Road teams in the MLS Cup Playoffs have not traditionally fared well in one-off games. In the five years that MLS has used this formulation, road teams are 2-10.
Read more »

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Union-Orlando City: Lineups from the playoff's doorstep

UNION (4-2-3-1) 
Blake 
Fabinho-Marquez-Tribbett-Rosenberry 
Carroll -Bedoya 
Pontius-Barnetta-Herbers 
Sapong 
Bench: McCarthy, Gaddis, Edu, Creavalle, Alberg, Ilsinho, Davies 

Orlando City (4-4-2) 
Bendik 
Ambrose-Hines-Aja-Ramos 
Kaka-Higuita-Nocerino-Perez Garcia 
Larin-Rivas 
Bench: Edwards, Redding, Alston, Carrasco, Molino, Baptista, Barry 

- A reminder of the playoff scenarios: The Union get in the playoffs officially with win and a loss or draw by New England. If the Union win and the Revs win, the Union go into the final weekend with a three-point edge and a monstrous advantage on goal differential. That means no champagne today, but it’s something.

- If you hearken all the way back to the Union’s last game 15 days ago, Jim Curtin makes few changes. Ken Tribbett keeps his place without Josh Yaro fit to go. Brian Carroll is preferred to Warren Creavalle off international duty.

- Interesting to consider what the Union see with Maurice Edu making the bench. He’s the only guy on the bench who can play center back sans Yaro. You could also see him as a late-game replacement in central midfield to defend a lead (say for Fabian Herbers, Alejandro Bedoya moved out wide).

- For Orlando City, Curtin was right to be wary of formational changes. It’s a 4-4-2 this week, with Kaka nominally out wide. We’ll see how much he drops centrally and if that morphs into the diamond formation. Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas will push the backline deep and create those pockets for Kaka and Matias Perez Garcia to operate.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Between the purse strings: Jay Sugarman on the Alejandro Bedoya transfer

The Union brass gathered Thursday for the unveiling of the Power Training Complex,
an expensive asset that isn't unlike their expenditure on Alejandro Bedoya.
Alejandro Bedoya sat about 20 feet from the man who signs his checks Thursday afternoon, as Jay Sugarman stepped to the clear Plexiglass podium.

The Philadelphia Union Chairman proceeded to discuss the rationale surrounding the building that brought the Union front office, ownership, players and a few hundred others to Chester, extolling the virtues of the Power Home Remodeling Training Complex.

The terms that Sugarman selected so carefully could’ve applied as much to the new multi-million-dollar facility as it did to the newly-minted million-dollar midfielder, the first in club history.

Both were sizeable investments, massive on the scale of the Union’s history and substantial even by an MLS-wide lens. Both present risks. But both only made sense within a framework, the “well-articulated, cogently put together” strategy that new sporting director Earnie Stewart has assembled, to use Sugarman’s words.

After the presentation with Power Home Remodeling execs and members of the Union ownership, Sugarman elaborated on the process that landed Bedoya in Philadelphia, an ordeal that dragged from last summer when it appeared imminent prior to French club FC Nantes wanting to hang on to the midfielder, and was resuscitated successfully this season.

Instrumental to the process is the evolving relationship between Sugarman and Stewart, hired as the point person for soccer matters last December.

“I think with Earnie, we have a great, open relationship,” Sugarman told reporters. “I said, ‘look, are you telling me this is going to lead to a championship? Is this the player you’re going to build around?’ And he said, ‘yes,’ and I said, ‘go do it.’”

The Bedoya transfer saga was protracted over multiple transfer windows. By this summer, at the risk of losing the opportunity a second time, Sugarman pulled the trigger. The increased gravitas of Stewart helped swing the pendulum.

“I think last year, we were at this point and there was seller’s remorse,” Sugarman said. “It just didn’t happen. I think given how clear the plan is this year going forward of what we want and what we need, the pieces just seem to fall into place. It was expensive, there’s no question. We had a lot of conversations about, how do you manage the MLS budget, and I think the conclusion continued to be, is this going to lead us to the place we want to get to? If this is the right player, then go get it done. We stopped quibbling about $50,000, $100,000, $200,000 and said, ‘this is the right player, go get it done.’” Read more »

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Training notes: Good news on Yaro, Bedoya and mentality

The Union's Alejandro Bedoya, center, is recovering well from a rib injury
unrelated to this knock against Montreal Sept. 10. Manager Jim Curtin
expects him to be fine for the Oct. 16 visit from Orlando. (AP)
The Philadelphia Union’s squad was a tad thin Wednesday during the international window, with Andre Blake (Jamaica), Warren Creavalle (Guyana), Derrick Jones and Auston Trusty (U.S. Under-20) away on international duty. But the team put in a lengthy morning session in the first of a double-workout day. I chatted with new signing Kevin Kratz, and I’ll have that story posted soon. A few quick hits:

- Manager Jim Curtin is keeping his team’s mentality as even-keeled as possible in the face of a five-game winless streak and a slide to sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Union control their destiny and require a home-field meltdown to miss the playoffs, so the group remains confident. From the manager:
“Obviously it was a road trip where it didn’t go the way we wanted. Obviously the three games, three difficult places to play, we’re disappointed with the amount of points we took, only taking one in Toronto. So you step back and you’re frustrated in that regard, but you do know you have two home games at the end of the season, which is good. I think we had stretches in all three games – in Portland, in Toronto and in Red Bull (Arena) – of good soccer, but we didn’t put together 90 minutes, and we got punished in some areas of those games. The goal now is, we know that we’ve been a good team at home, that if we play at the level we’re capable of and we get back to just the basics and putting together the complete 90 minutes, we still like our chances at home to get a result.”
As to whether or not the week off helps, Curtin’s not sure, though he’s grateful for the chance to reinforce certain points (cough, set-piece defending, cough) and recuperate. Curtin:
“I don’t have the perfect answer. This does give us a little bit of time to work on some things. Obviously defensively we can tighten things up. Giving three goals up on the road is something where we can look at the film and get some things corrected. I think it’s good to have the extra week. We obviously have a couple of guys that got banged up, so it comes at a good time. … It’s a strange time to have a bye for sure, I think for every team right now. But at the same time, it falls at a good time for us. We can regroup and know exactly what we need to do at home.”
Read more »

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