kerith gabriel

26 January 7:34 pm

There were a lot of new faces (and new hairstyles, but we’ll get into that) when the Union kicked off preseason Monday morning at YSC Sports in Wayne.

Actually, preseason started late last week with players reporting for physicals and strength training sessions, but ball work featuring short sided drills, mini 7v7 matches and more was on display.

This year’s preseason roster features 35 players, but three weren’t at today’s practice as goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi, midfielder Brian Carroll and defender Carlos Valdes were absent from today’s proceedings.

Mbolhi is the obvious one as he’s been with the Algerian national team for weeks helping that nation chase an Africa Cup of Nations title. Speaking of which, Mbolhi and the Fennecs (Foxes) sit on three points with one more group match against Senegal this Tuesday.

For Carroll, it was personal reasons but the elephant in the room was the whereabouts of Valdes given the swirling rumors of a desire to leave the club. Valdes did appear later in the day at training but in street clothes to meet with team officials, one of which was technical director Chris Albright.

Following those discussions, Albright did confirm that there is an “negotiation ongoing” for the FIFA World Cup veteran. MLSSoccer.com writer Dave Zeitlin explains the situation perfectly which you can check out here.

Moving on…

The other 32 players in attendance today looked sharp in ball work and what we think fans coming out to Friday’s open practice (12-2 p.m.) will see is that every player is extremely fit. No one came into camp sluggish which certainly will make things interesting as the thinning of the herd happens before Monday’s flight to warmer temperatures in Clearwater, Fla.

Union midfielder Danny Cruz said as much today in an interview with media members:

“Everyone has bought in [to what head coach Jim Curtin] wants from us,” Cruz said. “So everyone even the guys on trial came in really fit and ready. It’s going to be a big preseason for us, and things are hopefully going to go in the right direction; we know what we need to do and it’s obviously playoffs or bust for us this season.”

If you haven’t seen the complete list of players in camp, you can check that out here.

So earlier we mentioned hairstyles as we figured you may not recognize some of the players right now. So the rundown of new-do’s is as follows:

  • Union goalkeeper Andre Blake is working the low fade
  • Forward Antoine Hoppenot looks as though he’s taking tips from D.C. midfielder Chris Rolfe

But our personal favorite was captured by Delco Daily Times reporter Matt DeGeorge:

Last but not least…

Given the impending “Snowmageddon” set to befall the Greater Philadelphia Region, Tuesday’s training session could be canceled at YSC Sports…however the snow did bring about this pretty sweet offer for fans (click the graphic to learn more):

And if there is a cancellation of training for Tuesday, Union defender Ray Gaddis has the right idea of what to do given the long months or rigorous training ahead before the March 7 opener against Colorado at PPL Park (4 p.m. ticket link?)

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

17 December 3:46 pm

So here we are.

After five weeks and well over 1k in total votes, we have our five finalists in the Philadelphia Union #UnionTop10. Thanks to everyone who voted for the five plays that will now be ranked in order to determine the best play – as voted by you – of the season.

Without further ado, here are the plays in order. Check them out and vote for your favorite. Voting ends this Friday, Dec. 19 where we’ll announce the winner via social media.

So will it be…

Week 1: Andrew Wenger’s first Union goal.

It was the finish from Wenger that we love, but don’t forget the pass from Vincent Nogueira to set the whole thing up.

Week 2: Zach Pfeffer’s first goal for the Union.

It was a goal five years in the making that came on the final day of the Union season. Perfectly timed run, met a perfectly timed past for the first League goal ever for the Union’s first ever homegrown player.

Week 3: Andrew Wenger’s goal against San Jose

The touch to create space and the rocket past Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch shook up San Jose and made for a wild night and commanding 4-2 result for the Union at PPL Park.

Week 4: Zac MacMath PK saves in U.S. Open Cup semifinals

Arguably MacMath’s most memorable performance in a Union uniform making a pair of monster saves in a penalty kick shootout against FC Dallas to secure the Union’s first trip to a major final.

Week 5: Zac MacMath PK stops on Chicago’s Mike Magee

In back-to-back weeks, you picked a MacMath save and after watching the footage, we can see why. He got his hands on a pair of shots from the former MLS MVP to preserve a precious point on the road.

Which one reigns supreme in 2014? Tell us by casting your vote below.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

10 December 1:39 pm

It’s week five of the #UnionTop10, just one more week before you select the Final Five winners.

Last week in Week No. 4, it was this pairing between Zac MacMath’s heroic saves in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against FC Dallas that was matched up against the atmosphere of the fans in attendance in September’s U.S. Open Cup final.

After the dust settled, it was MacMath and his pair of stops against Blas Perez and Victor Ulloa that moved on with nearly 62 percent of the vote. While many of you commented on Facebook regarding the unforgettable nature of the USOC finals atmosphere at PPL Park, MacMath and his efforts will move on.

Coincidentally enough, it’s a pair of saves that are looking to move in this final week of voting as a pair of memorable stops kept hope alive in both matches for the Philadelphia Union. First up, we offer these back-to-back clearances off the line from Carlos Valdes against D.C. United. If you can’t recall this one, so after saving an attempt from Conor Casey, United goalkeeper Bill Hamid quickly restarts play with a long service to Fabian Espindola.

Espindola gets in clean on goal and looks as if his well-placed shot by Zac MacMath was going in until...

So it’s a pair of beauties from Valdes against another huge MacMath moment when he secured the Union a point in the final moments of the club’s match against Chicago earlier this season. On a windy April day and with time winding down, MacMath came up huge against at the time the reigning MLS MVP in Fire midfielder Mike Magee.

Not once, but twice…

Last pairing before YOU select the “Final Five.” Will it be Valdes coming up clutch against United or MacMath coming up huge against Chicago to preserve a point on the road? Vote below and then for the last time when we place the five finalists in order for you to decide the definitive best play of 2014; as always thanks to those that have voted and tell us why you picked who you did in the comments below. Voting  this week is open until next Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Voting window for the Final Five pairings will open Wednesday, Dec. 17 and close with a champion moment crowned on Friday, Dec. 19.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

26 November 11:41 am

Week No. 2 of the #UnionTop10 is in the books and it was youth over experience as a matchup between homegrown midfielder Zach Pfeffer and veteran forward Conor Casey found Pfeffer moving on to the "Final Five" with over 75 percent of the vote.

Both plays were awesome but you the fans have spoken and so it’ll be Pfeffer and his first ever goal in Major League Soccer that moves on along with Andrew Wenger's first ever Union goal , a winner in Week No. 1.

Now as we move onto Week No. 3, it's another Wenger special up against a great goal earlier this year from Danny Cruz in a commanding win against New England in Foxborough, Mass.

But first, we examine Wenger’s blast against San Jose, his first of two in a 4-2 win over the Earthquakes in August. What makes this one special is the amount power and sheer lack of an angle Wenger has when he blasts this one past San Jose’s Jon Busch.

What’s great on this play is (well, besides the ball into the box from Sebastien Le Toux) is how it looks as though Wenger’s first touch fails him. Playing the ball away from the onrushing defender it gave the illusion that Wenger killed his angle in front of net, but the turn of the hips and hitting the ball dead on made no mistake that it was headed top shelf.

Moving on…

It’s only right to pair that one with another great goal this season, this one from Danny Cruz against New England. Now with this one, yes the shot was insane in its own right, but watch the run from Cruz which starts at the edge of the Revs’ 18-yard-box.

After taking this one basically coast to coast, the speedy midfielder takes advantage of the ridiculous amount of space given by Revs defenders and launches a “Cruz missile” (see what we did there?) that gave Brad Knighton no chance of getting a hand on it. What’s great about this play is that Cruz smartly took advantage of the spacing between him and defender AJ Soares and use what has always been a trademark power shot to put the Union ahead, 2-0 in the eventual 3-1 win.

Okay, you’re up. Which one moves on? Will it be Wenger’s goal from virtually no angle or Cruz’ fast break and rocket shot? Polls are open now until next Tuesday, Dec. 2 so vote for your favorite and tell us why in the comments below.

Thanks for all who have voted so far. We’ll be back with our Week No. 4 pairings next Wednesday, Dec. 3.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

19 November 4:19 pm

So YOU our fans have spoken and in Week No. 1 of our annual #UnionTop10 you selected this goal by Andrew Wenger to be the first to move onto the Final Five. In case you can't recall, we paired it up last week against Sebastien Le Toux’ season opener gem against New England; but it was Wenger that proved better according to nearly 59 percent of the vote.

Oh and thanks to the nearly 500 of you that put the two side-by-side and voted.

However we are looking to surpass that number with this next pairing.

Week two features Conor Casey’s fantastic finish in a July 12 match against Colorado, his former club. On an attack that was kick started courtesy of a gorgeous run of play that featured 13 passes among nine different players, Casey cleaned off the drive with a powerful left footed shot. Credit defender Ray Gaddis with the perfect ball into Casey's near post run too.

The play was so sweet that the next day our graphics department diagrammed the whole event:

The next play was one that fans of this club waited for since the day he got signed.

One the last day of the 2014 MLS season, Zach Pfeffer, the Union’s first ever homegrown signing scored his first goal for the club. Who cares if it came in a loss, it was a Pyrrhic victory of sorts for a player who has worked diligently since joining the club as a fresh faced 15-year-old in 2011.

In this one Pfeffer came on as a second half substitute as a spark and rewarded head coach Jim Curtin in the 73rd minute, with a well-timed run and even better finish, handling a pass from teammate Amobi Okugo and making no mistake with his moment of glory.

Now you tell us, which moment moves on? Is it some run of play magic finished off by the head of surefooted striker Conor Casey? Or will it be Pfeffer’s day in the sun against Columbus with the sun setting on the 2014 season for the Union? You decide. Voting is open until Tuesday, Nov. 25 so vote now and tell us why you chose your choice in the comments below.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

12 November 12:17 pm

On Tuesday we announced the launch of the annual #UnionTop10 series arrives Wednesday.

Here we are.

We kick off week one of the five-week "Best of"series with a pairing of two firsts this season. We pit scoring stalwart Sebastien Le Toux against fellow teammate Andrew Wenger. In Le Toux’ it was the goal he scored to kick off the 2014 Major League Soccer season at home with a 1-0 win over New England, finishing off a great run from midfielder Leo Fernandes and scored his first of 12 League goals this season.

What’s really significant about this goal is that Le Toux extended his mark of scoring in Union home openers to four.

In 2010, it was a trio at Lincoln Financial Field against D.C. United, followed up with a penalty kick goal in PPL Park’s opener against Seattle in June of that year. In 2013, Le Toux got the ball rolling in the black third kits against Sporting Kansas City and of course this beauty on March 15 this season…

We pair that with Andrew Wenger, the Lancaster, Pa. native who arrived just before the April 12 match against Real Salt Lake via a trade from Montreal for Jack McInerney. People wondered with Jack Mac coming off a 12-goal season the year before if Wenger could come in and follow suit. Not only did he follow suit, but scored this goal against Real Salt Lake that put the stamp on his arrival to Philadelphia with authority.

What’s significant about this goal is that just minutes before Wenger scored, McInerney in his debut for Montreal, scored to put the Impact up one. But before the grumblings could begin on the loss of Jack Mac and his production, Wenger left no doubt with this thing of beauty.

Now you decide.

Which moment moves on to the Final Five? Will it be Le Toux keeping the streak going or Wenger’s authoritative PPL Park debut? Cast your vote below. Voting is open until Tuesday, Nov. 18 so make sure you have your say on which moment moves on. We’ll host the next pairing right here on philadelphiaunion.com on Wednesday, Nov. 19.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

 

21 October 4:20 pm

The final match of the regular season is this Sunday in Columbus, but on Tuesday, the Union convened for one of its final training sessions of the season at PPL Park as they gear up for this weekend’s match with the Crew (4 p.m., The Comcast Network).

Training was getting guys back on the ball after a two-day respite following Saturday’s 2-1 victory against  Sporting Kansas City. Some passing drills, possession drills and short sided matches were more to get legs back up to speed.

What’s exciting however is that already the talk around camp is gearing up and retooling for next season as the Union remains hungry for a spot in MLS’ postseason, something that will be missed this season as a result of too many points being left on the table.

To their credit, the players in the locker room underwent quite a few changes to its makeup and went on a memorable run, but it’s the idea that too little was done too late that remains a sour taste.

Zac MacMath perhaps said it best when looking back after Saturday’s win against Kansas City.

“It’s hugely disappointing because I thought we had a good group of players, a good mix of veterans and young guys. I thought we played really well at times throughout the season. Unfortunately, we came up short too many times. That’s why we’re not making the playoffs.”

However, interim manager Jim Curtin had this to say to the folks at Philly.com which brings with it great promise:

“The focus now; the only words I’ll use around the guys is the playoffs for next year,” he said. “We’re not even going to talk about championships or anything like that. It’s about making the playoffs in 2015. That is the goal.”

Moving on…

Few things you should check out if you haven’t already (including a shameless plug from yours truly). First up, is this detailed look at the life and career of Union midfielder Vincent Nogueira who takes us through his younger years and life into the professional ranks proving naysayers who laughed him off due to his stature right in the face.

Also, he was a pretty cute kid, too.

On CSNPhilly.com writer Dave Zeitlin’s “Inside Doop” looks at the youngsters on the Union roster in addition to three thoughts on Saturday’s match…on MLSSoccer.com forward Brian Brown and midfielder Cristian Maidana cracked the Castrol Index Top 20 with Brown coming in at No. 10 while Maidana finished No. 16. Not sure what the Castrol Index is? Here's how it works.

Catch defender Ethan White Wednesday as he takes over our Instagram account in our final “Wednesday’s with…” segment of the month. White, who doubles as an amateur photographer when he’s not on the field will post images and answer fan questions. Have a question for him? Ask with the hashtag #AskEthan. 

Shout out to Union players Zach Pfeffer, Andrew Wenger, Leo Fernandes and Zac MacMath who were honorary guests at SOCtoberfest, which benefitted the Montgomery United Soccer Club.

We heard those guys were treated like kings, so thank you MUSC for taking good care of them.

Lastly, on Monday night many of the guys got a chance for a sneak peek at the “Sons of Ben Movie” slated for release sometime soon. The movie, which chronicles the birth and inception of not only the club’s supporters group but the inception of the team was shown to a handful of folks Monday night in West Chester. 

That’s all for now, catch you Wednesday with a recap of manager Jim Curtin’s final pregame press conference of the season. Be sure to tune in LIVE tomorrow via philadelphiaunion.com/live

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

16 October 4:26 pm

It’s Thursday, which means one day closer to the weekend and one day closer to the home finale against Sporting Kansas City this Saturday (7 p.m., purchase tickets).

Our ticket and marketing department have devised this promotion which is pretty cool and commemorative for the final Union match of 2014 at PPL Park.

Click the graphic for more information.

If you’re coming to PPL Park this weekend, one of the cool things you’ll have to check out is the rapid amount of work that has been done to finish construction on the club’s practice fields, located across from the stadium (the old Lot B). At the time of this report late Thursday, fencing was nearly up all the way around the stadium and masons were out completing some pretty intricate brick work.

No much to report from the training ground today as the team trained at the stadium, with everyone participating in full training today. You hear coaches say all the time that they have “everyone available for selection” and this case it appears as if interim manager Jim Curtin will have a full lot to choose from for Saturday’s match.

Off the field, Union midfielder Michael Lahoud is still making the rounds with his incredible #KickEbolaintheButt campaign as it was picked up in this Huffington Post segment earlier today. Lahoud is still looking to spread awareness about the disease that continues to spread with a rapid rise not just in his native Sierra Leone anymore, but has found its way to even reach our shores.

It’s a good segment, definitely one you should check out.

Moving on…

It looks like midfielder-defender Amobi Okugo has found a better alternative than credit card roulette the next time he has dinner with his Union teammates. If you don’t know that is, it’s the ever popular cringe worthy game of having a server at a restaurant pick credit cards out of a hat and the last one picks up the meal – for the entire dinner party.

But in this new version Okugo posted via Twitter at least you know you have everyone’s undivided attention…before having to foot the entire bill, of course.

That’s all for today, we’ll be back tomorrow. Check out philadelphiaunion.com for the latest Union news and definitely Friday for our Match Preview ahead of the Sporting KC match, our in-depth video preview and the current MLS goal scoring machine Pedro Ribeiro would like to emulate in his sophomore season.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

06 October 4:51 pm

While the Union know that they ultimately control much of their playoff aspirations by securing three points in these final three matches, it had to be a little reassuring to see some help arrive courtesy of a few final score lines in MLS matches over the weekend.

Perhaps the biggest was a 2-1 victory for the New England Revolution over Columbus Saturday. The Crew is next up for the Union this Saturday at PPL Park (7 p.m., purchase tickets). While Columbus sits in the coveted fifth and final spot in the East on 43 points, the Crew will be without two of its standout players in Waylon Francis and designated player forward Federico Higuain.

Still the message is clear (via Major League Soccer):

Philadelphia Union will be eliminated from playoff contention IF

  • Philadelphia Union lose to Columbus Crew on Saturday AND
  • New York Red Bulls win vs. Toronto FC on Saturday

Keyword: AND.

Here in Philadelphia, the players resumed training today in preparation for Saturday’s game at Chester Park. Everyone participated in training in some form or fashion today as the mindset was to just get guys back on the ball.

Not much to report from training, but there is a lot to talk about...

First up, Union forward Antoine Hoppenot is the player guest for Tuesday’s “The 90th Minute” radio show. The hour long show (7:00-8:00 p.m.) will take place LIVE from Chickies and Pete’s in Audubon, Pa. before a scheduled return to Chickies’ South Philly location on Oct. 14.

We know you have a lot of questions for players and staff. Additionally, a glimpse into the life of one isn’t exactly a bad thing. Which is why all month we’ll have social media events that you can take a part of; get an insider’s look and insight into some key players who look to help this club finish this season on a high note…

We kick it off this Wednesday with Union midfielder-defender Maurice Edu, who will take over our Instagram account to give you a day in the life. Be sure to comment over the course of the day. If Edu messages you back, send us your email for a chance to win a Chipotle gift card.

Edu’s is the first in a series we’re calling “Wednesdays with…” in which one player will be available via Twitter or Instagram the whole day to answer your questions and give you some love.

Also, think you know everything there is to know about this team?

What about Amobi Okugo?

Well, beginning next Monday, you’ll have a chance to prove it when we kickoff the "Amobi Okugo Twitter Trivia." How does it work? Each day, Okugo will come up with a unique question for fans to answer. Answer the question and add the hashtag #StumpAmobi and you could be a lucky winner of a different daily prize ranging from field seats to the Union’s final home match of the regular season against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, Oct. 18 (7 p.m., purchase tickets ) to gift cards to restaurants and shops courtesy of our corporate partners and sponsors.

Two quick things to note:

This weekend (Friday, Oct. 10) will kick off the opening round of the Generation adidas Cup for the U17s of the Philadelphia Union Academy. Union midfielder Zach Pfeffer will visit the Academy on Wednesday, visit YSC Academy in addition to hanging around for training to speak to the kids from 4:00-6:30 p.m.  Always a class act, when asked to do this Pfeffer told philadelphiaunion.com via text:

“No problem at all! It’s fun for me too since I was the first homegrown, so this is awesome.”

Finally, Union interim manager Jim Curtin will hold his weekly press conference on Thursday this week at noon as the team is OFF this Wednesday. To watch Curtin’s presser LIVE, visit: philadelphiaunion.com/live

That’s all for now, catch you tomorrow.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

29 September 4:25 pm

It was a busy weekend that spilled into a relatively routine Monday here at Philadelphia Union HQ.

The players trained at PPL Park today, as they prepare for Thursday’s match against Chicago at PPL Park (8 p.m., purchase tickets).

A pleasant sight was Sebastien Le Toux in training gear and cleats as he joined his teammates for practice. Le Toux left the field at RFK Stadium in Saturday’s game against D.C. United in what early reports cited as a right ankle sprain. He later returned to the field with crutches, which appears to merely be a precaution as Le Toux was back out on the training pitch today. He will undergo an MRI and more information will be known once the results are in.

You can hear what Union interim manager Jim Curtin has to say about it during his weekly press conference which has been moved to Tuesday at noon given Thursday’s match. Watch LIVE by logging on to philadelphiaunion.com/live.

Moving on…

Congratulations are in order for the Philadelphia Union Special Olympics (Pa.) team which took part in the first ever “unified match” after playing D.C. United’s group from Special Olympics (D.C.). The Union team battled back from a goal down to win 3-2 over D.C. United.

Want more insight on the impetus of this match and annual plans to keep it going? Check out this piece that appeared on the Union website last week.  

Also, congrats to Union midfielder Michael Lahoud as his #KickEbolaintheButt campaign continues to get exposure. On Sunday, Lahoud along with Temple professor Thilo Kunkel teamed up to hold an event at the university, best attended by a few of Lahoud teammated and even better explained via subsequent articles written locally by CBSLocal.com  and the Philadelphia Inquirer and even a broader piece in Monday’s Washington Post

Stuff you should read…

We all do it, but there is no reason to hit the panic button on a season that is far from lost. And in this piece, yours truly explains why…one of my favorite pieces of the day is the weekly Public League soccer roundup the guys over at Philly Soccer Page have took to doing. This week, contributor Josh Trott breaks down each division and even looks at the Catholic League…finally, Dave Zeitlin explores the remaining Union schedule and more in a push for the playoffs.

Wanted to put in your head now about our next Union Day this Sunday at East Norriton Middle School in Norristown: 

And finally…

You know Ray Gaddis. Chances are you probably love Ray Gaddis.

Well with that said, the Union defender desperately needs your help. Take a look at what he wrote Sunday afternoon. If you can help and if you don’t already, please follow Gaddis on Twitter and give him some tips:

A true Southern (and Midwestern) gentleman, we can guarantee you he’d be “much obliged.”

Catch you all tomorrow.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com