Team

01 July 11:10 am

So, here we are. 19 games into the 2015 MLS season, just over halfway done. What do we think?

Wait, don’t answer that. You’re probably not very happy, right? I mean the team is only 5-10-4, not exactly a record that makes you smile and say “I think we have a chance to win the MLS Cup this year”.

So sure, the record might not be great. We’ve let up far too many goals, something that head coach Jim Curtin and many other members of the team have admitted to. Sure, there are times this year when the Union have struggled to score goals, with some of the team's best players going through goal droughts.

But nobody is hiding those facts.

In the first 11 games, the Union went 1-7-3, only scoring 10 goals while conceding 21. That isn’t exactly a recipe for success. However, it’s important to remember injuries have nearly paralyzed the team throughout the first 3-4 months of the season. Take the goalkeeper position, where Brian Sylvestre, a player who started the season essentially as the team's fourth-string goalkeeper, has been forced into action. That doesn’t mean Sylvestre is playing bad, he’s been very good since joining the team on loan from the Carolina RailHawks, but his playing time was the result of a combination of poor form and a series of freak injuries, forcing the team to look elsewhere.

In the nine games that Sylvestre has played, he has only allowed 14 goals, and that includes the blowout losses to Vancouver Whitecaps and Los Angeles Galaxy (eight goals allowed in the two games combined) that weren’t entirely his fault. In fact, he had seven saves against Vancouver, which at the time, was tied for the league-high in a single game this season.

So while Sylvestre has been having himself a good season, he isn’t the only one. The team looked itself in the mirror after the Vancouver loss and decided things needed to change.

Since the game against Vancouver on May 9, the Union have gone 4-3-1 in league play and 2-0 in the US Open Cup for a combined record of 6-3-1. In those 10 games, they have scored 14 goals while only allowing 12, leaving the team with a positive goal differential for that stretch. That includes a 5-1 drubbing to LA Galaxy.

Key offseason acquisition C.J. Sapong has found his form, scoring five of his six goals in that stretch. Sheanon Williams has roared to life, solidifying his spot at right back with a couple of very impressive performances while Fabinho has played out of his skin at left back since coming on for an injured Ray Gaddis on May 17.

The resurgence of Brian Carroll and the technical midfield duo of Cristian Maidana and Vincent Noguiera have helped to lock down the center of the pitch, giving more room to the players on the wings to maneuver around opponents.

Oh and Maurice Edu -- the team’s captain? He’s quietly having one of the best seasons of his career, anchoring the backline with Richie Marquez, the Union’s version of Sergio Ramos (hair and all).

While some would try to take away from this Union team, keep trying to look at the positives rather than the negatives. Yes the season started poorly, but since the middle of May, they’ve been playing like one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, something that shows in the fact that the New England Revolution, who sit in second, are only five points ahead of the Union in the standings (and they're even in games played).

So as we prepare to enter the second half of the season, enter it thinking about how this team primed to string together a run of results and how at the end of it. Who knows, they may be driving down the streets of Philadelphia holding not one, but two pieces of hardware.

30 June 6:31 pm

The Philadelphia Union take on the D.C. United at 7 p.m. tonight at PPL Park. Here is the lineup:

 

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Starters:

ST: C.J. Sapong

LAM: Andrew Wenger

CAM: Cristian Maidana

RAM: Eric Ayuk

LCDM: Brian Carroll

RCDM: Vincent Nogueira

LB: Sheanon Williams

CB: Richie Marquez

CB: Maurice Edu

RB: Ray Gaddis

GK: John McCarthy 

Bench: Andre Blake, Fabinho, Ethan White, Zach Pfeffer, Fred, Antoine Hoppenot, Jimmy McLaughlin

 

Career Stats vs. DC

C.J. Sapong (9 GP, 4 GS, 1 G, 0 A)

Andrew Wenger (5 GP, 4 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Cristian Maidana (4 GP, 4 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Eric Ayuk (2 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Brian Carroll (16 GP, 16 GS, 1 G, 0 A)

Vincent Nogueira (4 GP, 4 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Sheanon Willams (10 GP, 10 GS, 0 G, 3 A)

Richie Marquez (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Maurice Edu (10 GP, 10 GS, 1 G, 1 A)

Ray Gaddis (5 GP, 5 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

John McCarthy (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

27 June 6:16 pm

The Philadelphia Union take on the Montreal Impact at 7 p.m. tonight at PPL Park. Here is the lineup:

 

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Starters:

ST: C.J. Sapong, MLS start No. 76, Union start No. 7

LAM: Zach Pfeffer, MLS start No. 11, Union start No. 11

CAM: Cristian Maidana, MLS start No. 36, Union start No. 36

RAM: Eric Ayuk, MLS start No. 5, Union start No. 5

LDM: Brian Carroll, MLS start No. 310, Union start No. 122

RDM: Vincent Nogueira, MLS start No. 42, Union start No. 42

LB: Fabinho, MLS start No. 45, Union start No. 38

CB: Richie Marquez, MLS start No. 8, Union start No. 8

CB: Maurice Edu, MLS start No. 86, Union start No. 48

RB: Ray Gaddis, MLS start No. 96, Union start No. 96

GK: Brian Sylvestre, MLS start No. 9, Union start No. 9

Bench: Andre Blake, Sheanon Williams, Ethan White, Andrew Wenger, Fred, Antoine Hoppenot and Dzenan Catic.

 

Career Stats vs. Montreal:

C.J. Sapong (7 GP, 4 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Zach Pfeffer (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Cristian Maidana (2 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Eric Ayuk (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Brian Carroll (8 GP, 8 GS, 0 G, 1 A)

Vincent Nogueira (3 GP, 3 GS, 1 G, 0 A)

Fabinho (4 GP, 4 GS, 1 G, 0 A)

Richie Marquez (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Maurice Edu (3 GP, 3 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Ray Gaddis (6 GP, 6 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Brian Sylvestre (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

26 June 11:48 am

Today was a good day for practice, with the weather being cool but humid, allowing the players to recover more and prepare for the game tomorrow.

Conor Casey, Dzenan Catic, and Michael Lahoud were all in practice today, though Lahoud only participated in warm-ups with the team before doing individual strength and conditioning work.

Practice opened up with triangle passing, working on the one touch pass and controlling the ball when if comes to their feet. Curtin stalked around the team as they did this, calling out mistakes and praising those who deserved it.

After the triangle passing, the team moved over to transition possession, where they had to complete at least ten passes before attempting to play it down to where the other team was waiting.

While this was going on, all three goalkeepers worked on their reflexes, especially pouncing on balls that bounce in the box.

Practice wrapped up with 10v9, where the team with 10 played without a keeper. The teams broke down like this:

Grey (10): Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Maurice Edu, Ray Gaddis, Vince Nogueira, Brian Carroll, Zach Pfeffer, Cristian Maidana, C.J. Sapong, and Eric Ayuk

Green (9): Sheanon Williams, Andrew Wenger, Ethan White, Antoine Hoppenot, Fred, Casey, Steven Vitoria, Catic, and Brian Sylvestre

After practice was over, the team voluntarily decided to work on shooting. Curtin told them the focus was getting it on goal rather than scoring a spectacular goal, something that should increase the number of rebounds in the box.

24 June 6:13 pm

The Philadelphia Union take on the Seattle Sounders at 7 p.m. tonight at PPL Park. Here is the lineup:

 

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Starters:

ST: C.J. Sapong, MLS start No. 75, Union start No. 6

LAM: Andrew Wenger, MLS start No. 54, Union start No. 36

CAM: Cristian Maidana, MLS start No. 35, Union start No. 35

RAM: Zach Pfeffer, MLS start No. 10, Union start No. 10

LDM: Brian Carroll, MLS start No. 309, Union start No. 121

RDM: Vincent Nogueira, MLS start No. 41, Union start No. 41

LB: Fabinho, MLS start No. 44, Union start No. 37

CB: Richie Marquez, MLS start No. 7, Union start No. 7

CB: Maurice Edu, MLS start No. 85, Union start No. 47

RB: Sheanon Williams, MLS start No. 138, Union start No. 138

GK: Brian Sylvestre, MLS start No. 8, Union start No. 8

Bench: John McCarthy, Ray Gaddis, Ethan White, Eric Ayuk, Fred, Antoine Hoppenot and Dzenan Catic.

 

Career Stats vs. Seattle:

C.J. Sapong (5 GP, 3 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Andrew Wenger (3 GP, 3 GS, 1 G, 0 A)

Cristian Maidana (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Zach Pfeffer (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Brian Carroll (7 GP, 6 GS, 1 G, 0 A)

Vincent Nogueira (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Fabinho (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Richie Marquez (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Maurice Edu (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Sheanon Williams (5 GP, 5 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Brian Sylvestre (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

20 June 10:17 pm

The Union play the LA Galaxy for the only time this season at 10:30 tonight. Here is our lineup:

 

4-2-3-1

Starters:

ST: C.J. Sapong, MLS start No. 74, Union start No. 5

LAM: Andrew Wenger, MLS start No. 53, Union start No. 35

CAM: Cristian Maidana, MLS start No. 34, Union start No. 34

RAM: Zach Pfeffer, MLS start No. 9, Union start No. 9

LDM: Brian Carroll, MLS start No. 308, Union start No. 120

RDM: Vincent Nogueira, MLS start No. 40, Union start No. 40

LB: Sheanon Williams, MLS start No. 137, Union start No. 137

CB: Richie Marquez, MLS start No. 6, Union start No. 6

CB: Maurice Edu, MLS start No. 84, Union start No. 84

RB: Ray Gaddis, MLS start No. 95, Union start No. 95

GK: Brian Sylvestre, MLS start No. 7, Union start No. 7

 

Bench: John McCarthy, Raymond Lee, Ethan White, Fabinho, Fred, Jimmy McLaughlin, Antoine Hoppenot

 

Career Stats vs. LA

 

C.J. Sapong (5 GP, 3 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Andrew Wenger (3 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Cristian Maidana (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Zach Pfeffer (1 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Brian Carroll (19 GP, 18 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Vincent Nogueira (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Sheanon Williams (6 GP, 6 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Richie Marquez (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Maurice Edu (4 GP, 4 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Ray Gaddis (2 GP, 2 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Brian Sylvestre (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

18 June 7:49 am

Here is the team's injury report for this week:

 

Player Status Injury
Sebastien Le Toux QUESTIONABLE Left knee MCL sprain
Mike Lahoud QUESTIONABLE Right quad strain
Ferndando Aristeguieta QUESTIONABLE Left fibular contusion
Conor Casey QUESTIONABLE Left quad strain

 

The only new addition to the injury report is Le Toux who was injured after being subbed on in the U.S. Open Cup game on Tuesday against the Rochester Rhinos.

 

15 June 4:31 pm

The Union held their weekly press conferece today, pushed ahead from the usual Wednesday spot due to the US Open Cup game agaisnt the Rochester Rhinos tomorrow. This week, John McCarthy was the player giving his thoughts on the upcoming week. Here are some of his highlights:

 

John, this is like old-home week – you go up against Reading and now Rochester, how are you feeling?
 
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. It will be nice to see the group of guys and my old coach – they mean a lot to me, the players, so it will be good to get back on the field with them, but that’s not going to be against them so it will be nice.
 
Is there any extra incentive -not that you need it- going up agaisnt your old team?
 
No, no – it’s just something that you look forward to and want to take advantage of it – and it doesn’t matter what team it will be, now it’s the Open Cup and it’s a nice tournament that would be something nice to win and this is the first step for it.
 
What can you tell us about Rochester – for fans and people that haven’t seen them play and don’t know any of their players.
 
Yeah, they got a good group of guys. This year, they’re undefeated I think in USL so they had a really good run so far in the regular season, and the Open Cup I think they already have a couple of wins under their belt against a few teams. So they have a good group of guys, a good core, and I think about 11-12 guys returning last year so it’s really good for them.
 
What’s the mindset for a USL team playing against an MLS team? Do they almost feel like they have nothing to lose?
 
Yeah, pretty much. I mean it’s kinda like you have nothing to lose and they might look at it as an opportunity for them to get a couple extra looks throughout the season – so they go out there and give it their all, come out with their best lineup, and we’re going to take it to them.
 
 
After McCarthy spoke, head coach Jim Curtin jumped up on the stand to give his weekly musings on the upcoming games. Here is some of what he said:
 

Jim how do you approach the lineup for a game like this?

Yeah, it’s a good team coming-in in Rochester. I’ve watched a bunch of tape on them; they don’t concede a lot of goals – they’ve only given up four and scored 16, they’re 8-0-4 so they haven’t been beat this year. We’re going to have to be on our game – can’t take them lightly. They’re a well-coached, organized team and they have a couple weapons. Fortunately, the Dos Santos kid – the striker – is suspended from the Harrisburg game. I don’t think they’ll press us in our building, but maybe they do, it’ll be something we’re ready for but I expect them to sit back a little bit, give us possession, and make us really have to break them down. Which will be a difficult task because they have some big bodies in there. They have guys that are MLS in one or two years and they’re guys with a chip on their shoulder – lot of familiar names if you go through their roster, a bunch of guys that are playing with edge right now and winning. It’ll be a tough task in terms of how we look at our squad – we’re going to have to field a team that is up to the task and without going into too many details into my lineup, it’s going to be a group that will go out and compete and a group that sets us up knowing that we do have a busy stretch. So there could be some younger guys that see minutes. 

Those early games in the US open cup last year – especially against Harrisburg – definitely weren’t a walk in the park. A lot of the guys who are on this team this year know that – are they taking that into account?

For sure, yeah. I’ve been warning them as much as possible all week. The early round games are in a lot of ways the toughest – because if you run into a Cosmos, or Rochester, this is a chance for them to knock off one of the higher league in terms of standings – they want to impress and say they belong in MLS as a team, as an individual. So that parts challenging – getting the guys motivated. The key is playing at a tempo and a speed that they’re not maybe used to – when MLS games get ramped up, it is faster, it is a stronger league, but there is any given day a team that can come in here and give you a tough time. Last year you saw it with Harrisburg and the Cosmos – those were our two toughest games – because they are still good teams, they both can play, the guys get paid to play, so they are professionals, as well. It’s challenging to get our guys to be ready for it, you see it so often though, these games become tricky, and MLS teams are going to lose in this round. That’s a fact. Someone is going to go down, it happens every year, and you have to do your best to prevent it. The advantage is we have a home game, we don’t have to travel which is good, and we have a big nice field we can play on. So we have to take care of business, it’s up to us to execute and go on the field and put together a good performance on a Tuesday night.

Does it help at all, having a guy like John (McCarthy) who understands the other side and the mentality that Rochester is going to bring into this?

Yeah, for sure.  He helps in the scouting, he helps in all the little things. So again, he’s a guy who has been on both sides – he can speak to how good of a team this Rochester group is – they weren’t as strong last year, but this year they have come in and really separated themselves from a lot of the other teams in the league and are doing really well. Again, we’re not going to have a let down or be caught off guard or underestimate them in any way. John has played both sides, obviously he wants to get a win now for Philadelphia.

 
 
06 June 6:10 pm

Philadelphia Union and New York City FC have met twice so far this season, with the Union winning the first game and playing to a draw in the second, with Saturday's match being the third between the two clubs this year. The Union won the first match 2-1 at PPL Park, and then drew 1-1 with NYCFC five days later in Yankee Stadium.

Here is today's starting lineup with career stats listed in parenthesis.

 

4-2-3-1

 

GK: Brian Sylvestre (Game No. 6, start 6)

LB: Fabinho (Game No. 42, start 36)

LCB: Richie Marquez (Game No. 6, start 5)

RCB: Maurice Edu (Game No. 84, start 83)

RB: Sheanon Williams (Game No. 137, start 136)

LCDM: Brian Carroll (Game No. 330, start 308)

RCDM: Vince Nogueira (Game No. 41, start 39)

LAM: Andrew Wenger (Game No. 95, start 52)

CAM: Cristian Maidana (Game No. 39, start 33)

RAM: Sebastien Le Toux (Game No. 200, start 166)

ST: C.J. Sapong (Game No. 120,start 73)

 

Bench: John McCarthy, Raymon Gaddis, Ethan White, Fred, Zach Pfeffer, Eric Ayuk, Jimmy McLauhglin

 

Career stats vs. NYCFC

Brian Sylvestre (0 GP)

Fabinho (0 GP)

Richie Marquez (0 GP)

Maurice Edu (2 GP, 2 GS, 0G, 1A)

Sheanon Williams (2 GP, 2 GS, 0G, 0A)

Brian Carroll (0 GP)

Vince Nogueira (2 GP, 2 GS, 1G, 0A)

Andrew Wenger (2 GP, 2 GS, 0G, 0A)

Cristian Maidana (2 GP, 2 GS, 0G, 0A)

Sebastien Le Toux (2 GP, 2 GS, 0G, 0A)

C.J. Sapong (2 GP, 0 GS, 1G, 0A)

03 June 10:10 am

It's a double-game week for the Union, starting tonight at 7 p.m. against Columbus Crew SC at PPL Park. The game will be broadcast on The Comcast Network. It's also the third game in an eight-day stretch, leaving Jim Curtin with a few tough management selections. The good news is the team is relatively healthy, perhaps the most they've been since the season opener back on March 7.

Player Status Injury
Andre Blake OUT Right knee menisectomy recovery
Mike Lahoud OUT Right quad strain
Antoine Hoppenot QUESTIONABLE Left hamstring strain
Conor Casey QUESTIONABLE Right quad strain
Steven Vitoria QUESTIONABLE Left knee strain

With Blake out, the keepers will be Brian Sylvestre and John McCarthy again. Lahoud's injury, also not a surpise, will likely continue to be filled by Brian Carroll. Lahoud will miss a game against his a good friend and national teammate Kei Kamara. If you missed today's story about the two building a school back home in Sierra Leone, check it out here.

Three questionables for tonight include Steven Vitoria. The center back last played April 25, the last time the Union played Crew SC. Vitoria has a shot to be in the 18 tonight, but all signs are pointing to another CB pairing of Maurice Edu and Richie Marquez.

For Columbus, they have three questionables in Wil Trapp, Chris Klute and backup keeper Matt Lampson. Trapp has been going through concussion symptoms and hasn't played since April 8, but has been back in training for roughly the last week-and-a-half.

The bigger news is Crew SC will be without center back Michael Parkhurst, who is suspended for one-game following a red card in Crew SC's prior game against Orlando City. He's started all 12 games this year and will likley be replaced by Tyson Wahl, alongside Emanuel Pogatetz.