Pontius and Ilsinho switch
When the Union lined up against Montreal Saturday, those with a keen eye realized Ilsinho and Chris Pontius had flipped their positions and on opposite sides of the field than normal. Head Coach Jim Curtin said that was by design, primarily to have the Union create more offense through Pontius and Haris Medunjanin. The result was a pressing first half by the Union, in which Curtin said fans saw Pontius play one of his best games in 2017.
"With Haris's ability to play left-footed through balls, it's an easy one for him to hit," Curtin said. "Chris has more of a tendency to get behind defenders than Ilsinho, but there were a lot of variables that went into the decision. I thought Chris had a good day, one of his best games this year. The amount of times he got behind (Impact defender Ambroise) Oyongo, he was in a good position. He did a good job."
Alberg giving scoring touch
Roland Alberg started his second consecutive game on Saturday, and he finally was able to find the back of the net. Alberg netted his first goal of the season in the fifth minute on a pass from CJ Sapong, and then converted a penalty kick in the 39th minute to give the Union a 3-0 lead. Saturday's match was just his second multi-goal game of his career, and he now has 11 goals in just 33 games in a Union kit. Alberg at the 10 provides the Union with a complimentary scoring touch to Sapong, and Curtin said now it's about Alberg gaining confidence, along with the rest of the team, to score on a regular basis.
"Roland, in front of the net, is incredibly talented," Curtin said. "I think it's great for his confidence. We need more guys with confidence, as hard as that sounds. Roland gave us a spark, he makes plays for us. He's worked really hard on the fitness side of things. He's made strides, he was rewarded for that with the start, and he rewarded us with a couple of goals."
Down but not out
With the Union still searching for their first win of the season, Curtin continues to preach hard work, positivity and confidence as the keys to getting a positive result. Curtin mentioned how MLS is a league where bad starts can be rewarded with success, and he is correct. Since 2007, two teams have had a winless streak such as the Union and still have won the MLS Cup. Real Salt Lake in 2009 went 0-4-3 during May and parts of June, while the 2012 LA Galaxy went 0-5-2 from late April to late May. Curtin said the team is staying positive and everyone is fighting to get that first victory, knowing they can compile wins and still be a dangerous team come October.
"From Earnie (Stewart) to the technical staff, to the players, everyone still gets along and everyone is fighting together," Curtin said. "I see how hard the players work each and every week. You just want them to get that feeling of a win again, and that can be contagious. It builds confidence, makes the team stronger. There's a lot of adversity on the team this year. This is a league, whether you like it or not, can reward bad starts, and we've had a bad start. But it's up to us to get this thing turned around and get that first win."