Daily news roundups

It begins: Union open season against Dallas on Sunday, team and league news, more

Photo: Daniel Studio

Philadelphia Union

Right then, let’s get this season started.

On Sunday, the Union are on the road to face 2015 Western Conference champions and Supporters Shield runner-up FC Dallas (3 pm, TCN, MLS Live).

Needless to say, the Union, who finished 18th in 2015, are in the midst of a major rebuilding, are likely to be without two key players in Tranquillo Barnetta and Maurice Edu to start the season, and have never defeated Dallas at home or away in league play, are not favored to win.

In his press conference on Wednesday, Jim Curtin said defeating Dallas “will be a tough task: They defend well, they attack well.”

And while players like Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz will present particular challenges addressing those challenges and others will involve a collective effort: “The message is that it is a team effort, it’s not a one-v-one matchup, it’s not an outside backs versus Fabian Castillo, it’s our whole team being bought into the style and the way we want to play, and all pressing together so our forwards and midfielders and defenders being on the same page, being nice and compact and not giving those talented players time and space…We respect our opponent but, at the same time, we don’t fear them. We have to go in there with the mindset of executing.”

Curtin agreed it is fair to think of Sunday’s game as a measuring stick for how the Union has improved in the offseason, particularly in terms of defense:

They’re a team that’s dynamic, they have interchange, they’re one of the best attacking teams in our league. It’s no secret we need to improve our defense. I think we did that in the offseason to the back four, but also it needs to be said that defending starts with the forward line, and we have a real commitment now from all of our guys on the field to defend from our forwards to our midfield to our backs. So, strengthening that, getting that foundation there, the starting points are good right now. It will be a measuring stick against an FC Dallas, for sure.

Let it begin.

Look for our preview and quick reference later this morning. In the meanwhile, more previews at Philadelphia UnionPhilly Soccer News, Brotherly Game, and FC Dallas (Know Your Enemy, video). American Soccer Analysis has a season preview of Dallas. More on Dallas at ASN and MLS Multiplex.

Curtin appeared on TCN’s Breakfast on Broad on Friday morning. You can view the appearance by clicking here.

At Philly.com, Marc Narducci on the Union’s defensive depth.

More on the team’s Brazilian contingent at Delco Times and Philly Voice. Interesting comments from Ilsinho on what it was like playing for Shakhtar during the Ukrainian Civil War.

Chris Pontius talks to Pro Soccer Talk about joining the Union:

I was looking for a breath of fresh air, and that’s exactly what I’ve gotten. Very professional feel, both on and off the field. It’s a different formation than DC, so learning kind of a different role I guess you could say, figuring out which way that suits the team for me to play…

They brought me in to be one of the leaders of the team. They’ve missed the playoffs quite a few years now and that’s the goal for this squad. I thought it would take longer for me to settle in for a team, and I felt fairly settled in right away with these guys. I’m getting a little bit louder every day in practice…We’re here to win and get into the playoffs. There’s no doubt about that. Squad knows that.

In a roundtable of SI writers ahead of the start of the MLS season, everyone picks the Union to be among the teams that miss the playoffs.

A roundtable of Pro Soccer Talk writers includes two areas of discussion involving the Union: Who will be the first coach fired in 2016, and how big of an impact will Earnie Stewart’s arrival have on the Union’s 2016 season. Two of the five writers think Jim Curtin will be the first to go while everyone agrees Stewart’s impact is likely to be more in the long term.

Pro Soccer TalkSB Nation, and Big D Soccer have season previews for the Union. At Brotherly Game, a fantasy league look at the Union roster. Fox Soccer has three things to watch for from the Union in 2016. Metro has ten questions for the Union ahead of the start of the 2016 season, Philly Sports Network has ten things Union fans are looking forward to. MLS Multiplex on the Union being the dark horse of the Eastern Conference. Philly Sports Network on why now is the perfect time for Philly sports fans to start following the Union.

Power rankings! At SI, the Union open the season at No. 19: “New sporting director Earnie Stewart engineered a superb SuperDraft for his new team, and its new acquisitions (including Chris Pontius) will spearhead any change in the team’s course as it tries to make the playoffs for only the second time.”

Former Union man Chris Konopka is trialing with Scottish Premier League side Ross County.

Bethlehem Steel FC

Bethlehem will host Syracuse in a preseason game at the Union training fields on Sunday at noon.

At Brotherly Game, Matt Ralph talks to Syracuse right back Morgan Hackworth, the former Union Academy player and son of former Union head coach John Hackworth, about how the game will be something of a homecoming.

Local

Harrisburg City Islanders opened preseason play with a scoreless draw against Penn State.

Garret Pettis is back with Harrisburg for a fourth season.

MLS

Player moves:

  • DC United’s Davy Arnaud has announced his retirement due to concussion-related symptoms. He’ll remain with the team as a coach.
  • Official: DC has acquired US U-23 goalkeeper Charlie Horton, who last played for Leeds United, from New England “in exchange for General Allocation Money in a sign-and-trade.” I guess the Revolution had Horton’s discovery rights?
  • Chicago has signed El Salvadoran international midfielder Arturo Alvarez  to “a one-year deal with a club option for 2017.”
  • New England has signed forward Michael Gamble, a 2016 SuperDraft pick, and goalkeeper Matt Turner, a trialist.
  • NYCFC has acquired 19 year-old Trinidad & Tobago senior international right back/winger Shannon Gomez from W Connection on a one-year loan with an option to purchase.
  • NYCFC has signed goalkeeper Andre Rawls.
  • NYRB has signed two SuperDraft picks, defenders Justin Bilyeu and Zach Carroll.
  • Orlando has re-signed defender Rafael Ramos “to a two-year deal with a two-year option contract.”
  • LAG has signed Gyasi Zardes to a multi-year contract extension using Targeted Allocation Money.
  • Nothing official yet, but Los Angeles Times reports the Galaxy have also signed forward Ariel Lassiter from Galaxy II.
  • Official: Using Targeted Allocation Money, Portland has signed midfielders Diego Chara and Darlington Nagbe to contract extensions.

Didier Drogba will miss four of Montreal’s first five games to start the season, games that will be played on artificial turf, including Sunday’s season opener in Vancouver and the Impact’s home opener. Drogba said, “Believe me, if my head was still in Chelsea, I’d be in Chelsea…It’s not that I don’t want to play, it’s that I can’t play (on turf because) of my knee.”

At MLSsoccer.com, a look at what PRO is emphasizing to its referees ahead of the start of the season.

While acknowledging the league’s salary structure could be an inhibitor, NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira says MLS’ growth reminds him of the Premier League: ”

I think when you look at  the MLS and where it was 10 years ago and where it is now it is growing so fast and it is growing in the right way. The MLS now reminds me of the Premier League when I was there a few years ago. Because even in France when we were talking about the Premier League, it was the third or fourth league because everyone was talking about the Italian league or the Spanish league or even the Dutch or the Portuguese league – the English league wasn’t at the top. But obviously in the last few years that has changed a lot and I think the MLS will go the same way.

More foreign coach perspective on the league at USA Today.

At MLSsoccer.com, an interesting read on the life of the capo.

Landon Donovan says for MLS to become a force in the CONCACAF Champions League, not only must the schedule be changed, but MLS teams must be allowed to spend more on their rosters.

US

A 72nd minute strike from Crystal Dunn — and it was a beauty —  saw the USWNT defeat England 1-0 in their opening game at the SheBelieves Cup. The US next faces France on Sunday (3 pm, ESPN3). More on Thursday’s win at The Equalizer (recap, analysis), Soccer America, Fox Soccer, Pro Soccer TalkESPNW, Stars and Stripes FC, and The Guardian.

The US begins play today in CONCACAF’s U-17 Women’s tournament in Grenada against Jamaica at 2:30 pm (Fox Soccer Plus). At US Soccer, head coach BJ Snow talks about the World Cup qualification tournament. More on the prospects of the US U-17s at Soccer America.

The US U-20 WNT drew 1-1 with Sweden’s U-23 WNT in their opening match at the La Manga Tournament that also includes U-23 squads from England, Germany, Sweden, Japan and Norway.

The US U-18 WNT drew 0-0 with Denmark’s U-19 WNT in the first of three games the team is playing in La Manga, Spain.

Updates on the latest from US Soccer’s lawsuit against the USWNT players association at Philly.com, OTF Soccer, and the AP.

Elsewhere

Lots and lots of games coming up over the next week. Check out the latest Footy on the Telly for listings of where to find them on TV, online, and on satellite radio.

From PA Sports: “Goal-line technology will be used during this season’s Champions League and Europa League finals.”

More on the reported talks involving English clubs about creating an alternative to the Champions League at the AP and Soccer America. At the center is US soccer promoter Charlie Stillitano.

26 Comments

  1. pragmatist says:

    Shape, shape, and shape. Maintain it, and we’ll be in the game. Leave the gaping holes that were trademarks of last year’s team, and we’ll be grasping at jerseys all day long.
    .
    I’m looking forward to a healthy Pontius. I have a sneaky feeling he may be one of the best signings we have made. He knows the league, he has the skills, and he has something to prove. That can go a long way.
    .
    Go get ’em, boys!

    • I feel the same about Pontius. If the medical staff can keep him on the field I think he will turn in a very good season.

  2. I’m not an naive optimist or anything, but gotta say I LOVE how every league preview is blowing off the U. First, it’s super obvious they haven’t paid a lick of attention to U’s offseason at all, which is whatever, but I think our style and competitiveness in games will be lightyears ahead of last year.
    .
    Playoffs? Prolly not, but I think we hang tight for a while and finally stop being the team that teams look forward to bowling over. And that’s a huge (and reasonable) improvement. So I’m cool with that.
    .
    And gonna call it now, breakout star of the year: Leo’s gonna tear it up, just a hunch.

    • I’m bullish on the Union this season, too. I thought they could have been a middle table team last year but under performed. I think the playoffs are totally possible this year. Not holding out hope, but I expect improvement.

    • Is it that they haven’t been paying attention, or they don’t have faith in Jim Curtin to get it done? Keep in mind, it doesn’t matter what kind of talent you have on the field, if they are out of position, or don’t play the correct style or can’t gel together, things will never work out. It’s doomed this team since the beginning, and there’s a huge question mark for me about whether or not Mr. Curtin can manage these players and put them in a position to succeed.

      • John P O'Donnell says:

        Meh, is Bruce Arena great because of his tactics or the talent on the team? He got fired from Red Bull and was able to build a team in LA. Did his tactics change?

        Nobody thinks this is a playoff team as the pundits keep pointing out. Unlike last year, he’s not playing players out of position as Ernie has been able to build depth. At least that’s the plan as we start the season which it wasn’t last year. I’m just looking for them to stick to the plan and play the youth. Watching the pre-season looks night and day from last year as you can see the emphasis on possession and quick passes. The defenders are playing with their head up looking to move the ball forward instead of just kicking it down the field. Hopefully by midseason they’ll have the style they’ve talked so much about down and some players will have a breakout season.

  3. It was nice hearing Chris Albright on 97.5 with Anthony G today.
    .
    This is something IMO that should/could happen more often… it seems, unlike many of the other radio hosts who are soccer ignorant and belligerent — Anthony is a means to get the Union out to the masses, he is welcoming and open to discuss. I thought about it myself, having a regular call in with him to give a State of the Union but I have four young kids and am already Union leveraged.
    .
    One small point of contention… “the SoB do not sit in the end zone.” They sit in the River End. But hey..small small small steps.
    .
    .
    Thank God the season has finally arrived….it was not my directive to comment at all today beyond this…. so…
    .
    .

  4. I can’t resist…tried to stay away too excited..… now we begin to see…
    .
    As the latest 3four3 podcast delves into yesterday…there is ‘having a vision’ and there is ‘vision’ and they are too different things.
    .
    The manager above is telling us about ‘having a vision’ for the way he wants the club to play… the question will be wether he has the vision to see the necessary changes in game to affect proper change… wether he has the ability to break down the press and counter press and transition game into its micro parts so nothing, nothing is random… so the team is rehearsed… and able to continually rehearsing and growing in confidence… if they fall flat and cannot do it at all I’m afraid he will not see the season’s end… they simply have to continue getting better as the season wears on to convince me…
    .
    To me this season is all about Jim Curtin. I hope for him. I’ve met him. I’ve shaken his hand…got a selfie with the guy and my kids…
    .
    but this is business and I need to know he can coach the training and have ‘vision’ in game- we’re about to begin finding out.

  5. Is it my imagination or is there an issue where Drogba can’t play on his own team’s field? Is he going to spend the entire season only playing against teams that have grass fields? Isn’t that an incentive for teams to be doing the wrong thing and trending away from grass fields?

    • The Impact only play their first 2 games at Olympic Stadium. Saputo has a grass field, so he can play all their other home games.

      Yes, that may be an incentive. Remember that Thierry Henry did the same when he played, and it didn’t encourage teams to switch en masse to plastic fields.

  6. Was expecting to see something here about the Philadelphia Atoms, which is fishing around on Twitter. Talking about bringing an NASL team to the city. Handle is @PhillyAtomsNASL. I’m wondering how serious thee interest is.

    • I would shit…..
      .
      and hey no issues either since they are in two TOTALLY different leagues.
      .
      now maybe someday one would be forced to truly set an alliance but that day is far off…. well actually never according to Mr. Garber who sees no route forward for an open pyramid… so hey… no problemo.
      .
      Because I’m sure there are many many Sheffield United & Sheffield Wednesday fans out there.

      • To be fair, though, having two soccer teams in a metro area of 1.5 mil in England where soccer is THE sport is completely different than having two soccer teams in a US city of 1.5 mil which already has 4 other major sports teams, and the current soccer team doesn’t even play in the city. They would split some casual fans, especially the ones who may have nostalgia for the Atoms.

        And if the best argument one could make is for the nostalgia, the Cosmos have probably the biggest nostalgia ticket there is, yet even they can’t sell out a college soccer stadium on Long Island, and barely averaged over 5,000, which included a game with over 12,000 people. So if NASL wants another team to play in a college stadium – most likely at Rowan, Lasalle or Villanova – and average 4 or 5,000 people when they could expand to numerous untapped markets, by all means go ahead. I’ll try and watch them when the Union aren’t on.

      • I have a hard time seeing how NASL can make an impact, too. Their argument — from what I read in the Atoms’ posts and from the arguments for the NASL Chicago startup — is that there is an urban audience for the sport that has been “left behind” (actual words used) by MLS’ suburban stadiums. I agree with that assessment, but I’m not sure how big an audience that is. I think it is MLS’ biggest shortcoming, but not sure NASL can build a league that really competes just on that. (Imagine a Union park in University City or Northern Liberties/Fishtown? Hoe much bigger a crowd would that team serve?)

      • There is a HUGE swath of US citizen US Soccer is missing which is exactly the way it is set up. This is all intentional.
        .
        and its all bass ackwards.
        .

      • Not sure I get why MLS would intentionally ignore potential fans….
        Though there are definitely fans out there to be earned.

      • Because they don’t allow the culture of the game to grow from individual subsets of the greater national cloth…
        .
        IE… a team being built from scratch that fits the worldview and philosophy of particular sets of people…
        .
        ukranian Nationals
        vereinigung erzgebirge
        – just to name two off the top of my head with the general idea for what I am getting at regarding culture and worldview and CLUB… yes CLUB… more than a club… ‘mes que un club.’ it belongs to Barca but the club mentality is how and why the game is so big everywhere else and we rob local chapters from the dream of starting their own club and working up or down the ranks based on merit… meritocracy not closed system.
        .

        there is nothing organic about our process and if the system was open the free range grass fed club would thrive and the game would EXPLODE and the whole power elite know it and those Gatekeepers are terrified of it… because many many would lose money at first in the short term in order for many many many others to make huge money in the long term.
        .

      • I don’t disagree with you, per se, however, nothing is stopping organic growth right now aside from the cultural indifference to soccer in this country. Like you noted above, hearing any soccer news or comments on our two sports radio stations is an aberration. It’s still seen by a lot of people in the U.S. as a socialist game for kids in which everyone gets a participation prize. This is why MLS believes it needs insulation. In the long term, though, you’re 100% right. It won’t work. I think the league has done an incredible job by building a league that can actually attract interest and tv contracts. But the next stage — of competing in CCL and growing — is going to require opening things up. And not just by expanding the payrolls but by putting the rule books and the money exchanges in the public. That’s the risk. MLS is going to soon need to drop the iron curtain, and nothing is harder for people than to relinquish power and control.

      • PSP needs a proper forum. These comments can barely contain the great discussions here.

      • Vision. Philosophy. Plan.
        .
        .
        But then that would only matter to a point too… which always brings us back full circle doesn’t it… to the Gatekeepers.
        .
        You don’t think if things were done properly this city could easily have two or three high level MLS teams… in a heartbeat.
        .
        Think someone coming from Bustleton or Bucks county wants to trundle down to Chester… they do it because they HAVE to…
        .
        Stick the Atoms just North of the city, dump dollars into marketing, and see what happens.. open the pyramid and The Atoms are just as likely to kick the Unions ass twice a season in a REAL derby not this make believe forced bullish MLS is selling between us and the NYRB or DC United. Soccer is not the NFL…. though that is the product we are being force fed.
        .
        The reason the Cosmos only get 4K is 1. the stadium issue is still an issue and 2. because they are stuck in the NASL… and by choice I may add… they had their chance at MLS, said ‘pound sand’.
        .
        It is a gambit NASL can grow to compete against MLS… or that someone, somewhere, someday steps in and affects the proper and necessary change to the closed system… thereby opening it up.
        .
        argue all day about this.
        .

      • .
        People need to truly truly being reading and studying and understanding the nature of why an open system is so important to this specific game… not NBA, not MLB, not NFL. They think we’re not europe or SA we’re america and we don’t need pro/rel look at NFL and NBA… blah blah blah. yet make hardly an argument -just that pro/rel won’t work and too many people would lose money blah blah blah.
        .
        Soccer is not these other professional games and to be honest these other professional games know deep down down that if the system was set up properly their leagues and money would suffer greatly.. It’s the most important game in the world for a reason…. not random.. it is human chess human problem solving human movement art… not a WAR.
        .
        It irks the hell out of me… people who say this franchise system is in the best interest of the game… its NOT. No way. No how. Its in the best interest of the owner… and the parent league. PERIOD THE END.
        .
        I’m out… sorry for the rant– though I’m not really.

      • old soccer coach says:

        Hark! Hark! There, faintly, in the distance! Is that an elephant’s trumpet? Or is it thunder? 😉
        .

      • I don’t know. I stopped reading when he assigned homework.

      • Mickey Goldmill says:

        cszack4.
        .
        Awesome. I can get carried away.
        .
        Once the season kicks off I will stay focused. My word is bond.

  7. If we are considering Breakout players of the year, I’m calling: Andre Blake.
    .
    If that comes true, we’re in the Playoffs. There I said it. (I can’t get these damn blue and gold colored glasses off.)

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