A View from Afar

Five thoughts on the Union: Medunjanin’s class and more

Photo: Earl Gardner

From afar, it seemed the most inexplicable thing.

Referee Sorin Stoica showed a red card and ejects D.C. United midfielder Luciano Acosta from Saturday’s match with Philadelphia Union.

Then Stoica rescinded it.

If you were watching on TV, you heard Union broadcaster Tommy Smyth’s incredulous reaction, saying he had never seen such a thing in his decades of soccer broadcasting. If you were at the game, you were probably among the thousands showering the field with boos.

But the truth behind it was straight class from Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin.

Rather than take a fortunate red card when there should not be one, he stepped up and corrected the referee. No, he had not been kicked, he explained to Stoica. No, Acosta should not be ejected. It doesn’t matter that it would have probably ended United’s comeback hopes. It was the right thing to do.

That is sportsmanship.

That is straight class.

That is a player who, between that and his much improved play over the last two months, deserves some praise.

And his team still won.

We shouldn’t have to praise it, but in a sport full of drama queens and fakers who routinely aim for Academy Awards as they seek referees’ calls, this is worth noting.

And now, some other thoughts on the Union.

Bedoya shines

Alejandro Bedoya has silenced all the critics and, for a good two months now, done everything the Union have needed from him. His work rate is off the charts, he does all the dirty work to compliment Medunjanin, and he moves in and out of space in ways that make his team better. His assist to Fafa Picault on Saturday, coming off an equally fantastic pass from Ray Gaddis, was a thing of beauty. On the day, he had three key passes.

He isn’t the type of designated player most teams look for — and to be clear, it doesn’t mean the Union shouldn’t also be looking to drop serious cash on a quality No. 10 playmaker, because they should — but he appears to fit one of the profiles of an ideal franchise cornerstone. As much as he struggled early this year while playing farther up field, he has made up for it. The Union are a different team without him.

Wijnaldum wins the left back job

That subtitle is awfully presumptuous, but based on the product so far, Giliano Wijnaldum looks like an upgrade over Fabinho at left back.

Yes, he lacks the explosive drive forward that Fabinho has, but he also lacks something else: He doesn’t scare the life out of you at least twice a game with a reckless tackle or a run out of position that leaves his team open for a fatal attack on goal.

Wijnaldum has looked smooth on the ball, a comfortable presence who rarely seems in danger of losing it. He doesn’t cross as often as Fabinho, but considering how few of those crosses often connect, there is something to be said for maintaining possession. He could be a very good compliment to a more attacking right back.

Jay Simpson shows signs of life

Jay Simpson showed a definite hop in his step Saturday. He put himself in good spaces, played solid holdup, and put two of his three shots on goal. His audacious attempted pirouette in front of goal may not have worked, but that kind of creativity in front of goal is worth trying.

With C.J. Sapong showing signs of fatigue, Simpson should probably get the start in Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup match against the New York Red Bulls. If he can just crack the seal in front of net, he could be a hot streak waiting to happen.

What a major signing can do

The Chicago Fire are 9-2-3 with a +16 goal differential since signing Bastian Schweinsteiger. They have the league’s second best record, become one of its most entertaining teams, and begun selling out matches again for the first time in years.

That’s what happens when you make the right second-tier acquisitions (Dax McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic), and then bring in a big-time player to be the difference-maker.

Take note, Philadelphia Union. Find the right No. 10. Spend what you have to. Make a splash. Reach the next level.


  1. pragmatist says:

    Medujanin made me very proud to be a supporter with these actions. Adding to that was the shot he took at Felipe. Show class, then call out the jokers who have to cheat to win.
    I hope Simpson gets more playing time. It feels like he’s itching to get out there. And we all know that CJ will get run down. Not a knock on CJ at all, we’d all get run down if we were being mauled weekly. But we have a capable second striker, please use him for the good of the team.

    • I feel like Curtin is definitely starting to grow as a manager in terms of using people, making changes, etc. But one thing that worries me is that he continues to beat CJ into the ground. And I love me some Sapong — I just want the guy to be able to produce for the whole season. Nobody could possibly survive getting their a$$ kicked like this for 34 matches. I totally agree with Dan and you that Simpson is starting to look lively and should get a start or two. CJ consistently responds to competition anyway, so it could be the best thing for both of them.

      • I couldn’t agree more. This is the exact same thing that happened last year, it’s just starting earlier. I mean even when the striker sub is made, he kicks CJ out to the wing.

  2. Adam Schorr says:

    Watching Bedoya play the #8 for both the Union and the USMNT (when he gets the chance) is a pleasure. It really is. Kinkead wrote about how the Union have a right-side tilt, but it’s really just that Bedoya is so good at being in the right place that he makes it easy to play it to him and he makes the right play once he has it. I’m still not sure he’s the right DP for the Union(‘s budget), but you can see why he earns the salary he does. Just a fantastic two-way player who does all the important midfield work.
    I’m still not seeing anything from Simpson that warrants minutes, much less a 500K salary. His lack of speed is what stands out the most. You see Fafa create opportunity after opportunity with his speed, and then you see Simpson trying to poach without that speed, and the difference is glaring. I’d give Davies a try before I put Simpson out there again. I just don’t see it from him.
    “Nemanja Nikolic” and “second-tier acquisition” do not go together at all. From FFT: “The Fire reportedly plunked down a $3 million transfer fee just for the right to pay him in the vicinity of $1.9 million per season, according to MLS Players Union documents. That salary ranks 16th in the league overall.” That ain’t a second-tier acquisition. He’d be the highest paid player on 9 teams in the league not counting the transfer fee. That’s what it takes for the Union to compete now – the top 4 teams in the East are the 4 highest spending teams in the league. The Union are not one major signing away from competing in the East. They’re two massive signings away. Really makes it sound kinda bleak, huh? Welp.

    • Simpson is much more active in and around the box than CJ is. CJ is currently doing a lot of good things but almost all of them happen away from the box. He seems to be in one of his funks – I think a Kindhead tweet recently mentioned his shot on target this game was his only one in his last 4 games.

      Whereas as Simpson comes in and puts out 3 shots, 2 on target. At the very least using him to spell CJ once in a while shouldn’t be out of the question.

    • I disagree about Simpson. A new striker needs minutes with a new team. These 10-15 min runouts aren’t going to cut it. Against DC, he lead both teams with 3 shots in just ~15 of play. CJ I believe had 1 – and only after moving to the wing. You can say what you want about “level of competition” in the English 2nd, but goals are goals. His goals/game avg was exceptional, and if you watch his highlights, you know he can finish. It’s a bit of a chicken/egg problem, but the fact that you are paying him $500k is enough of a reason for me to give him a few starts, then judge him.

      • Well I wouldn’t be too upset if we had a player from the English second tier. But since Simpson is from the 4th tier, that’s another story. And if he had stayed with Leyton, he would now be in the 5th tier.

      • Adam Schorr says:

        His goals/game avg was exceptional in literally one season of his ten year career. And it happened in the English 4th division. Which do you believe is the true Jay Simpson: the guy who scored 1 goal in every 1.8 games in one League Two season or the guy who scored 1 goal in every 5.5 games in the other 9 years of his career?

      • Good points. I guess I’m thinking more about his 12 goals in 39 games for QPR in the championship as well as his good year with Leyton in 2015-2016 when he was voted 5th best player in League Two. Moreover, I’m talking about his ability to create space and finish chances which I believe to at least be equal to CJ. Like I said, if you’re paying him $500k, you might as well give him a chance–and I’d like to still see CJ on the field with him. Either in a 4-4-2 (although we know we’ll never see it) or at least out wide.

    • OMG I missed this line : “I’d give Davies a try before I put Simpson out there again. I just don’t see it from him.”

      WHAT?!?! Are you serious?

      • Adam Schorr says:

        Yes? I didn’t even think this would be controversial. Charlie Davies is a proven MLS striker with two MLS seasons of 10+ goals already under his belt including 2015, which isn’t exactly the ancient past. Is there any reason *not* to give him a try?

    • Dan Walsh says:

      First tier is for famed international superstars. Beckham, Henry, Villa, Schweinsteiger, Keane. It’s a small tier. And it’s clearly another level from a guy like Nikolic.

      No disrespect to Nikolic. Great player. But not the same level of impact on and off the field.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    I was at the game Saturday and my first thought at seeing the red card was complete shock since I didn’t see anything remotely resembling a red card (maybe a yellow for pushing Medujanin out of bounds but not a red). Then my wife noticed Medujanin talking to Stoica (after Acosta went over and shook hands with Haris) and she noticed Haris was questioning the card.
    So we were not among those booing but were instead happy that things were done right (and that the result came out the right way as well). But even if the Union had blown the lead, I would never criticize Medujnanin’s actions since they are the actions of a great role model.

  4. Old Soccer Coach says:

    In re Gili Wijnaldum at left back, he did well, but the match up was favorable to him succeeding. He saw off the attempt to change/upgrade the challenge to his credit.
    At the USL Level he has been effective supporting the attack in the left channel.
    He is certainly ready to spell Fabinho.
    The next step will be to run him out against a severe threat from the opposition’s right flank. Judging that is why Earnie and Jim get paid.
    Until that condition is satisfied once or twice it should remain a joint occupancy.
    I still like the idea of Phil in Wilmington two months ago that the 2017 team is built to be dismantled easily once more youngsters are ready.

  5. Bedoya’s assist was not a “thing of Beauty” it was pure luck as he hit it over his intended target Sapong

  6. Zizouisgod says:

    Medujanin’s honesty is to be commended. No argument here, but I fail to see why it is being celebrated by so many.

    I’m somewhat surprised that no one has brought up the fact that it really didn’t matter if Acosta’s kick out made contact with Medujanin or not. The sheer act of him kicking out in the direction of another player in that situation (which he clearly did) was enough to warrant a red. The fact that Stoica rescinded the red purely based upon what a player said to him just further highlighted how poor of a referee that he is.

  7. OneManWolfpack says:

    Simple, concise, and 100% correct on Chicago and their acquisitions. That could be the Union with one solid #10 and maybe a second-tier player in the right spot. I just don’t understand how the Union front office can’t see that.

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