Dominant Performance Brings Union One Step Closer to Trophy

Jim Curtin strode into the media room for his United States Open Cup (USOC) semi-final post-game press conference, a smile upon his face.

“You guys have heard me ad nauseum about 1-0 games,” Curtin, the Philadelphia Union manager, said to reporters, “but, for whatever reason in this competition, we show true grit, determination, fight and quality in front of goal.”

Curtin’s squad head to its second straight USOC final after defeating the Chicago Fire  on a goal scored by Sebastien Le Toux. The converted winger created space for himself at the top of the box in the 74′, cutting from right to left before using his left foot to slot his shot to Sean Johnson’s left. The ball curled slightly toward the right post, striking it and beating Johnson, the Fire goalkeeper.

“He’s had a heck of a run in this competition,” Curtin said of Le Toux. “[He] came up in a big spot for us. We’ve had moments where we’ve created a ton of chances and it just won’t go in for you… and then Seba makes that play. We were in such control of the game.”

The goal came about as part of a thoroughly dominate game by the Union, as they held the Fire to just three shots, two on target, in 90 minutes of play. For their part, the Union attempted nine shots, though only three were on goal. In the end only Le Toux’s late game opportunity and finish mattered.

“Tonight it’s about the positives. It’s amazing to get back. We did it and I couldn’t be prouder of our players. To stick together as a group, I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

The former Major League Soccer central defender had departed the field of play to fans singing “we want the cup,” adding to the atmosphere of the game that Curtin credited as influential to the end result.

“I’d like to thank the fans, especially in the River End,” Curtin said. “They were excellent tonight. They were very loud. You get into the 85′ minute and the guys are fatigued a bit, and you hear the ‘we want the cup’ chants and it helps push them on.”

Due to Sporting Kansas City’s 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake, which concluded an hour after the Union game, Philadelphia will host SKC on Sept. 30, TBD, at PPL Park. A seeding draw by the United States Soccer Federation determined hosting prior to the semi-final stage of the tournament.


Edu Laments Chapman’s Call, Praises Team Spirit

SANDY, UT (KR) — Maurice Edu sat with multiple teammates huddled around him, his smartphone illuminating their faces as it replayed the late penalty call that went against him. The group watched numerous times, none of which changed the general consensus of the decision.

“On the field there’s no way it could be a penalty kick,” Edu said to Kessler Reports and Chris Winkler, the Philadelphia Union press officer. “[Mulholland] cut inside, and basically I was facing [the other] direction. I turned the other way and went to body him off the ball. Michael Lahoud was right there to win the ball anyway.

What happened next would rip a win away from the Union on the road against one of Major League Soccer’s best franchises.

“[Mulholland] went down easy,” Edu said. “I don’t know in what game you’d call that a penalty kick.”

Jim Curtin, Philadelphia’s head coach, agreed with Edu during his post-game press conference. Prior to calmly meeting with the media, the typically reserved former defender demonstrated his frustration as he animatedly stormed down the hallway into the locker room.

“Last week I got a call from… PRO,” Curtin said, “that they missed a penalty kick. The ref wound up suspended and I think it might be a similar situation tonight.”

Allen Chapman, who refereed Saturday night’s Union-Real Salt Lake game remained on PRO’s schedule for the third week of MLS play.

Edu, for his part, empathized with his teammates, who he felt had done enough to come away with the win.

“It’s harsh for us,” Edu said. “We have a locker room full of guys who worked their asses off that game and put in a great shift. On another day we get three points from that game. Today we feel a little bit hard done, but all we can do is keep our heads up and focus on the next game now.”

As the team captain, Edu has a large job ahead of Friday night’s home game against FC Dallas. The midfielder has to keep the locker room atmosphere upbeat in the face of two straight games, to open the season, ending in ties due to controversial referee decisions.

Edu thinks that the first team squad has the right frame of mind heading into its next match.

“We’re a positive group,” Edu said. “We believe in our abilities as a group capable of going out there and beating any team on any given day. Today we showed that. As a team there’s only so much we can control.

We were disappointed with the goals we gave up, but in saying that, we scored three good goals and on another we win that game.”

The Union will get their third chance at their first win of the 2015 MLS season (0-0-2, two points) against FC Dallas (2-0-0, six points) look up the record at PPL Park on Friday (7 pm EDT, national broadcast on UniMas).

Kessler Reports Podcast & Interview with Ricardo Ansaldi

This post introduces the first ever Kessler Reports podcast. It’s co-hosted by CJ, and the guest this week was John Rossi, of

We discussed the Philadelphia Union, but focused much of the conversation on an interview that John and I had with former Union staffer Ricardo Ansaldi. The Argentine gave plenty of information on Carlos Valdes’ previous loan saga(s), the Pablo Perez transfer failure and other tidbits.

Also included is some audio from my exclusive interview with Union head coach Jim Curtin, along with general talk about the Union’s preseason and upcoming year.

John will have a fully transcribed version of the interview on Brotherly Game later today.

Exclusive: Curtin Dishes on Left Backs, Carroll’s Future, Goalkeepers and More

On signing a third goalkeeper: “I can’t go into [his name] right now. The contract is literally about to get signed. I don’t want to mess anything up at this stage.”

On acquiring a left back: “We’re still open. We have three guys who are out there who we’re targeting to bring in. I spoke already about Otis Earle, a very good player we were really high on. The price to move up become too steep. There are a couple of kids, two of them are internationals. One is an American kid who we’re looking at right now to bring in to compete at the left back spot. You’ll see some faces in the preseason that come in to really compete at that spot. They’ll be guys that’re younger, up-and-coming players. We’re not in a position cap wise to spend a ton of money at the left back spot, but it’s one that we still value as very important.”

On center backs: “Don’t forget about Richie Marquez. He had a really good year at Harrisburg. A guy with some size. We’re a small backline, to be honest. Richie gives you a guy who’s a legit 6-foot, 3-inches and can win balls in the air. I’m very happy with how Ethan White progressed and finished the year. Mo [Edu] has obviously proven that he can shut down that $8 million striker and that he’s athletic enough to do that and lead our backline. He’s also good on the ball. The experience of Valdes, coming off of the World Cup and kinda getting some rest off of a grind, we expect him to come back better than ever.

On getting another striker and what about Sapong: “CJ can come in and be a no. 9, a guy who you can get crosses to and he’s proven he can score a lot of goals up there by himself. He gives you the flexibility, he can play on the left, he can play wide right. He can play and move in any of those front three spots, which I really like. Is there a situation where we could play with two forwards this year? Yeah, that’s a possibility I’m exploring where CJ could be partnered with a guy we’d bring in. You can’t have enough forwards. Everybody is looking for a goal scorer. We’re still actively pursuing the striker position. We rate CJ very high and I told CJ at the draft that I need double digit goals this year and he’s on board with that. I think he’s a guy who can do that.”

On Le Toux tactically: “I like Sebastien when he plays in that wide right spot, he’s kind of a second forward. We kinda unleashed him at the end of the year and let him run off of the front guy. Seba’s crossing is something that is very valuable. I think he’s underrated in our system. He gets to the end line a lot. He gets a lot of service. To have a bigger guy like a CJ is important for me. He can play as a second forward too, though. We’ll experiment in the preseason and see what formation suits our personnel the best.”

On Danny Cruz: “Danny’s still a guy who’s a pain in the butt to play against. No one in our league likes to play against him. His work ethic is great. He’s great in training every day. He pushes things a lot. He’s the most competitive guy we have. With Danny it’s always can he slow down and make that final pass, that final shot. He works on it every day after training. We’re expecting a good year out of Danny. Heading into the preseason, I have competition at every spot now and that’s something we’re trying to cultivate.”

On holding midfielders: “We have Brian and Lahoud there right now. Brian’s obviously been a starter his entire career and has served the club great. I think he has a couple more years left, but in a lesser role. I’ve talked about that with Brian openly and candidly. I’m excited he’s coming back. He’s important to our locker room and to closing out games. We’re trying to improve on that. We’re also looking to bring in a holding midfielder as well. Mo is a guy who can do that job. I’ve mentioned that I prefer him at center back, however.”

On Gaddis/Williams: “It’s competition. It’s good and healthy for guys. It’s a situation where we might have them compete for the spot. It might end up that the best group to put out there is Sheanon is on the right and Ray is on the left. There’s always teams asking, but we’re really high on both of those guys.”

On intra-league loans: “We have an unlimited number of them. MacMath’s loan isn’t our only one. You can do whatever you want.”

On Andre Blake: “The thinking with Andre is that he needs to get games. Rais is our no. 1. With the partnership with Harrisburg growing and improving, and them training with us or after us every day. We’ll be able to keep really close tabs. We want Andre to train everyday with us. We want him to compete at a pro level, a good level and where there are consequences. Our thinking right now is possibly Harrisburg is that spot for him to get games.”

On the possible international absences of both M’Bolhi and Blake: “We’re looking to bring in another goalkeeper. I’m sure the fans will have a field day with it [laughter]. We obviously are exploring how to take care of that situation. That’s the problem with having two high quality goalkeepers. They could both away on international duty and you need someone to be there.”

Okugo’s Future With The Union Murky, As Team Has Yet To Offer New Contract

I think my tweets on this story were mostly missed by the general fanbase, so I’m re-posting them here:

#DemandMore – Time for the Union to Do More & Move on from Nick Sakiewicz

The following is my first written piece on this site since the passing of Eric Shertz, a friend and Philadelphia Union fan. This editorial will be partially in Storify (click here) form, as what I wanted to say I tweeted out somewhat tonight on my personal account (@scottdkessler). The following will be a statement/editorial, then the Storify (click here) containing the rest of my thoughts.

The latest failure by the Philadelphia Union – a 3-2 loss that came after a 2-0 lead in a game that meant everything for the Union’s playoff hopes – is yet another poor result in a long line of ugly events for the five-year-old franchise. At the helm of the club has been Nick Sakiewicz, the team’s soccer guy in the ownership group.

Since coming onto the scene in Major League Soccer as an award winning executive with the Tampa Bay Muntiny, Sakiewicz has overseen three teams in some form and has not a single trophy to his name (he became president of the Mutiny the month after the club was awarded the Supporters Shield in 1996). In five years with the Union, Sakiewicz has directed but a single year of uninterrupted positive play and results.

The CEO/President/a lot of other titles allowed former head coach Peter Nowak to roam free of restraint, which ended up in a lawsuit in the federal court system. Sakiewicz was there for the bungling of Michael Orozco-Fiscal, who since leaving the Union has started multiple times for the United States Men’s National Team. He was there for what Orozco-Fiscal said were illegal profits for the coaches/management from player acquisitions and departures.

He was there for the sale of Carlos Ruiz, which may have been linked to the Guatemalan striker’s child support payments, to sketchy Mexican second division club Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz 2.0*. He was there for events that made Faryd Mondragon choose to return to Colombia. He was there for team’s PR mishandling of not-even-on-the-team-yet Lionard Pajoy’s CONMEBOL ban from years beforehand.

He was there for the attempted forced march of Sebastien Le Toux, a fan favorite and franchise leader in nearly everything, to Bolton, which saw the striker trial in England while recovering from injury and without the want to move. He was there for the somewhat hasty trade of Le Toux to the Vancouver Whitecaps after his value diminished due to the poorly managed try at the aforementioned Bolton transfer.

He was there for the training water incident that led to the trades of former no. 1 overall pick Danny Mwanga and former (twice) captain Danny Califf.

He was there for Nowak’s rise and fall. He was there for lifting former interim/head coach John Hackworth’s tag too quickly. He was there for the signings of Porfirio Lopez and Fabinho. The return of Fred. The constant decisions to overlook Home Grown Players (Zach Pfeffer – whose contract is up at the end of the year – Cristhian Hernandez and Jimmy McLaughlin).

He was there for the ignorance regarding continually rising academy star Zack Steffen, who stands to move to Europe when he wants. He was there for choices to not give a proper chance at any central midfield position for Amobi Okugo, who has interest from Germany and some from other leagues in Europe as his contract is due to expire.

He was there for the pitiful attempt at appeasing fans by putting in a bid for Michael Bradley that clearly would never win the Union his rights. He was there for the back-and-forth of Carlos Valdes’ consecutive loan deals to South American clubs and failure to negotiate a proper transfer for the center back once he made Colombia’s World Cup squad.

He was there for the firing of Hackworth, perhaps too late. He was there for Rob Vartughian as Technical Director/Assistant Coach. He was there for the “will he? won’t he?” process for Jim Curtin’s job as head coach.

He was there – and perhaps was the person behind the third one in this list – for the choice to draft Andre Blake, anger Zac MacMath and then sign Rais M’Bolhi toward the end of the second MLS transfer window. He was there for when M’Bolhi somehow was of two minds a week ago on Robert Earnshaw’s chipped in goal.

He was there for yet another late season climb to the playoffs after the firing of the head coach. He was there for yet another late season failure to make the playoffs. He was there for what has become the only possible end for the Union – a collapse, both in the standings and the game result.

He has always been there.

It’s time for a change. It’s time to demand more.

The fans – not just the Sons of Ben and other ‘active’ fans – must demand it. The media must demand it. The residents of Chester should demand it.

The team received nearly $90 million from the state/county/city and only had to pay $1.5 million to the city – which they didn’t properly do – and this is the end product. Chester could have used at least some of that money to fix a dying city; an educational system that “failing” doesn’t properly describe; and a business base that has all but dried up beyond Boeing/Harrah’s/and now the Union. The city of Chester is full of basketball fans who don’t identify with a soccer team that has never sought to include them beyond the part time jobs that the stadium needs to fill. Financial stuff was his realm. Team direction his, as well. Decision making at the soccer level all his within the ownership group structure. Hires – Nowak, execs, etc – were all good ol’ boys from his previous MLS days. Chester has to factor into the way the team progresses. It’s not the Union’s fault, but they’re a part of the solution and they’re not helping. The team failing to punctually send payments in lieu of taxes was not the right thing to do, and Sakiewicz’s public calling out of the city multiple times for proposed taxes while his own team didn’t pay their own debts to the city was an equally poor show.

The team is a blight upon the otherwise failing city of Chester.

It shouldn’t be this way. The season that fans watched in 2011 shouldn’t become an afterthought. It should be a regularity.

Email, tweet, call and text about it. Make sure the media that covers the team: the newspapers, the sites, the twitter accounts (etc) know that you’re asking to #DemandMore.

(Now for the Storify of my tweets for the rest of my thoughts, click here.)

To Shertz

A smile.

A simple, large smile.

The most disarming smile in the world, full of love and teeth. Warmness swept forth rather easily from it. People nearby basked in it.

Friendliness flowed from that smile, bringing with it a sense of community.

Whether or not one truly knew Eric Shertz as a friend, his impact upon one’s experience at a Philadelphia Union game was immense.

His influence in games was second to that of his pre and post-game efforts.

Tailgates were not the same without the presence of Shertz, a man who could brighten the room, a fenced in area or a concrete jungle next to an abandoned warehouse with a laugh.

He was a person who was earnest in every interaction he undertook with another human being, from what I could see.

Shertz was also one of the first people I distinctly remember meeting. I suspect it was during my first foray into a Sons of Ben tailgate. If anything, Shertz was at the entrance or close to it, as he always seemed to be when I arrived at tailgates.

A beaming smile would welcome me as I approached the festivities, followed by a friendly hello. Sometimes we’d chat, sometimes we wouldn’t go beyond that greeting.

I knew, however, that at some point that day he’d have time to discuss the game, the team, life or just simply stand around for a beer and a smile.

The beauty of knowing Shertz, at least for me, was that you knew you were getting the opportunity to be around someone who was constantly providing joy unto others.

Looking back on the past four years, it seems as though his smile guided the entirety of an outing at PPL Park, no matter the attitudes of fans based on the end result of a game.

His passing left me with a heavy heart and a sad mind. I love the relationships I’ve built with various people I have met since my original appearance at a game in 2010, but there are certain people who stand out more than others.

Shertz was, and will forever be, one of those special people.

Report: Union Tentatively Agree To Loan Valdes For Six Months To San Lorezno

It may finally be over.

The Carlos Valdes transfer saga will reportedly close today, according to Clarin Deportes, as San Lorenzo will get the center back for half of 2014.

Valdes will go on loan to the Argentine club, which gained popularity last year after it was revealed to be Pop Francis’ favorite team, for six months.

A source told Clarin Deportes that the Union had agreed to the deal verbally, a positive progression in a saga that has lasted nearly two months.

The offer yesterday, brought by San Lorenzo, was approved by the Colombian’s representatives and last night they got the okay of his American club, which agreed verbally.

“Everything is well underway. Tomorrow (today) we would be traveling to Argentina to close everything. We are optimistic, “he told Clarín a source close to the player.

That source also told Clarin Deportes that Valdes turned down multiple offers from a few different countries to head to San Lorenzo.

The defender, born in Cali, arriving on loan for 6 months from Independiente Santa Fe, also played for Real Cartagena, Cali and Latin America. “He wanted to play for San Lorenzo. To get to the Argentine club, he rejected offers from Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. To him this will be one of the big steps in his career,” the source expanded.

Though Clarin did not disclose whether or not there would be a buy option, there is a high likely hood that Valdes moved to San Lorenzo with one. A Six month loan will put his stay with San Lorenzo to just about the World Cup, where making Colombia’s squad or starting in Brazil will increase his value by a large margin.

The Union traded Jeff Parke, who was acquired in the wake of Valdes’ yearlong loan to Santa Fe last year, for Ethan White, leaving questions about the team’s center back pairing for 2014. Philadelphia is expected to draft a center back high in the first rounder of today’s MLS SuperDraft.

Guest Post: @blogdeMLS Profiles Cristian Maidana

A huge thank you to Brown Lugo (@Philly_brown10), who translated Facundo Trotta’s (@blogdeMLS) writing. Plus a major thank you to Trotta, who wrote this guest post:

Cristian “Chaco” Maidana is an Argentinean midfielder who is 26 years old. We will look over his career and explore his strengths and weaknesses as a player:

Brought up in the lower teams of Banfield , he had his debut in the Primera of the Apertura tournament of 2006. He quickly gained recognition for his technique and his aggressive play. As happens with a lot of young Argentines after a good showing, he got the attention of various European clubs.

Spartak Moscow would sign him in 2008.

His stop in the Russian league was largely affected by adaptation problems, and as a result, the team sent him on loans twice. He first went on loan with Recreavitio de Huelva, of Spain, in 2009, where he played very little and ended up losing his strength. Maidana returned to Moscow and ended up series of injuries which didn’t help him, leading to him being sent on loan again in 2011.

With Huracán, in Argentina, he again showed poorly and had discipline problems, which made the coach separate him from the team. The season ended in the worst way, with the team descending to Nacional B.

Maidana was freed from his contract in Russia, and in 2011 he signed for Rangers de Talca, in the second division of Chile. He went back to his level of play from his earlier years and helped his team go up to the Primera . His level of play was so high that Atlante, from Mexico, decided to buy his rights.

In Mexico, he played for a weak Atlante that had to fight to stay in the top league. Maidana’s playing time was irregular and he participated in two tournaments and had only three goals in 2013, leading to him looking for a new club.

That club was Argentinos Juniors, which had a coach who preferred strong players or technically gifted ones. However, he was in the similar position as in Mexico, with just five games played, pushing him to once again seek a new team.

He can play like an offensive midfielder, is a good passer and has great individual style. If he can adapt to the language and the North American lifestyle (which the writer says he debuts) and without the worries of going into a lower division, then maybe he can play better than he has in the past couple of years.

Official: Union Sign Argentine Midfielder Cristian “Chaco” Maidana

The Philadelphia Union captured their second signing of the offseason, as Cristian Maidana was officially acquired by the club today.

Maidana, 26, will be able to join up with the Union once his P-1 Visa is received. Philadelphia already possesses his International Transfer Certificate.

Though terms of the deal were not disclosed by the Union or MLS because of long standing policies, Kessler Reports has learned that Maidana signed for two years with an option for a third season.

The source could not reveal the salary terms prior to the publishing of this article. Philadelphia stated in the team’s press release that Maidana would be a Designated Player.

The midfielder last played for Argentinos Juniors before his contract with the club ran out this month. He has also played previously for Spartak Moscow, Atlante, Rangers (Chile) and Recreativo (Spain).

Kessler Reports will have a profile of Maidana up tonight.

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