Be­doya ad­dresses team­mates on lack­lus­ter ef­fort

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Matthew DeGe­orge mde­ge­orge @21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @sports­doc­tormd on Twit­ter

CH­ESTER >> As the Philadel­phia Union con­vened Mon­day for their cus­tom­ary day-af­ter re­cap, Ale­jan­dro Be­doya felt com­pelled to speak up.

No one, from man­ager Jim Curtin on down the staff and ros­ter, was un­der the im­pres­sion that Sun­day’s 2-0 flat­ten­ing meted out by Or­lando City was ac­cept­able. But at a meet­ing that in­cluded more player in­put than usual, Be­doya moved that mes­sage from the sub­text right into the open.

“It doesn’t take a ge­nius to look at that game and say that was a lack­lus­ter ef­fort at best,” Be­doya said Wed­nes­day. “For us, it’s just stay­ing op­ti­mistic. We know we have a great group of guys. We know we have a good team. When we’re play­ing well, when we’re on our game, we can com­pete with any­body in this league. It’s just about putting our heads down.

“I was able to give a talk to the team Mon­day and let them know we’re all in this to­gether, this is the end of the sea­son, guys are play­ing for their liveli­hoods re­ally. We don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen next sea­son. Some guys are go­ing to re­tire, some guys are go­ing to leave, get traded, go some­where else. This is a great op­por­tu­nity we have in front of us now with the play­offs and try­ing to win an MLS Cup here in Philly.”

Be­doya’s typ­i­cal blunt­ness is the re­set that the Union need, af­ter a sixgame win­less streak that some­how hasn’t pre­vented them from all but cinch­ing a play­off spot. The only way the Union miss the post­sea­son is a loss Sun­day to the Red Bulls, a win by New Eng­land over Mon­treal and a change in goal dif­fer­en­tial of 12 be­tween the teams. ESPN’s Soc­cer Power In­dex says there’s a 99.99 per­cent chance that won’t hap­pen.

With the post­sea­son aim es­sen­tially achieved, the Union’s strat­egy Sun­day (4 p.m., TCN) shifts to gran­u­lar ob­jec­tives. The first is to ar­rest their skid and pa­per over the ob­vi­ous cracks in the crum­bling façade of the sea­son with a re­sult that re­flects the sense of ac­com­plish­ment the team should have. To do that, they’ll have to con­struct a more Union-like per­for­mance on the field.

“As a player, you know when it’s been a good per­for­mance and when it’s been us, the way the Union has played this sea­son, and when it’s not,” Curtin said. “I think against Or­lando, for a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent rea­sons, it wasn’t. … We didn’t have our best day.”

The re­turn to win­ning ways must be ap­proached prag­mat­i­cally. The Union (11-13-9, 42 points) want to fin­ish on a pos­i­tive note, but they also face a play­off game next Wed­nes­day or Thurs­day. With the Union locked into ei­ther the fifth or sixth seed, rest­ing reg­u­lars on the fringe of health is on Curtin’s radar.

Sev­eral play­ers missed Wed­nes­day’s train­ing ses­sion. Chris Pon­tius, who’s played ev­ery game this sea­son, left Sun­day’s game with ham­string tight­ness. Pon­tius suf­fered a se­ri­ous ham­string in­jury last year, and his with­drawal from the game and lim­i­ta­tion Wed­nes­day was largely pre­cau­tion­ary.

“He stayed in and got some main­te­nance, but I don’t fore­see him be­ing lim­ited this week,” Curtin said.

CJ Sapong was di­ag­nosed with a con­cus­sion and “is pro­gress­ing quickly through the pro­to­col,” per Curtin. Josh Yaro, who was pro­gress­ing quickly with a con­cus­sion last week, hasn’t yet been cleared to prac­tice. Sapong, in par­tic­u­lar, could use a break af­ter a run of poor form, and Curtin ad­mit­ted a new face up top could pro­vide the spark that’s needed.

Fabian Her­bers, who has ex­celled on the wing, can start up top with Ilsinho re­turn­ing. Char­lie Davies could also make his first Union start, though Curtin didn’t sound too en­thu­si­as­tic.

“Char­lie has been a lit­tle bit sharper each day in train­ing,” Curtin said. “Again, it’s tough for peo­ple to for­get that he as re­cent as a month and a half ago was beat­ing can­cer. So the sharp­ness, the fit­ness, is start­ing to come back and the strength, you’re start­ing to see that, which is re­ally pos­i­tive. But in terms of just throw­ing him out there for 90 min­utes, that’s why it has taken so long in that re­gard.”

Tran­quillo Bar­netta got an early prac­tice exit, part of sea­son-long main­te­nance on his balky knees. Then there’s the age-old Mau­rice Edu co­nun­drum in the pro­longed wait for a sea­son de­but.

“We’ll see how the week pro­gresses, but Mo’s been re­ally sharp in train­ing,” Curtin said. “He’s im­proved a great deal in terms of the ground he’s cov­er­ing. We’ll see what makes the most sense, but it is a pos­si­bil­ity that he’s avail­able for se­lec­tion.”

Who­ever Curtin turns to, the main chal­lenge Sun­day is to move on from last week’s dis­ap­point­ment, and a re­sult will go a long way to­ward that.

“It’s the past, though, and that’s the one thing we did stress at the end of the meet­ing,” Curtin said. “It’s over. We have to look for­ward to the chal­lenge that Red Bull will present which is the per­fect team to play in terms for a tune-up and to get up to speed and the tempo of play­off game. We’ll use that to get guys pre­pared.”

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