The story so far: The Earnie Stewart era was off to a torrid start with the Philadelphia Union sitting in first place at the Copa America Centenario break in June. Then the sudden departure of midfielder Vincent Nogieura blew a hole in the lineup and the Union sank to fourth place in July. But reports emerged that the Union were pursuing USMNT midfielder Alejandro Bedoya as August began.
Up to this point, New Jersey native Alejandro Bedoya had spent his entire professional life in Europe. He even wrote an article on how he loved playing abroad. But in that same article he mentions that with a new son, he was considering MLS and a move back home. He flirted with joining the Philadelphia Union in 2015, but that deal fell through. Now he was knocking on the door again, but the Chicago Fire were standing in the way as they were ahead of the Union in the Allocation Order that MLS uses when a USMNT regular wants to join the league.
The club worked out a deal and Bedoya was officially signed on August 3. The Union gave the Fire General Allocation Money, Targeted Allocation Money, their natural first-round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft Pick, and the Discovery Priority on a player to be named later for the number one spot in the Allocation Order. Bedoya would the Union’s biggest money signing to date.
That same day, the Union announced the departure of team legend Sebastien LeToux to the Colorado Rapids for General Allocation Money. In his two stints with the Union, LeToux endeared himself to the fanbase with his tireless work rate, goal scoring, and connection with the fans in meet-and-greet situations. But the team needed to shed some payroll to be able to afford the expensive Bedoya. The fans would miss LeToux’s personality, but he was now expendable.
The wheeling and dealing still wasn’t done, as the Union acquired former USMNT striker Charlie Davies from the New England Revolution the next day. Once again, it involved the Union giving up General Allocation Money, Targeted Allocation Money, and a SuperDraft pick, though this time it was for the third round of 2018.
The busy week ended with a trip to RFK Stadium for a match against D.C. United. Bedoya was not yet available due to paperwork, with Tranquillo Barnetta playing at the number 8 position and Fabian Herbers playing the number 10. Taylor Kemp scored the first goal in the 16th minute, and Barnetta tied it in first half stoppage time. Chris Pontius gave the Union the lead in the 57th minute. Charlie Davies saw his first action in a Union kit when he came in for Pontius in the 80th minute. Davies took the striker position with CJ Sapong moving back to left wing. The move was ineffective as they could not get the insurance goal. Even so, the Union looked like they would take 3 road points with a lead after 90 minutes, but Steve Birnbaum scored a crushing blow when he headed in a great Patrick Nyarko cross for the win 4 minutes into stoppage time. The boys in blue would have to settle for a 2-2 road draw.
A few days later it would be announced that Brian Carroll would be out 3-6 weeks with a plantar fasciitis injury. But with Bedoya finally able to join the squad, they put him in at number 8, moved Barnetta up to the 1o position, and used Warren Creavalle at number 6 when they took on the New England Revolution in a road match on August 13. The Union dominated the match, blowing the Revs out 4-0. The Union took a very early lead in the second minute when Fabinho raced down the left wing and placed a cross to Sapong, who managed to finish the goal. The Union got insurance goals from Pontius and Richie Marquez early in the second half at 51′ and 54′ respectively. Roland Alberg completed the humiliation of the Revs when he scored a goal on the last kick of the game, giving the Union 3 big road points.
The Union came crashing down to Earth when they returned home to host Toronto FC on August 20. Sebastian Giovinco ran right past Ken Tribbett to score in the 18th minute. Tribbett would make up for it by scoring a goal himself when he headed in a Barnetta free kick in the 24th minute. Drew Moor scored off a Michael Bradley free kick in the 30th minute. At the end of the first half, Jozy Altidore bulldozed past Tribbett to put TFC up 3-1. Tribbett, who had shown so much promise earlier in the season, was pulled at halftime after his worst performance of the year. The Union had some chances in the second half but the TFC defense was up to the task. Toronto FC would happily go home with the 3-1 win.
The Union went on the road for a midweek match against Columbus Crew SC. Herbers got the game’s first goal in the 60th minute. The Crew tied on a controversial goal in the 73rd minute. Andre Blake punched a corner kick by Federico Higuain into the crossbar, then the ball dropped to the feet of Adam Jahn. Jahn’s shot appeared to be stopped at the line by Creavalle, but the ball was ruled to have crossed the line. It ultimately didn’t matter, as Keegan Rosenberry scored a minute later, giving he boys in blue a 2-1 win.
The Union ended the month at home against a slumping Sporting KC. The U took the lead with an Alberg goal in the 67th minute, and Barnetta sealed the victory with a goal 3 minutes into second half stoppage time.
Tranquillo Barnetta scores in stoppage time.
It was a good month for the the Union. They were 3-1-1 in August, leaving them with 40 points, only 3 points behind the Conference-leading Toronto FC. They had their first real big-money signing and looked like they could actually compete for the first place spot. No one could predict what would happen in September.
Mike is a South Jersey native and resident who has been a Philadelphia Union fan ever since the team was just a twinkle in the eyes of the Sons Of Ben. He is also a lifelong fan of the Phillies and an Eagles season ticket holder since 1985.