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Union hope to end grim stretch with Red Bulls visit

CHESTER — Things around the Union are as bleak as they’ve been in nearly a decade. One win in 15 games, a five-game losing streak and eight games winless slide – these are troubling times.

In the third game of a thoroughly dispiriting week, with the rival New York Red Bulls coming to town, there’s no help on the horizon beyond the struggling occupants of the home locker room to aid the Union in trying to cast off their losing ways. They’re looking for their first home win since the end of March in Saturday’s match (7:30 p.m., APPLETV), which offers a chance for fans to voice their displeasure and the need for the players to stay strong in the face of that discontent.

“Not to oversimplify things, but we know when we step on the field, if we lose, we’re going to get booed – again,” manager Jim Curtin said Friday. “That’s going to happen. If we win, we’re going to get cheered off the field. It’s a very, very simple equation. Our fans are intelligent, they know they’ve had our backs for the entirety of the year. But there’s definitely pressure to find a way out of this rut.”

With the transfer window two weeks from opening and the Union unwilling to spend or unable to spend wisely in recent summers, it’ll be up to the current injury-hit group to pull the Union out of 14th place in the Eastern Conference, only clear of the basement by goal differential.

The lowlights, just to review: Conceding in the fourth minute of stoppage time to nine-man Inter Miami in a 2-1 home loss. Tying last year’s Supporters’ Shield winner Cincinnati in the first minute of stoppage time only to concede in the 10th of a 4-3 loss. Losing 2-0 at home to a thoroughly average Charlotte team. Turning a 2-1 lead in the 55th minute into a 4-2 loss in Montreal. And the latest lowlight that Curtin called “heartbreaking,” from 3-1 up on lowly Chicago in the 81st to a 4-3 loss.

That adds up to 1-9-5 since the Union’s April 7 win at Nashville.

The news on the injury front is mixed. Alejandro Bedoya (quad) will be back but not fit enough to start. Damion Lowe, who missed the Chicago game while attending to a personal matter, is also back. Tai Baribo (back spasm) is good to play, as is Markus Anderson (knee).

Not among the returnees is Mikael Uhre, still working through a groin injury. That leaves Baribo and Chris Donovan, who scored against Chicago, as options up top. The Union lost Jesus Bueno to an ankle knock, though an MRI revealed no structural damage as was feared. That brings the Union near the threshold of 16 available outfield players to cue hardship callups, though they’ve had to add David Vazquez and CJ Olney to fill out the roster in recent weeks.

Also missing is Jose Martinez, who is with Venezuela at Copa America. If Jack McGlynn and Nathan Harriel are called up to the U.S. Olympic team as expected, this would be the last game they would play.

As far as the goalie situation for a team that has allowed 39 goals, Andre Blake (knee surgery) is on schedule to return to training next week. After Oliver Semmle allowed four goals in Chicago, Curtin will turn back to 18-year-old Andrew Rick, who allowed four in Montreal. The Union have scored eight goals in their last three away games, yet have come away with 0 points thanks to 12 concessions.

Curtin didn’t say much more about the goalkeeping decisions beyond lamenting that both young goalies have been thrust into difficult situations and asked to do perhaps too much so early in their careers, with the players in front of them not responding to the challenge.

“We’ve been a group that, as hard as it’s been, is still together, is still fighting for each other, is scoring enough goals on the road,” Curtin said. “… So there’s still little positives that keep the group fighting, keep them together. Again, it’s a hard moment … I don’t hide from that. And I take responsibility, but I also know and believe that not too long ago, we won a lot of games together.”

Blake’s absence is obvious. It could be blatantly so against Red Bulls (9-4-8, 35 points), who sit fifth in the East. Their season has been defined by the arrival of Emil Forsberg from Red Bull Leipzig, a player who elevates those around him, the way Blake once did to a defense that just two years ago was the best in MLS history.

The Union have not lost to Red Bulls since Sept. 22, 2019. New York’s last win in Chester was Oct. 21, 2018. Philadelphia is desperate for something to turn the moment of the season, with 13 games left and still just four points separating it from the ninth and final playoff spot.

“No one’s coming to save us,” Curtin said. “We have to help each other and get ourselves out of it. Because this game, no one feels sorry for you. The next game’s coming, and we have to step up.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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