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April 27, 2016

Blood, sweat, and halftime subs: Union notes for April 27th

Soccer Union
012716_pontius_PSP Paul Rudderow/Philly Soccer Page

Chris Pontius receives treatment for a cut below his eye, before re-entering the field and scoring against New York City.

Everybody appeared to be a full participant at the Union's Wednesday morning training session.

Ken Tribbett, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury, has been taking part in all team activities since Saturday's win. It's a similar situation for Ilsinho, who came in as a second-half substitute against New York. The veteran midfielder is also training in full and appears to be close to 100 percent after suffering a hamstring issue more than two weeks ago.

The only player not participating in team activities is Maurice Edu, who remains sidelined with a stress fracture in his left leg.

To sub, or not to sub?

Ray Gaddis made his season debut on Saturday when he entered for Fabinho at halftime.

The Brazilian left back is suspended for a yellow card accumulation, which leaves an opening for Gaddis to start his first game of 2016 against San Jose.

In prior instances this season, manager Jim Curtin has left cautioned players on the field after halftime, explaining that he does not believe in pulling a guy just because he's on a yellow card.

Fabinho, for example, has done it several times this year without earning a second caution.

But in the NYC game, Curtin explained that his staff convinced him to bring off Fabinho and put Gaddis on the field.

"I'm not a guy who likes to change at halftime just because of a caution, but at the same time, we looked at our outside backs, and it wasn't their best day," Curtin said. "I thought New York got in behind Keegan and Fabinho a lot, so it weighed in the decision and make it a little easier to make the adjustment."

"To be honest, I give my staff credit for (the sub), because I was against it," the manager continued. "I didn't want to do it. There were enough voices from my assistants Oka Nikolov, Mike Sorber, and B.J. Callaghan. I thanked them after the game, too, because we're all in this together. Hindsight is always.. you know, if I leave Fabi out there and he gets a red card, then I'm an idiot (laughs). So, you know, these are all things that weigh in. But I thought my staff did a good job of at least making me aware of the positives and the negatives. We went through them, and it wasn't until, trust me, the very last second where Fabi was literally on his way back out to the field and we made the decision. Fabi was great. He understood it, and with the way yellow cards are flying around, it's risky. He's an aggressive defender, too, so it's challenging and we had concern over the second yellow."

Patching up Pontius

Chris Pontius scored his third goal of the season last week, but it looked like it might not happen.

In the first half, the winger took an inadvertent elbow that opened a gash below his right eye.

Pontius came off the field for medical attention, got patched up, then went back on. But he started bleeding again, and NYC manager Patrick Vieira motioned to the official to bring Pontius back to the bench. After getting further treatment, which seemed to drag on for awhile, he got back on the field and scored the game's opening goal.

Curtin admitted that it "crossed his mind" to bring in Ilsinho as a substitute.

"Those are brutal for me," Curtin said. "Those are helpless feelings and the seconds feel like minutes, because you can see your team, and the shape is different. If you remember, too, I was a little bit mad at Chris, and I yelled at him while he was getting his poor eye healed up because he just kind of stepped off the field. I don't think our players were quite aware. The message, the learning thing from that, is to go down in an area where at least everybody on the field, on our team, they stop, look over, and say, 'okay, we're down a man'. I think there was a brief 45 seconds there where we weren't sure that we were down a man, and that's dangerous. You can think back, and they hit the crossbar while Chris is on the sideline. Those are dangerous moments. It's frustrating, but our medical staff did a great job of getting him back as quick as you can."

Philly Voice had a brief chat with Pontius about the situation on Wednesday.

Philly Voice: How's the cut?

Pontius: It's fine, it's just a small one.

Philly Voice: Had you experienced anything like that before? It was a situation where you were off the field, then on the field, then you had to come off again.

Pontius: Maybe not for that amount of time, but I've come off for cuts before. It's not my first time splitting something open.

Philly Voice: What happened on the play, you just took an elbow?

Pontius: Yea, I was just chasing (Khiry Shelton) down. He didn't mean to, it was just in the run of play and he caught me that way.

Philly Voice: You were trailing him from behind when it happened?

Pontius: Yea, I was coming up from behind him.

Philly Voice: What did the training staff say to you?

Pontius: Just that it's tough to close up a cut when it's that sweaty. For awhile there, I know they told someone to get Ilinsho and have him warm up, just because if it gets to a point where they can't close it, then I can't go. So I was worried about that, but once we got it closed up, I didn't think about it.

Philly Voice: Is that the main issue, they just need it to dry out before they can patch it up?

Pontius: Yea, just trying to stick anything onto that cut when it's still wet isn't the easiest.