Union's Fafa Picault loses appeal of suspension; won't play vs. Columbus, Colorado

UNION21
Philadelphia Union winger Fafa Picault was suspended three games for using discriminatory language in a preseason scrimmage against Orlando City.

Union winger Fafa Picault appealed his three-game suspension by MLS for discriminatory language in a preseason scrimmage, but it was denied, manager Jim Curtin announced Thursday.

A fine levied against Picault along with the suspension was reduced, but the brunt of the punishment remained in place. As such, Picault will miss the Union’s March 17 home game against the Columbus Crew, and the March 31 road game against the Colorado Rapids.

“The appeal helped his wallet, but didn’t help the team in terms of getting back any time sooner,” Curtin said.

The scrimmage took place on Feb. 14, against Orlando City in Orlando. Lions midfielder Pierre da Silva was also suspended three games for his involvement in the incident. A source with knowledge said da Silva did not appeal his punishment.

Fabian Herbers started in Picault’s place on the right flank in the Union’s season-opening 2-0 win over New England this past Saturday. Curtin saluted Herbers’ effort at both ends of the field, including a strong partnership with right back Keegan Rosenberry.

“He made some decent plays and decisions around the goal, could have executed and maybe been a little more decisive and gotten himself a goal or an assist,” Curtin said of Herbers. “Overall, I thought it was a good first half. Fatigue kind of set in during the second.”

Cory Burke replaced Herbers after 66 minutes. Three minutes later, Burke delivered a pretty assist on C.J. Sapong’s game-sealing goal. Burke is a striker by trade, but showed enough promise on the wing — albeit against a New England defense playing down a man — to make Curtin think.

“In a couple emergency situations, he’s been thrown out on the right,” Curtin said of Burke. “The other night, maybe I wouldn’t call it an emergency, but with Fabian getting tired, you have the option of [Eric] Ayuk or Cory bumping out wide, and he stepped up and did a really good job. In limited minutes in the preseason, he scored almost every opportunity or assisted every opportunity he got. So we rewarded the hot hand.”

Ayuk is a natural winger with some creative skill. Curtin could also call on Marcus Epps, a speed player, to play the right-sided role. Epps wasn’t on the gameday squad Saturday after playing a midweek game with Bethlehem Steel, but with the Union having a bye week this Saturday, that should give everyone time to be ready for the Columbus game.