Roland Alberg has experienced an up-and-down first year with the Union, but the 25-year-old midfielder from the Netherlands is hoping he can build off a recent strong showing.

Alberg started in the 3-2 U.S. Open Cup win over the Harrisburg City Islanders last Wednesday and scored two goals, including the game-winner on a free kick in second-half stoppage time.

On Saturday he entered the 3-2 loss at NYC FC after halftime, when the Union trailed, 2-0.

Besides scoring on a penalty kick, Alberg created chances and thought he was taken down and should have earned a penalty kick late in second-half stoppage time.

While his view on that no-call can be debated, his contribution to the offense can't. The Union were listless in the first half, and he gave them a major spark.

"He has given us a real lift," Union coach Jim Curtin said. "That second 45 [minutes] he came in and really left a mark on the game not just because he scored, but his ability to hold the ball is good."

With midfielder Vincent Nogueira and the Union mutually terminating his contract following the win over Harrisburg, there is a huge vacancy in the Union midfield.

Nogueira was known more for his defensive ability, while Alberg is an offensive-minded player. But the fact remains that there are extra minutes in the midfield.

Alberg was seeing playing time until he received a red card after earning his second yellow card in the 53rd minute of a 2-1 loss in Seattle on April 16.

He then played a total of 12 minutes over the next eight games.

"After that red card it was hard for me to get back playing well," Alberg said.

He added a strong performance on Saturday against NYC FC.

"The Open Cup was important, and I got confidence from my performance," Alberg said.

Alberg conceded that he faced an adjustment period in coming to MLS, but he said he was feeling more comfortable each week.

"The beginning, it was a little tough, being in a different league, a different mentality, a different country," said Alberg, who played in Holland's top division the previous three years. "The last couple of weeks it has gone well, and I am feeling good."

The Union would like to see more consistency on the defensive end, but there is no question that Alberg can give the offense a spark with his ability to break down defenders.

Whether or not he starts Wednesday against the visiting Chicago Fire, he is likely to contribute. His creative ability has opened up the offense in his last two appearances.

The 5-foot-11, 160-pound Alberg said that the physical play in MLS has taken some time to get accustomed to.

"When I came here it was tough, harder physically, and different in Europe and in Holland. But it is good for me," Alberg said. "I am getting stronger and better every week."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard