Union Defeat Chivas, Come Away With 3 Huge Points

Posted on 26 June 2011 by stoma

As the Union approach midseason, they find themselves ensconced in the doldrums of what folks in baseball commonly call the “dog days of summer”.  Since erupting for 6 goals in Toronto on May 28, Philadelphia was winless in its last 4 matches coming into this game, with 3 ties and a loss.  Worse, they have scored 2 goals over that stretch.  Worst of all, they have been in the midst of what should have been the easy part of their schedule, facing off against the cellar dwellers in the Western and Eastern Conferences (Vancouver and Kansas City, respectively) with the mid-table Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake mixed in.

The good news is that there is still time to get fat off of the competition as Chivas USA come calling with little to write home about in their season to date.  With only 1 win in their last 6 matches and fresh off of 2 straight losses, Chivas in entrenched in 8th place in a loaded Western Conference, their playoff hopes dashed before the return matches even begin.  However, the Union’s recent struggles show that no opponent can be taken lightly.  If they were to earn 3 points against Chivas, they would have to take them.

Coming out in the same 4-3-1-2 formation as against Kansas City, Philadelphia looked for much better production and, from early on, it seemed as though they would rather lose than go scoreless once again.  From the start, the match picked up a wide open pace, with both squads playing fast and loose with their formations.  The momentum began to swing towards the Union around the 10th minute, as the home team put together several chances in a row.  As has been the trend, however, they were not able to find that last necessary touch that would spring them for a goal.  Jack McInerney, growing more comfortable with his 2nd consecutive start, boldly took on Michael Umana in the 25th minute, turning the defender around badly.  Not so boldly, he passed up the shot in favor of a lay-off to Sebastien Le Toux, who took the shot on with his weaker left foot that never even found its way to Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kenedy.

Union captain and goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon was tested for the first time in 2 matches in the 27th minute, when Nick LaBrocca ripped a shot from the top of the area that appeared ticketed for the back of the net when Mondragon dove left and upwards, parrying the shot up and over the bar, bailing out his defense in the process.  This was not the case following the subsequent corner kick, when a deflection and then a headed pass from Ben Zemanski landed on the head of Umana, who nodded it past an already beaten Mondragon for the game’s opening tally.

The Union threatened to respond immediately, when Sebastien Le Toux sprung free after the restart only to have his shot deflected wide of the right post.  Philadelphia at that point recaptured the early momentum, yet were still unable to turn that momentum into a goal despite several excellent chances.  Halftime arrived and the home team was facing a 1-0 deficit.  This had the feel of a moment that could be one of several key turning points in a team’s season.  Either the Union could rejuvenate their campaign and solidify themselves as a team to be counted, or they could ride this tailspin into MLS irrelevancy.

Philadelphia took all of two and a half minutes into the 2nd half to make certain their intentions, as Justin Mapp sent a cross in front of the net that newcomer Veljko Paunovic drove into the net, reclaiming the crowd and, perhaps, the season. But they still needed that second goal; without the win, the team would stay stuck in neutral.  Chance after chance went by the wayside as the Philadelphia forwards seemingly had forgotten the offsides rule altogether, with Carlos Ruiz in particular garnering 5 calls against him.  All told, the Union had 9 plays called back for offsides, most notably what could have been a second goal when Ruiz slotted home a hard through ball from Sheanon Williams only to find that he had been standing approximately 5 yards beyond the closest defender when the ball was struck.

Finally, sweet release for the team and the 18,139 in attendance, who had spent the initial 68 minutes in a mixture of trepidation and disbelief, when Ruiz took a long ball in the air from Paunovic, settled it, took two touches to his right, and beat Kennedy on his short side.  Instead of opting for his shark’s fin celebration, El Pescadito stared into the crowd as if to announce that he would not be going anywhere, as had been the rumor the last couple of weeks.

But pulling themselves out a hole this deep would not be so simple.  Following a Philadelphia giveaway at midfield in the 77th minute, Jorge Flores sent a through ball into the air that did not appear destined for anything in particular, until Justin Braun materialized all by himself, having gotten behind Carlos Valdes and beaten Danny Califf.   All that was left to finish the equalizer was for Braun to poke it beyond the reach of Mondragon, who had come of his line when he saw his defense beaten so badly.

It would take something truly special to win this game.  An extraordinary play from an exemplary player.  The Union got such a play from such a player in the 82nd minute when Le Toux sent a ball across to Danny Mwanga, who had replaced McInerney at halftime, about 5 yards above the penalty area.  The second-year striker settled, took one touch to his right, then let loose an absolute laser beam across his body and across the goal mouth, beating Kennedy on his right.  As the crowd erupted, Mwanga knelt, as though expelling the spirits that had plagued the team over their stretch of poor play, and the crowd knew their home side had secured the win and 3 points.

And a much needed win it was, as Philadelphia will not see the inside of PPL Park again until their July 20 friendly against Tim Howard and Everton FC.  This three-game road stretch will see the Union against Eastern Conference rival D.C. United before heading out west to San Jose and finally trekking back east to face New England.  The team badly needed a shot in the arm to sustain them; if, in fact, the Union did find themselves on the right end of a season-defining turning point, the next three opponents had better watch out.

 

Philadelphia Union Starting XI

———————————Mondragon—————————————

Williams————-Califf——————–Valdes——————-Harvey

———————————–Carroll——————————————-

Le Toux————————-Paunovic————————————–Mapp

—————————Ruiz—————-McInerney—————————-

 

Chivas USA Starting XI

———————————–Kennedy—————————————-

Valentin——————-Umana————-Pearce———————–Jazic

Zemanski—————————Nagamura——————————–Flores

——————LaBrocca———————————-Mondaini—————

————————————–Braun——————————————–

 

Scoring Summary:

28’ CHVMichael Umana 1 (Ben Zemanski 3)
48’ PHI — Veljko Paunovic 1 (Justin Mapp 1)
69’ PHI — Carlos Ruiz 4 (Paunovic 1)
77’ CHV — Justin Braun 4 (Jorge Flores 2)
82’ PHI — Danny Mwanga 5 (Sebastien Le Toux 5)

Misconduct Summary:

64’ Carlos Valdes  (Tactical Foul)

Lineups:
Chivas USA-
Dan Kennedy, Zarek Valentin, Michael Umana (Andrew Boyens 45), Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic, Paulo Nagamura, Ben Zemanski (Blair Gavin 77), Nick LaBrocca, Jorge Flores, Justin Braun, Marcos Mondaini (Chris Cortez 71)

Substitutes Not Used: Zach Thornton, Victor Estupinan, Michael Lahoud, Mariano Trujillo

Philadelphia Union — Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Jordan Harvey (Keon Daniel 45), Brian Carroll,), Veljiko Paunovic (Kyle Nakazawa 73), Justin Mapp, Sebastien Le Toux, Jack McInerney (Danny Mwanga 45), Carlos Ruiz

Substitutes Not Used: Zac MacMath, Roger Torres, Amobi Okugo, Michael Farfan

Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee’s Assistants: C.J. Morgante, Corey Rockwell
4th Official: Jose Carlos Rivera
Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 80 degrees
Attendance: 18,139

Time of Game: 1:50

 

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