Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Posted: 10:15 p.m. Updated: May 12, 12:03 a.m.
By Ryan Bright
CHESTER, Pa. -- Wednesday wasnt just a chance for the Union to exercise its ghosts against the L.A. Galaxy, it also marked Danny Mwangas emergence as a game-changer.
Trailing by one and seemingly doomed to fall to the Galaxy for the fourth time in as many tries, the Union caught a break in the 84th minute. With the offense pushing the play forward into the Galaxy zone, visiting defenseman Sean Franklin tossed an errant back pass that was intercepted by Mwanga and carried deep into the box. The former first-round pick faked out goalie Donovan Ricketts with a stutter step and side move before planting the ball into the back of the net to rescue one point at home in the 1-1 tie at PPL Park.
It was very good anticipation by me because I knew he was going to play it there, said Mwanga. So I pressured the goalkeeper and I got there before him, so I was able to dribble and just tap it in the goal.
It is a great feeling. Its my first goal of the season, so it is a great motivation for me. Hopefully I will just work harder to get another one for the next game and just keep it up for the rest of the season.
While Mwanga had yet to score one all season, assistant coach John Hackworth could feel something brewing with his young up-and-coming star.
I had a good feeling about it, Hackworth said, while temporarily replacing head coach Peter Nowak, who is attending a charity event in Poland. I told Mwanga he was going to get one and he came on and had a lot of confidence. When he is like that, he is as good as anybody in this league.
With the dramatic draw, the Union remain unbeaten at home with a 3-0-2 record, 4-2-2 overall, and move one point behind the New York Red Bulls for second place in the Eastern Conference.
Its incredible, said Hackworth. These fans are amazing and it is awesome for them to get rewarded. Its great to play here and the fans are a huge credit for that.
Like a breath of fresh air for the stifled Union, after tying the game, Mwanga nearly gave his team the lead on a pair of strong runs in the matchs waning moments. His best came in the 88th minute and resulted in a free kick from the right corner of the Galaxy box. However, striker Carlos Ruiz sailed the ball over the net to keep the game locked.
It was a bit of a coming out for him, said Danny Califf said of Mwanga. He came in and single-handedly changed the match. We needed the energy and we got the energy. It was a gutsy performance.
Chemistry issues plagued the Union early in the contest, as the midfield of Justin Mapp, Brian Carroll, Kyle Nakazawa and Keon Daniel failed to connect. It wasnt until late in the opening 45, and in spurts of the second stanza, that the Union gained footing in the offensive zone. Although the Union pushed chances at the Galaxy net, they fired their first official shot on goal in the 73rd minute, a low line drive by Roger Torres, who came in off the bench.
For Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, the lack of potency from the Union left the contest there for the taking for his squad.
The result is very disappointing, said Arena. We should have won this game by two or three goals. We missed a bunch of chances. We made a mistake at the end and it cost us a goal, but having said that, we were certainly in position to score two or three goals. But it is disappointing.
Without any sustained early pressure by the Union, the Galaxy struck first in the 24th minute, when Juan Pablo Angel gained the box but overstepped the ball on a run, pulling multiple defenders out of the play in the process. Following his teammate, Landon Donovan, who was uncovered due to the Unions over pursuit, immediately trickled a light shot that seemed to move in slow motion as it slid past a committed Faryd Mondragon and over the Union goal line to give the Galaxy the 1-0 advantage. It was Donovans fifth goal of the season.
Juan Pablo took a good touch inside and I was with him but it seemed to get jumbled, said defender Sheanon Williams. I tried to get behind Mondragon and Donovan caught going the wrong way.
The way it felt, it seemed like everything was going in slow motion and there was nothing you could do about it.
Despite giving up momentum-killing opening goal, the Union battled back and began to gain some much-needed possession time in the Galaxy zone. Their best chance of the half came in the 39th minute on a Nakazawa free kick from the left side, just a few yards outside of the box. Nakazawas right-footed cross traveled quickly into the danger area where Ricketts punched a bouncer to the foot of Union striker Sebastien Le Toux at the top of the box. Le Toux failed to gather the high-bouncing loose ball before it was cleared out by the defense, keeping the Union trailing 1-0 at the break.
They had us for the first 15-20 minutes but after that we controlled the game, said Califf. I think we got a deserved point and I think we were unfortunate to not get three tonight.
With the Union forced to push, the Galaxy nearly doubled their lead in the 63rd minute, when Chris Birchell was found alone in the Union box. Thinking the play was offsides, Mondragon raised his arm and looked to the sidelines just as Birchell ripped a shot to the far side of the box. Mondragon made a quick dive to his right to just barely tip the attempt away. The Union captain finished with three saves, all coming in the second half.
The stellar effort by Mondragon was clouded by a groin injury he suffered late in the contest. Tweaking the muscle, he signaled for a substitute but to no avail.
As of right now, we think that his injury is just a strain, said Hackworth. I told our trainer that if he went out there, he had to tell him that he had to stay in the game, somehow, someway hes got to stay in this game. To Faryds credit, he really said that Im not going to be close to 100 percent, but my team needs me at this point.
The Union set a new PPL Park on Wednesday with a record 19,178 in attendance.
E-mail Ryan Bright at firstname.lastname@example.org