Late fortune gives Union rain-soaked victory

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Late fortune gives Union rain-soaked victory

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. -- It wasn’t the way Union coach John Hackworth drew it up. However, with a late, indirect, free-kick goal from Michael Farfan, the Union defeated Chivas USA, 3-1, on a rainy Friday night at PPL Park.

“This was big, it was a really big game,” Hackworth said. “We knew we had to come here and get three points and Chivas is a good team. What they do, they do well. Our guys really dug deep and showed a lot of character to get the win.”

The win puts the Union at 8-6-6 on the season, while the 3-11-5 Goats have gone winless in 14 games -- a streak dating back to March 30.

Pushing through the unrelenting downpour, the trailing Union broke through Chivas in the 58th minute and didn’t look back.

Lining up for a corner kick earned by Leo Fernandes, Sebastien Le Toux played a short corner to Farfan, who dished it back to Le Toux. With a better angle and on his right foot, the Union’s leading assist man fired a line-drive cross that was perfectly headed by Conor Casey but deflected off of Brian Carroll, locking the game at one.

“Conor does all the hard work,” said Carroll. “Technically, it does touch me before going in, but he did all the hard work. It should be his goal.”

Then things got weird.

In the 79th minute, Chivas was called for an improbable back pass inside the box, giving the Union an indirect free kick from the top of the crease. Protesting the rare play in dramatic fashion and possibly making contact with referee Jorge Gonzalez, Chivas’ Josue Sota was handed a red card. It was the second ejection for Gonzalez, who tossed Hackworth off the sideline in the 77th minute.

As the dust cleared and with the entire Chivas squad lined up to block the goal, Farfan took a touch from Le Toux and lightly roofed a shot to give his team the 2-1 lead in the 82nd minute.

“I was pretty confident, I knew they were going to come rushing out,” said Farfan, who notched his first goal of the season. “I just had to put it over their heads. I wanted to make sure I didn’t hit it over the bar.

“It’s always nice to score and I’m happy to finally put a goal on the board.”

Hackworth, who said he watched the play from inside the River End, was thrilled to see Farfan step up to take the shot.

“He aimed it perfectly,” the coach said. “He has excellent technique and it was a good play by him. It was an important part of the game for us.”

Soon after, Casey got his seventh goal of the season in the 89th minute, when he accepted a cross-field pass from Fabinho and easily buried it through Kennedy and in net.

It was Casey’s fifth goal in his last six games and Fabinho’s first assist with the Union.

“I like our starting lineup right now, but Fabinho certainly has the potential to be a starter,” Hackworth said. “His cross to Conor was a great ball. He’s truly a left back but he’s been good getting forward and serving balls into the box. He did that tonight.”

Chivas opened score in the 14th minute, when Union defender Amobi Okugo lost his footing on a soaked field while trying to gain possession of a loose ball. The error allowed Chivas’ Jorge Villafana to gain the left side of the box and center to Jose Correa, who easily placed the ball in an open net for the 1-0 lead.

“I really like this team,” Hackworth said. “I like our character, I like the way we prepare. The way we don’t give up at all, our resilience when we come off a poor performance. We kept plugging away and we just needed to execute a little better. We thought if we could just get one back that we could force the game.”

Union Notes: With Yaro sidelined, 'Gooch' poised to be a starter

Union Notes: With Yaro sidelined, 'Gooch' poised to be a starter

It’s been roughly two years since Oguchi Onyewu last played a professional soccer game. But with Joshua Yaro out for at least the next three months after dislocating his shoulder, Onyewu will likely be the team’s opening day starter when the Union’s 2017 season begins in Vancouver on March 5. 

“Gooch has been really good in the preseason,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said after the team wrapped up a training session from inside the Penn Park Bubble on Monday. “Him and Richie (Marquez) have established themselves as the guys that, at least at this stage, we’ll go with going into this final phase between MLS games.”

Ken Tribbett, who started 19 games a rookie last season, is also “pushing for minutes,” Curtin acknowledged. And 18-year-old Auston Trusty is an intriguing option to perhaps make his MLS debut at some point this season.

But no matter what the Union plan to do, the injury to Yaro will certainly be a big blow. The second-year player, who battled injuries and concussion problems last season, was prepared to make a big leap in 2017 and show the kind of promise that made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft.

“Josh is a starter,” Curtin said. “When he’s healthy, he’s established himself as such. It’s a big loss, a speed loss on the backline. It will call upon guys to step up in his absence. Hopefully, we get him back sooner rather than later.”

Calling the injury both “tricky” and “painful,” Curtin knows the recovery process can’t be rushed though. Yaro actually dislocated the same shoulder last May in a game vs. Orlando but the team decided at the time that surgery wasn’t necessary. This time, after Yaro dislocated his shoulder in a non-contact drill about a week-and-a-half ago, they decided to go the surgery route, which they hope will prevent any more issues.

“It’s tough because he plays so aggressive and physical,” Curtin said. “So to be out there a little wounded and already a little undersized is difficult. We thought it was best to get the surgery taken care of. He’s a really important piece we’ll miss but everyone else has to step up.”

For what it’s worth, Onyewu seems more than ready to fill the void. A former US national team star, the 34-year-old center back confidently stated when he was signed: “My ambition and my goal is to start every minute.”

“Looking at things in reality, I’m 34 years old, so I’m not gonna play for another 15 years,” Onyewu added at the time. “But if the question is, ‘Do I have more left in my tank?’ I definitely do. You’re gonna see that this season.”

From New York to Philly
It’s been an interesting last couple of months for Adam Najem, a star player at the University of Akron who bypassed this year’s MLS draft because his homegrown rights were owned by the New York Red Bulls … who then traded those rights to the Philadelphia Union … who then signed him last Wednesday.

But now that a little bit of the uncertainty has passed, he’s ready to make Philly his new home. 

“I grew up a Red Bull fan,” Najem told reporters Monday. “I played there since I was 12 years old. But my heart and everything else is with the Philly Union. I’m gonna give everything I can to the organization. That’s all I’m thinking about right now.” 

Perhaps the most interesting part of Najem’s move from New York to Philly is that his brother, David, is part of the Red Bulls' system.

Might the two siblings face off in a rivalry game down the road?

“We grew up playing against each other all the time — one-vs.-one battles in the backyard,” the Union midfielder said. “It will be fun to see him on the other side of the field.”

The Bosnian has arrived
It’s been nearly two weeks since Haris Medunjanin was signed but the Bosnian midfielder just arrived in Philly this week after working to attain his visa.

Medunjanin, who’s expected to be a major piece in the Union midfield, didn’t practice with the team at Penn on Monday but will fly out with them to Florida on Tuesday for the third and final phase of the preseason and should be available to play in the next three preseason games at the Suncoast Invitational.

In the meantime, he took a physical on Monday and enjoyed a tour of the Power Training Complex, which he told Curtin was better than many training centers he’s seen in Europe.

“He’s excited,” Curtin said. “He really wants to fit in well with the group, which we know he will.” 

Union look to add resident tattoo artist 
The Union’s roster may be just about complete as they prepare for their start of the 2017 season but they are still looking to fill at least one position … a chief tattoo officer.

Wait, what?

Yes, Union vice president of Marketing Doug Vosik announced on CSN’s Philly Sports Talk on Monday that the team would be the first professional sports organization to make such a hire with the person acting as a resident tattoo artist for players and staff.

All interested tattoo artists may apply for the position by emailing portfolio images to tattoos@philadelphiaunion.com.

“This is an exciting initiative for all of us here at Philadelphia Union as we look to provide a revolutionary service for our players and front office, particularly those new to the area,” said Vosik, who will be the first to get a Union tattoo. “Our hiring process begins immediately; we are looking for a partner with a wide variety of talents and skills, and someone who can offer a broad range including American traditional, as well as Japanese, realism, new school and more.”

Report: Carli Lloyd likely to accept contract offer from Manchester City

Report: Carli Lloyd likely to accept contract offer from Manchester City

It looked unlikely at first but U.S. soccer star and Delran, N.J. product Carli Lloyd is on the verge of accepting a contract offer from Manchester City, according to Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannewald. 

Details of the contract have not surfaced yet but it is speculated that Lloyd will sign this week, according to the report. This presents a perfect situation for Lloyd if she decides to sign now because the league is in a shortened season. The league transitioned to the new format in 2017 -- it's calling it "Spring Series" and is played from April to June. 

This could give Lloyd a sample taste of playing overseas, also allowing her to return to the Houston Dash by June to finish the National Women's Soccer League season.

“That is just one possible scenario, and it admittedly includes some speculation on my part,” wrote Tannewald. “But it is worth knowing, not least because a short deal would be similar to the deal Alex Morgan signed with French club Lyon. Morgan will be in France until the end of the French league and UEFA Champions League campaigns in early June, then return to the Orlando Pride.”

If Lloyd accepts the offer she will become the third U.S. national team player to sign with the English league this year. The other two: Crystal Dunn who signed with Chelsea and Heather O’Reilly signing with Arsenal shortly after.