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-Impact 5 things: Back to MLS grind after Open Cup ouster

Union-Impact 5 things: Back to MLS grind after Open Cup ouster

Philadelphia Union at Montreal Impact
7:30 p.m. on TCN

After getting eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup in crushing fashion Wednesday night in Boston, the Union (8-6-6) remain on the road for an MLS clash with the Montreal Impact (6-5-8) on Saturday. Here are five things to know about the Eastern Conference matchup north of the border:

1) Bouncing back
There’s no denying that missing out on the chance to win the 2016 U.S. Open Cup will sting. The Union have come so close to winning the trophy, getting knocked out in each of the last two finals, including a shootout loss in the 2015 title game. And on Wednesday against the New England Revolution, the Union once again suffered through the cruelty of losing in a shootout — an especially difficult result after they battled back to send the game to extra time with a dramatic 90th-minute equalizer from rookie Fabian Herbers.

But if there’s good news it’s that the Union no longer need to worry about the tricky endeavor of navigating through the Open Cup while also preparing for regular-season games. And unlike in the past two seasons, where they needed a deep Open Cup run to validate a year where they struggled in MLS play, this season’s team is right in the thick of the playoff race, currently sitting in second place in the East — four points up on fourth-place Montreal.

“There’s obviously disappointment but the silver lining is we can focus on the league and what we want to achieve at the end of the year — and that’s winning the MLS Cup,” rookie right back Keegan Rosenberry said. “So hopefully we can put more of our focus on that and it will pay off for us.”

2) Road woes
Although the Union have the second best record in their conference, they’ve done most of their damage at home. In fact, the team has only won once on the road in 2016 — in the second game of the season.

That’s something the Union are working to correct with head coach Jim Curtin saying earlier in the week that they’ve talked about “improving our road mentality.” At the same time, the team has had a few good draws away from home, including one at league-leading Colorado and another the last time they went to Montreal back in May.

That gives the Union confidence for their return trip.

“If you look at it, we haven’t won on the road since Columbus in Week 2,” Rosenberry said. “For us, that’s something of a challenge. Can we do better than that? We’ve been so good at home but it really shouldn’t change how we play when we go on the road. I think we put in a decent performance in Montreal the last time we played there and we were unlucky to give up a goal early. We’ll do our best to prevent that this time and hopefully we’ll come away with a result.”

3) Hey now, you’re an All-Star
The quick turnaround will naturally be a challenge for the Union, who will be playing their third game in seven days and 11th in 39 days leading into Thursday’s MLS All-Star Game. But the good news it that Rosenberry, who will be playing in that All-Star Game, was rested for all of Philly’s 120-minute affair vs. New England on Wednesday.

After returning from Montreal, Rosenberry will then quickly fly to San Jose to meet up with his fellow All-Stars, a group that includes teammate Andre Blake, who’s coming off a sensational game vs. New England.

“He’s playing in top form,” Curtin said of Blake. “There’s no surprise that he is an All-Star this year and will be starting against Arsenal. I’m happy for him, obviously.”

Before he goes to San Jose to begin preparations for Arsenal, Blake will need to be in top form again vs. Montreal, which boasts an attack that features Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti, both of whom will join Impact defender Laurent Ciman in the All-Star Game.

Yes, that’s five total All-Stars that will potentially be playing in Saturday’s game.

4) Keep an eye on
Union: Sebastien Le Toux: Ilsinho will have to miss Saturday’s game due to a red-card suspension, which is perhaps not the worst thing in the world considering he put in a grueling 120-minute shift Wednesday. But that still puts some pressure on Le Toux, the franchise stalwart who will likely be inserted into the starting lineup as he looks to put a PK miss in the Open Cup shootout behind him.

Impact: Harry Shipp: While the Impact have a lot of star power, including one of the most well-known players in the world in Didier Drogba, they also have a very talented young player in Shipp. Traded from Chicago in the offseason, Shipp got off to somewhat of a slow start in Montreal but has now scored goals in two of the Impact’s last three games.

5) This and that

  • Before Montreal’s 3-1 loss to New York City FC this past Sunday, they were unbeaten in their last six games
  • In the last Union-Impact game, Drogba and C.J. Sapong both scored first-half goals in a 1-1 draw at Stade Saputo on May 14.

  • The visiting team has only won once all-time in the series — a 1-0 Union win last August. Le Toux scored the only goal of that game to spoil Drogba’s MLS debut.

  • Piatti is second in the Golden Boot race with 11 goals (behind only New York City’s David Villa). The Union’s Chris Pontius is currently tied for 11th in the scoring lead with seven goals.

Union hire analyst Janusz Michallik to replace recently-fired Peter Pappas

Union hire analyst Janusz Michallik to replace recently-fired Peter Pappas

The Union have found a replacement for recently-fired analyst Peter Pappas

Replacing Pappas will be former U.S. Men's National Team player Janusz Michallik. 

Michallik, 50, will call the July 23 and July 31 matches alongside play-by-play man JP Dellacamera. The match on July 23 against the Montreal Impact will be on TCN and the July 23 match against Real Salt Lake will be on CSN. Michallik is an ESPN soccer analyst and was an ESPN Radio analyst during the 2014 World Cup. 

He began his pro career in Poland before moving to the United States when he was 16. While playing for the U.S. National Team from 1991-94, he earned 44 caps and won a CONCACAF Gold Cup in 1991 and a US Cup in 1992. 

Brad Knighton, Revolution eliminate Union from U.S. Open Cup in penalty kicks

Brad Knighton, Revolution eliminate Union from U.S. Open Cup in penalty kicks

The Union’s U.S. Open Cup magic ran out in penalty kicks on Wednesday at Harvard University’s Jordan Field, as they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Brad Knighton and the New England Revolution, 1-1 (4-2).

“It’s a tough way to end the game,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Credit to New England, their guys stepped up, hit their PKs and they’re moving on. It’s difficult for us right now, our locker room is upset. There’s only two trophies you can lift in this country and we’re out of the competition for one of them.” 

For the first time since 2013, the Union will not be in the Open Cup championship game. Meanwhile, the Revs advance to the Open Cup semifinals on Aug. 10, when they will face the Chicago Fire at a location to be determined.

“You have to tip your cap to New England, they had a good game tonight,” Curtin said. “Jay (Heaps) does a good job with them.”

It wasn’t a strong night of penalties for the typically game Union, as Sebastien Le Toux and C.J. Sapong were stuffed by Knighton on weak attempts. On the other side, Andre Blake was able to stop Scott Caldwell but unable to keep Je-Vaughn Watson from winning it for the hosts.

“You work on them in training, but nothing can really recreate a crowd here and the pressure,” Curtin said. “We’re disappointed for Seba, he’s one of our best at that. At the end of the day, it’s a crapshoot. We weren’t the better team today.”

The conclusion may have been just for the Union, who trailed the entire match.

Staring down elimination in the 90th minute, Ray Gaddis, on the right side, pushed it to Le Toux in the box. With a defender draped on him, the Frenchman shielded possession before tapping a pass to Fabian Herbers, who collected it and bounced a shot through Knighton and in, tying the match at 1-1 and sending it to added extra time.

Blake was the player of the game for the Union, finishing the match with seven saves. 

He kept the match tied in the first half of added extra time with back-to-back stops — an aggressive diving stop on Andrew Ferrell, followed by a stunning right-hand save off Kelyn Rowe’s rebound.

“He’s good at soccer,” Curtin said. “He’s a good goalkeeper. He’s special, he can make a big save that can win you a game. When we do get broken down, he’s there to bail us out. He’s playing in top form.”

Watson caught the Union sleeping in the 44th minute, when he snuck past an unset Union back line and accepted a set piece pass from Diego Fagundez. With time, Watson’s shot easily beat Blake to the right post for the early lead.

“At the end of the first half, we fall asleep on restart,” Curtin said. “It’s disappointing to give up a goal like that when we have numbers back. Two guys switched off for a second. For me, that’s the centerback’s job to be screaming and organizing. Ilsinho may have fallen asleep for a second, they played short and caught us.”