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 draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

Union draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

With an eye on potential, the Union selected two forwards and a defender as they wrapped up the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 MLS draft on Tuesday.

With the 55th overall selection, the Union grabbed Chris Nanco, a Canadian-born forward out of Syracuse. The 5-foot-6 speedster, who led his club with 15 points over his senior season, was listed as a second-round talent on some draft boards.

Moving into the fourth and final round, the Union selected West Virginia defender Jack Elliott with the 77th overall pick. Opposite of the diminutive Nanco, Elliott, out of London, stands at a hulking 6-foot-5. Also listed as a defensive midfielder, Elliott showed a twinge of offense and started all 16 games for the Mountaineers in his senior season, playing a part in eight shutouts over that span.

Back in 2015, the Union moved defender Ethan White to New York City FC for the 82nd overall pick in 2017. That trade finalized on Tuesday when the Union selected productive Spanish forward Santi Moar out of Pfeiffer University. Moar scored 14 goals and 19 assists in 20 games with Pfeiffer as a sophomore in 2016.

Although these picks aren’t guaranteed to be with the club by the end of training camp, the Union will heavily utilize USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel to assist in the development of prospects who do make it.

Without a first-round pick, the Union traded up to select Marcus Epps, an attacking midfielder in the early second round. They also added depth at right back Aaron Jones with the 33rd overall pick.

Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

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Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

With no first-round picks in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft on Friday in Los Angeles, the Union were still able to add what they were looking for. 

“We got two players today that we want to be with the Philadelphia Union for a long time,” Union manager Jim Curtin said.

The club made a splash early in the second round by trading the 42nd overall pick, originally acquired by the Union, sending Zac MacMath to the Colorado Rapids, and $50,000 in 2018 General Allocation Money to the Minnesota United for the 25th overall pick. 

With that selection, the Union plucked Marcus Epps, an athletic right wing midfielder out of the University of South Florida. 

“We didn’t want to wait any longer,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “We were afraid Marc would go sooner, so we made sure we were ready to do a deal and creep up the board so we could get him.”

Epps admitted he didn’t know much about the Union. He wasn’t in attendance at the draft but was thrilled at hearing his name called over the MLS live stream.

“I’ve been on the phone with family and friends,” he said. “I was huddled around the laptop, streaming in and hoping to hear the good news. 

“I was definitely surprised and excited.”

Epps, listed by MLS at 5-foot-10, is 22 and a native of Jackson, Mississippi. According to both Stewart and Curtin, Epps is an adept one-on-one player and a skillful attacking winger that fits the Union’s style. He’s also right-footed and stated that he has experience on both the left and right wing in the midfield.

“He has speed, he has agility, he’s a big boy,” Stewart said. “The combination of those factors and the philosophy that we have at the Philadelphia Union, we believe we can develop this kid to be something very special. If you have the ability that he has on the ball and the speed that he has, that can create a lot of chaos in the opponent’s half. That’s something we look forward to developing in Marcus.” 

However, while Epps’ numbers at USF aren’t eye-popping, Stewart isn’t worried. The young player spent most of his senior season with an iliotibial band injury but scored eight goals and nine assists in 75 games over four seasons with USF. 

“We bring players in to develop them,” Stewart said. “If they had all the numbers in college or youth teams, they would have gone one or two. He has certain qualities that not every player has. Keegan Rosenberry (current Union right back) didn’t have the numbers other people had at the same time. I think we made a good choice with Keegan.” 

Even with their move up in the second round, the Union still possessed their original second-round pick — the 33rd overall selection. There, they added depth by drafting aggressive 5-foot-9 right back Aaron Jones out of Clemson. 

“I’m delighted to join the Union and excited at the direction that franchise is moving,” Jones said. “I’m extremely proud of what Keegan was able to do last year. It’s [what] I want to emulate in my career. I want to push him and try and play as many games as I can next year. Injuries happen in sports, so if the chance is given to me, I’m going to take it.”

Jones, who hails from Great Yarmouth in the U.K. and claims to be a set-piece specialist, transferred from Georgia State to Clemson for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Like Epps, Curtin, who noted Jones’ soccer IQ and tenacity, sees the right back fitting in nicely with the Union style.

“He really impressed us,” said Curtin, who noted that Jones will compete with Rosenberry and Ray Gaddis for playing time. “He’s a kid who will compete from Day 1. He wins his one-on-one battles defensively, he embraces the defensive part of the game and he’s a guy that wants to get better every day. He has a Union mentality and will be a guy our fans will be high on.

“He has an impressive skillset.”

The Union will take part in the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 draft on Jan. 17, in which the club owns the 55th, 77th and 82nd pick.