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.”

6 years after last appearance, Eric Lichaj's crucial goal lifts U.S. in Gold Cup win

6 years after last appearance, Eric Lichaj's crucial goal lifts U.S. in Gold Cup win

Six years after his last appearance with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Eric Lichaj finally opened up his international scoring account in a 2-0 win over El Salvador in Wednesday night’s Gold Cup quarterfinals match (see story).

Lichaj earned his first international appearance under previous USMNT coach Bob Bradley, only to fall out of favor with Jurgen Klinsmann during his tenure. Now with Bruce Arena at the helm, Lichaj has been given an opportunity to prove himself throughout the Gold Cup.

Despite getting off to a rocky start Wednesday night, the defender found himself streaking up the field into the opposing third, getting his foot on the receiving end of a Clint Dempsey assist.  

“I wasn’t having the best of times in the first half. I think I ended up going forward and having a good run. It was a good play down the left and Clint ended up turning and slotting me in and it was just a good goal, and I needed it because my performance in the first half is something I don’t want to repeat ever again,” Lichaj said. 

A full body slide celebration soon followed, along with congratulations and hugs from teammates.

“I’m delighted for him”, roommate and Union midfielder Chris Pontius said. “I told him he’d get one this tournament, he ventured forward a couple times in the first half. I don’t know how he ended up the left side as a right back, but it was a great finish though.”

A finish his family was able to enjoy with him, as Lichaj had 10 family members in the stands on Wednesday night. His wife and two daughters have traveled across the country over the last couple weeks, attending every game this tournament. 

The Lichaj’s will once again be packing their bags as they follow their favorite defender and the USMNT to Texas this weekend. Up next for the Red, White, and Blue is a semifinal match against Costa Rica on July 22. It’s a showdown that will certainly bring up some past emotions, for players and coaches alike. 

"Certainly they're a good team, we know that," Arena said of Costa Rica. "They beat the U.S. by four goals in November, right? Hopefully, we can remember that."

U.S. men's soccer team blanks El Salvador in Gold Cup at Lincoln Financial Field

U.S. men's soccer team blanks El Salvador in Gold Cup at Lincoln Financial Field

The U.S. men’s national team knows how to protect its Philly turf.

A year after shutting out Paraguay in the Copa America Centenario at Lincoln Financial Field, the American soccer stars returned to the Eagles’ home stadium and shut off El Salvador, 2-0, in the Gold Cup quarterfinals Wednesday night.

Defenders Omar Gonzalez and Eric Lichaj scored for the U.S., who advance to face Costa Rica in the semifinals of the tournament for CONCACAF supremacy.

But despite the shutout — and the fact that they’re moving on — the win didn’t exactly have U.S. head coach Bruce Arena in a jovial mood.

“I thought we had a difficult time tonight,” Arena said. “Our timing wasn’t good. We didn’t deal with the physicality. The game had no rhythm with all of the fouls and players falling on the ground. And we weren’t good on top of it.”

Arena was particularly upset about some of the more physical aspects of the game, saying that he didn’t think “games should look like that” with all the fouls and time wasting.

One particular play stood above the rest — and it took the term “physical” to a whole new level as El Salvador’s Henry Romero literally bit U.S. striker Jozy Altidore in the shoulder while defending him in the box on a corner kick.

It appeared that Altidore also got his nipple grabbed by Romero — something he was furious about at the time but able to laugh about afterwards.

“My girl’s mad at me,” Altidore said. “She’s mad at me, she’s mad at Romero, because she’s like, ‘Only I can bite you, only I can grab your nipples.’” 

Incredibly, U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez was also bitten later in the second half by Darwin Ceren. Neither Romero or Ceren were carded but could possibly draw retroactive punishments from CONCACAF.

“When the guy bit me, I was a bit shocked,” Gonzalez said. “But you have to move on as quick as possible and look forward to the next play.”

“There should have been players sent off in my opinion,” Arena added. “These games aren’t easy. Clearly I would think the referee doesn’t want to send anyone off. But it was a night where on a couple of occasions perhaps it would have gotten the game headed in the right direction.”

Of course, Gonzalez did enjoy the best kind of revenge, getting his head on the end of a 41st-minute free kick from Michael Bradley to put the Americans on the board.

The U.S. then made it 2-0 right before halftime when Lichaj scored his first international goal following a marvelous spin and through ball from Clint Dempsey.

“I don’t know if it was a few years coming,” said Lichaj, who made his first appearance with the U.S. national team in Chester back in 2010. “But I was just excited to score.”

Longtime USMNT stars Bradley, Dempsey, Altidore and goalkeeper Tim Howard were four of the six players called up by Arena for the knockout stage of the tournament after a young, untested roster helped the team win Group B — albeit unconvincingly — with wins over Martinique and Nicaragua and a draw with Panama.

And although they did deliver — on top of the Bradley and Dempsey assists, Howard came through with one big early save en route to the shutout — no one seemed particularly happy about the performance.

“There was not much rhythm in the game today — a lot of stoppages because of all the fouls,” Dempsey said. “You just gotta try to be smart, see your way through the game. It wasn’t pretty but we got the right result.”

The Americans know they’ll need to be better in the next round against Costa Rica, who defeated Panama, 1-0, in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader with fans from all four countries — 31,635 in all — packing the Linc.

The U.S. national team is looking to win its sixth Gold Cup and avenge an uninspired fourth-place finish in the last Gold Cup, two years ago.

“The great thing is we have a really deep roster and we’re able to keep the team somewhat fresh for every single game,” Gonzalez said. “Tonight we got six new guys in and you can tell it was a bit sloppy in the beginning. We missed passes here and there. It could definitely be better but we got a game in together and we’re expecting it to be a lot sharper for the next game.”

Of note to the Union fans in the crowd, Chris Pontius entered the game in the 87th minute, marking the third straight Gold Cup game he’s played in after being called in as a late injury replacement.

In the three minutes that he was on the field, the Union winger did not appear to get bit.