Philly and Chivas USA played one of the top matches of the season at PPL park, with the Union coming out on top in the end.In a match that saw both teams trade possessions, goals, and nearly punches, it was arguably the most exciting game of the year at PPL Park in Chester, PA. The Philadelphia Union fell behind 1-0, but came from behind and defeated visiting Chivas USA 3-2, and extended their home unbeaten streak to ten.
Both teams swapped possession throughout the first half, as the Union and Chivas traded offensive attacks continuously. Whenever one team would be on the charge, it seemed there was always a player in the opposing uniform that was there to intercept a pass. This prevented any formidable attempts at goal for the first fifteen minutes.
The game broke out just over halfway into the first half, as both teams inched closer to notching the first goal. Philadelphia was the first to threaten for that goal, as Jack McInerney charged through the middle of the field, passing it to Sebastian Le Toux near the net. Le Toux stumbled, and had a shot deflected that left the scoring area.
Chivas USA went on to take its turn to threaten as Nick Labrocca hit a shot from just out of the box which Union keeper Faryd Mondragon was just able to jump up and knock away. Minutes later, the tie game was no longer, as Chivas was finally able to break through the Union’s defense. On a corner kick in the 27th minute, Mondragon knocked away the first effort, but Chivas continued to pressure, and defender Michael Umana headed in the first goal of the match.
It did not take long for Philadelphia to respond, as the home side nearly scored on a corner kick of its own. Sebastian Le Toux continued his luck of getting close, but not hitting the back of the net, as he saw yet another shot attempt go just wide of the post.
Confusion arose 35 minutes in, as Paulo Nagamura lay face down in the ground following a tackle. Nagamura waited for a yellow card that was never given out. He waited for minutes on the ground, and instantly rose to his feet after it was obvious no foul was going to be called. Faryd Mondragon then headed to midfield to let the Chivas players know what he thought of their play. Tempers flared, but no cards were given out for this infraction.
Philadelphia knew it could not stand to lose a game at home just three days after a disappointing draw against Sporting Kansas City. That mindset was evident immediately, as the Union tied the game up in the 48th minute. Newcomer Veljko Paunovic scored his first career MLS goal from inside the box, off the assist from Justin Mapp. Mapp saved the ball from going out of bounds and passed it to an open Paunovic, who punched it past Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy to tie the game at 1-1. This was the first goal for Philadelphia in 294 minutes of play.
“My goal was important,"Paunovic said of his strike. "It’s most important we stay in first place, but in second place is my goal. All credit goes to my teammates and coaching staff. You can’t imagine how happy I am.”
Just moments after PPL Park erupted with a “U-S-A” chant (United States took a 1-0 lead against Mexico in the Gold Cup final) the home crowd thought they were set to start another chant, as it looked as if Carlos Ruiz broke up the tie game in the 58th minute. Ruiz was offside, however, and the goal was not allowed.
The referees had the most action for the next ten minutes, with many controversial fouls and offside calls on the Union. This culminated with a yellow card issued to Carlos Valdez on a tackle. On the following free kick, Marcos Mondaini nearly hit past the stretching Faryd Mondragon, but it smashed into the crossbar.
With the action picking up, it was only natural for another goal to take place. Carlos Ruiz channeled his international goal for Guatemala against Mexico, as he took the long pass from Veljko Paunovic, and drilled it past Dan Kennedy to take the 2-1 lead in the 69th minute.
The pace continued for both teams, as Chivas looked to tie the game up just shortly after Ruiz’ goal. On a breakaway though the middle of the field in the 77th minute, Justin Braun took a pass and tapped it past Faryd Mondragon, who was unable to reach the ball. This tied the game yet again, as Braun scored his first goal since his hat trick performance in May.
In the game’s closing minutes, it looked as if Philadelphia would have to settle for the second straight draw at home. Danny Mwanga had other intentions. Sebastian Le Toux broke to the right side of the field, and set Mwanga up for the eventual game winning goal in the 82nd minute. Mwanga scored his fifth goal of the season, and perhaps his most impressive, as he took the volley off his chest, and from just outside of the box drilled a shot past a diving Dan Kennedy. This was the nail in the coffin for the visiting Goats. After the game, Union manager Peter Nowak had this to say about Mwanga’s goal and his play: “Danny deserved that goal. He wants to get to every ball and it takes a toll on him. He needs to be smarter, but he is learning.”
Nowak went on to discuss his team’s improvements saying, “These guys are starting to get it. I am proud to be coach of this team, and I hope the season continues this way.”
This is the third straight loss for Chivas, as it remains at 17 points in the Western Conference. The tema will return home to take on the Chicago Fire next Saturday. Philadelphia again takes possession of first place in the Eastern Conference, with 26 points. It will begin a three-game road trip against D.C. United next Saturday.
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