It’s hard to imagine the assist being nicer than a backheeled goal. But Michael Farfan set up Freddy Adu’s winner with a hypnotizing run, and the Union held on to earn their first road win of the season over Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Philadelphia is now unbeaten in their last three, and Chivas USA remains winless at home.
The Union lost Keon Daniel and Gabriel Farfan to second-half red cards, both for dangerous tackles.
Chivas control possession early
Adu’s goal came against the run of play, with Chivas on the front foot for much of the first half. In fact, the Union barely touched the ball in the first five minutes. In the 7th, Philly mounted their first semblance of an attack through Daniel and Michael Farfan. After forming an outlet pattern through the center, the two midfielders began to create pushback against the relentless Chivas attack.
In the 12th minute, the Union almost took advantage of an Adu corner kick. Brian Carroll stepped into a rebound but blazed well over the bar.
Chivas regained control in the 16th minute as Alejandro Moreno’s quick turn and shoot worried the Union lines. Sitting deeper, they allowed Chivas to build attacks with short passes around the box. Only great teamwork and coordination held together the Philadelphia defenses as the goats probed down both wings.
In the 33rd, the service began to improve, and the situation looked dire. First Ante Jazic sent a hard curler in from the left that was barely cleared. Then, after a mazy Marfan run led to a free kick that Adu drove into the wall, James Riley sent a gorgeous ball into the Union box that Brian Carroll barely cleared from danger.
Magic Marfan and fancy Freddy
If the tie was to be broken, it seemed certain that Chivas would be swinging the wrecking ball. Michael Farfan felt differently, however, and continued his growth with a dynamic, weaving run down the right to set up Freddy Adu’s 40th minute strike. Farfan collected the ball and drove at Heath Pearce, juked to the left to confuse the help defender, and an isolated Pearce soon found himself signed up for an impromptu spin class. Alone near the endline, Marfan drove in a low cross that Riley misplayed on the slide. Adu instinctively put a backheel to the loose ball, and the woodwork eased the ball into the netting.
If they were put off by the goal, Chivas hardly showed it. A trio of corners were poorly cleared by the Union and a tying strike seemed likely. In first half extra time, a frustrated Moreno came in late on Gabriel Farfan and earned a caution. That brought the first 45 to an unsatisfying end for the home side.
Union stronger to start the second half
Though they had been thoroughly pinned in, the Union took heart from their first half lead. Early in the second frame, Lionard Pajoy’s consistent defensive pressure resulted in a misplaced pass onto his feet. The striker’s touch let him down as he drove to goal, however, and Chivas easily cleared.
In the 56th, Moreno rose dangerously in the box to head a free kick wide. The Union raced down the field, and Sheanon Williams appeared to double their lead, but his fine tap home was called back for offsides. Now Chivas was on the quick restart, and Nick LaBrocca drove in alone on Raymon Gaddis. As he has done since joining the first eleven, Gaddis calmly manhandled his opponent. LaBrocca used a speed move, and Gaddis put his body between the attacker and the ball. After 180 minutes, the young right back has hardly put a foot wrong, and his offensive confidence was almost visibly growing.
Through all of Chivas’ pressure, few shots had made it to Zac MacMath. In the 59th, Blair Gavin made sure the young goalie was ready to contribute. MacMath palmed away Gavin’s free kick blast.
Final third gets rough
The rough third of the match began in the 60th. Carlos Valdes earned a yellow for clattering in with his elbow on a header. Then, after Kennedy claimed Michael Farfan’s low drive, Juan Pablo Angel made his return to the home lineup. Moments later he blew a gilt-edged chance to even the score.
Miller Bolanos was proving a handful on the right, and when he found space he curled the ball onto Angel’s head. The striker had space between defenders but nodded the ball wide of net.
Amobi Okugo came on for Gabriel Gomez, who put in a hardworking shift despite a slight calf strain. Okugo and Carroll held a deep line, and Chivas began looking to run off Moreno posting up defenders. The big striker attempted to turn Sheanon Williams in the 74th, and the Union defender earned a caution for playing fine defense.
Keon Daniel ejected
In the 75th, Keon Daniel was sent off with a straight red card for a high challenge. Chasing a loose ball, Keon turned and swung a loose leg at high shin level. The card was immediate and hard to dispute. It was a rare moment of madness from the best midfielder on the team this season.
Bolanos’ growth led Peter Nowak to withdraw Adu and put Chris Albright in at left midfield. It proved a fortuitous substitution five minutes later when Albright was forced into the back four.
Garfan and Nowak join Daniel
Gabriel Farfan and James Riley were both lunging in after the same loose ball in the 85th minute when Garfan caught Riley and was ejected. Riley stayed down, motionless, for a number of minutes while Nick LaBrocca and Dan Kennedy sprinted over to confront Garfan. Michael Farfan quickly joined the fray and then the Union bench, in front of which the incident occurred, got involved.
Peter Nowak was at the center of it all, arguing and shoving all comers. Gabriel Gomez, now wearing his sweats, calmed Kennedy as more players arrived on the scene. Nowak was told to join Daniel and Garfan in the locker room before play resumed.
Wolverine James Riley suddenly fine
Oddly enough, James Riley was fine. He walked off the field under his own power and moments later returned with nary a tender step. In fact, he drove a shot over the bar soon after rejoining play. Both players went in to a poor tackle; Riley just turned out to be the better salesman.
Chivas was running out of ideas, and after MacMath did well to hold Gavin’s powerful drive from the middle, the three points were in sight. In the 91st, Ryan Smith blazed high off a poor Marfan clearance. Then Jack McInerney, on for Marfan, powered a headed clearance from danger. Bolanos wasn’t quite done, though, and he isolated McInerney in he 93rd before floating a tempting cross over MacMath. The Union defense scrambled the ball into their keeper’s hands.
Ryan Smith had one more delicious cross in his quiver, and Juan Pablo Angel showed his rust in heading the ball wide. An inexplicable corner was given, from which Okugo broke out and released McInerney up the middle. The young striker curled to the left corner, and the Union ran out the win with nine men.
It was a costly win but three points that Philadelphia desperately needed. The offense continued to show a disturbing lack of consistency, but the skill and guile of the young midfield shone through with more regularity than past affairs. Losing Gabriel Farfan is a terrible blow with a dangerous San Jose team next on the docket, but losing Keon Daniel is just as tough to take. Daniel has been in brilliant form throughout the 2012 season, and his composure in the midfield will be hard to replace. While it’s likely that Porfirio Lopez will step in t0 Garfan’s shoes (unless Califf returns and Gaddis slides over), Peter Nowak has no ready-made replacement for what Daniel brings to the table. Josue Martinez, Jack McInerney and Chandler Hoffman are all options, while going to a 4-4-2 and pushing Michael Farfan to the wing is a realistic maneuver as well.
The Philadelphia Union are forging an identity as the first full month of the season winds to an end, but with two key contributors out against the Earthquakes, that identity will be sorely tested next weekend.
DEF: Jazek, McKenzie (89′ Townsend), Pearce, Riley
MID: Minda (55′ Gavin), Smith, Cardozo (63′ Angel), LaBrocca, Bolanos
DEF: Garfan, Valdes, Williams, Gaddis
MID: Adu (81′ Albright), Carroll, Gomez (71′ Okugo), Marfan (’89 McInerney), Daniel
40 – Adu (Marfan)
46 – Moreno
60 – Valdes
70 – Pajoy
73 – Williams
87 – Kennedy
75 – Daniel
85 – Garfan