It wasn’t pretty, but it counts.
In the 56th minute, Gabriel Gomez lowered his head and, with Philadelphia’s first shot of the match, tied the score at one. As he scored, Gomez collided with Dallas goalie Kevin Hartman and had to leave the match, but the Union held on for the point in front of 13,272 at FC Dallas Park in Frisco, Texas.
The Union started in a 4-3-3 with Keon Daniel pressed high on the right. Behind him was surprise inclusion Michael Lahoud, who has already played as many minutes for Philly as he did for Chivas this year. Danny Mwanga and Lio Pajoy were up top with Gabriel Gomez and Brian Carroll rounding out the midfield. The back line of Michael Farfan, Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes and Ray Gaddis held the line in front of MLS debutant Chase Harrison.
Filing a report solely based on the first half of the Union’s tenth game of the season would have been equivalent to soccer writer torture. Thank goodness they play two.
Former Philly midfielder Andrew Jacobson announced himself in the 4th minute with a deft flick of the head that sent Bryan Leyva’s corner kick skidding around the back post. It would be Jacobson’s game in the first half, as the midfielder found space behind Brian Carroll and played the Union like a fiddle until the halftime whistle sounded.
In the 6th minute, Hernan Pertuz dropped a long ball over the Union back line that Jacobson ran onto alone. Chase Harrison flew out to deflect Jacobson’s lob out for a corner kick.
Where Jacobson threatened, Blas Perez struck. Leyva’s second corner deflected off George John and fell to Perez at the back post who went to his knees to power a header past Harrison.
The Union as a team did not respond. But Ray Gaddis did. For a player so reluctant to use his left boot, Gaddis was unafraid to run the line and take on defenders. Slipping past Pertuz, Gaddis crossed from the endline towards Gomez’s feet, only to see George John intercept as the Panamanian midfielder wound up to fire.
Moments later, the Union were again in trouble as Sheanon Williams and Chase Harrison miscommunicated and Harrison had to slide out of his box to dispossess Perez.
In the fifteenth minute, Peter Nowak had seen enough of the 4-3-3 and pulled Daniel back to left mid, moving Lahoud to the right.
The Union were mentally lost, and even Brian Carroll was caught in possession deep in his half.
When Philadelphia did earn a corner kick, but one run was made. Three players stood stock still at the back post admiring something only they could see.
The first half was exemplified by a strange exchange of passes that saw Gomez loft a lazy ball to Pajoy who did well to win it and turn, only to play an even lazier long ball to Farfan. Almost needless to say, it was easily cut out. The Union were out of sorts, and they needed someone to point them in the right direction.
In the 37th minute, Lahoud, already carrying a caution, tried to make a play to turn the tide. Lahoud slid in as Pertuz attempted to turn the ball upfield. Studs connected with ankle and Pertuz left on a stretcher. No foul was called. Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman had one or seven things to say to the fourth official; Lahoud stayed on the pitch.
When the half ended, Williams ushered the team off the pitch. After the game he would say he just didn’t want to walk down the tunnel at the same time as the other team. But after such a horrendous first half, it looked like The Sheanomenon was taking up the leadership reins.
The second half was a completely different story, with the Union coming out firing. Well, not the entire second half. Until Gavilan tied the score, it was more of the same.
But when a loose ball falls to Gomez, he finds a way to finish.
Gomez was hurt on the play, and Okugo came on to shape up the midfield. Josue Martinez also came on and made an immediate impact, driving up the right side and opening space for Michael Farfan to get forward. The striker playing midfield and the midfielder playing fullback showed good chemistry, and it forced Dallas to switch their attacks to Gaddis’ side, which of course was a black hole where offense is turned into energy for Gaddis’ endlessly moving legs.
The match was degenerating into a wrestling match as both teams played for a tie.
Five was a fair number of yellow cards, as Michael Farfan and Jacobson earned them for rough play while Blas Perez picked his up for dissent and Harrison for time-wasting.
Carlos Valdes was shown a caution for being in front of Jackson after Gaddis clipped the Dallas middie from behind. Valdes stood his ground as Jackson slammed into him. Somehow, the yellow came to the Union captain.
It would be one of Valdes’ final contributions. A collision on a corner kick opened a head wound that brought Porfirio Lopez into the fray. Playing in the middle, Lopez was solid if unspectacular. He read the game well and slid over to help when needed.
On the other side of the pitch, the Union were pressing Dallas back. Michael Farfan had his second wind and drove at the defense in the 71st. Finding his options, frankly, boring and uncreative, the right back floated a chip over Hartman that dropped beyond the crossbar.
Three minutes later, Okugo found Farfan with a crossfield ball to deserving of the “oohs” that rang from the stands.
After bringing the ball down, Farfan broke to his left, skittered away from a pair of defenders and unleashed a left-footed rocket that Hartman beat away.
Dallas brought on reserve league phenom Ruben Luna to go for the win. It wouldn’t help.
The next big moment came from Pajoy working on the left. A few fine spins gave the striker space, and he zipped a low cross onto Okugo’s left foot. The midfielder screwed his shot, and Martinez couldn’t redirect the bouncer as it dropped wide of the goal line.
Danny Mwanga had a quiet but effective match, occupying the two big center halves for ninety minutes. Finally getting a chance to shoot in the 90th minute, Mwanga elected to lay it wide for Martinez. It was a play indicative of Mwanga’s confidence level, even if his work rate indicated the player deserves to remain on the pitch until he regains his mojo.
The Union picked up a much-needed point, and Chase Harrison showed he is a very capable backup goalie. Playing a rough and tumble game, Harrison earned the respect of his teammates, though Dallas fans were less enamored.
Next up for Philadelphia is lowly Toronto. It is a must-win game, if only because everyone will make fun of them if they don’t.