Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz
Philadelphia Union pulled off the ultimate smash and grab Wednesday night, scoring a goal at the end of each half to shock the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 for the win.
The hosts controlled the match for the duration, but Jack McInerney and Michael Farfan both found the back of the net to earn John Hackworth his first road victory as Union manager.
After frantic work from Zac MacMath and the Union defense kept Robbie Keane and the Galaxy from finishing a handful of gilt-edged chances in the match’s first quarter, Jack McInerney sent the Union to the break up a goal. After beating David Lopes to the endline, Michael Farfan’s low cross found McInerney streaking across the box, and his subtle backheel flick nestled itself inside of Josh Saunders’ far post.
The Galaxy were again the better side in the second half, and substitute Chad Barrett finally found an equalizer in the 73rd minute. But in extra time, it was the Union who had the final say when Lionard Pajoy played the perfect backheel into Farfan’s path, allowing him the time to shape and curl the ball beyond Saunders, firing the Union to an unexpected victory.
Following Saturday’s disappointing loss in Houston, John Hackworth again shuffled his lineup, making three changes to the side that lost 2-1 to the Dynamo. McInerney returned from illness in place of Pajoy, Freddy Adu rejoined the starting XI for Jorge Perlaza, and Michael Lahoud replaced Gabriel Gomez.
While the formation remained a 4-3-3 on paper, it looked as if Hackworth would try to stifle the potent Los Angeles attack by dropping Adu and Keon Daniel into the midfield to create more opportunities for possession, while limiting the space into which the Galaxy could attack.
No matter the Union’s intentions, the Galaxy snatched control of the match early, ripping through the heart of the Union midfield and defense in the opening minutes.
Five minutes from kickoff, Robbie Keane bulldozed his way through the combination of Amobi Okugo and Sheanon Williams. Fortunately for the Union, Zac MacMath pushed Keane wide enough that his finish could be cleared off the line by a recovering Carlos Valdes.
A minute later, Brian Carroll turned the ball over in midfield, allowing Landon Donovan to spring Hector Jimenez, whose fierce blast was parried to safety by a diving MacMath.
With Carroll and Michael Lahoud overrun in the center of midfield, LA was coming at the Union defense in full flight, and Robbie Keane again got in behind on 11 minutes. Now he put power behind his shot, but once again a Union player, this time Gabriel Farfan, was on the line to clear the danger.
It seemed only a matter of time before the dam would break when Carlos Valdes went into the book, having turned the ball over in midfield before hacking down Landon Donovan to stop the resulting break.
Keane then had a third chance alone on MacMath when he slipped behind Valdes, but the Union keeper denied the Irish international from close range, miraculously keeping a clean sheet despite the torrent of Los Angeles pressure.
When the Union did manage to push forward, McInerney was working hardest to make himself available from touchline to touchline. With Adu anonymous and Daniel playing deeper in the midfield, McInerney’s holdup play was the only relief available for the Union as the half neared conclusion.
But the Galaxy were still on the front foot. Timely interventions from Okugo and MacMath were required as LA laid siege to the Union box, both in the air and straight through the midfield.
Just before the half, however, the Union managed to sneak into the lead well against the run of play. Moments after Valdes blazed a free header over Saunders’ bar, the Union found the breakthrough that LA could not.
Having pulled the lumbering David Lopes to the right touchline, Michael Farfan attacked on the dribble, shaking the defender enough to create separation as he darted towards the endline. Spotting the streaking figure of McInerney, Farfan’s low cross found the Union striker whose artistic flick tucked the slow rolling ball beyond the scrambling Saunders.
More confident playing with a lead, the Union began the second half with the ball as they looked to control the game and the clock. But when early possession failed to yield goal-scoring chances, the Galaxy began to build back into the dominant side of the first half.
With the defense scrambling to cover the attacking runs of Hector Jimenez and Landon Donovan, turnovers from Adu and Lahoud added to the task of defending the lead. To increase their offensive pressure, LA brought on Chad Barrett for Jimenez, and the substitution nearly paid off immediately.
In the 60th minute, Barrett flicked on Donovan’s corner kick at the front post. Ghosting in at the back, defender Todd Dunivant teed up Lopes, who smashed his shot off the crossbar from close range.
Gabriel Gomez then entered the match as the Union looked to batten down the hatches. His calming influence allowed the Union a brief respite, with the Panamanian international settling play and spreading the field. Still strong despite beating a lonely path in the first half, McInerney showed up all over the pitch to help the cause, looking to find his teammates with his back to goal.
The Union’s resistance would be only temporary, however, and Landon Donovan continued to drive unchecked at the Union defense. In the 70th minute, after going to ground looking for a call against Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo took out Donovan’s legs to earn a caution, while MacMath again had to be sharp, getting down to his left to smother another shot on goal.
In the 73rd minute, the Galaxy finally found their equalizer. From a corner, Okugo could only head his clearance as far as Donovan outside of the box. Donovan sent Mike Magee up the left flank, and Keane dummied Magee’s low service on, allowing Barrett to slip in and poke home for Los Angeles. It was a goal that had been coming for the Galaxy and set up a tense final quarter of an hour.
With Antoine Hoppenot already on the pitch, Hackworth inserted Pajoy into the lineup as the Union looked to press forward, seeking either a match-winner, or at the very least, a pressure release.
Minutes later, Hoppenot nearly put the Union back in front when he beat DeLaGarza to the ball and raced in on Saunders. With only the keeper to beat, his final touch took him too close, allowing Saunders to cut down the angle and save with his legs.
As the final minutes of regular time wore off the clock, Donovan was again the chief antagonist when he won a dangerous free kick off of Gabriel Farfan, despite elbowing the Union left back squarely in the face. With the Union keeping their numbers behind the ball, however, the Galaxy failed to create any clear scoring chances, and the match looked destined for a draw.
But in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Michael Farfan would provide the heroics for the Union. When Pajoy’s seeing-eye backheel split two defenders, Farfan went one on one with DeLaGarza. Cutting into the field on his right foot, Farfan created space for himself and gently curled his finish past the defender and a diving Saunders to win the match for the Union.
Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan; Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud (Gabriel Gomez ’61), Michael Farfan; Freddy Adu (Antoine Hoppenot ’71), Jack McInerney, Keon Daniel(Lionard Pajoy ’75)
Unused Substitutes: Chris Konopka, Chris Albright, Raymon Gaddis, Roger Torres
Los Angeles Galaxy
Josh Saunders; AJ DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez (Sean Franklin ’46), David Junior Lopes, Todd Dunivant; Hector Jimenez (Chad Barrett ’60), Juninho, Marcelo Sarvas, Mike Magee; Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane
Unused Substitutes: Brian Perk, Bryan Jordan, Michael Stephens, Bryan Gaul, Tommy Meyer
45 – PHI: McInerney (M. Farfan)
73 – LAG: Barrett (Magee)
90 – PHI: M. Farfan (Pajoy)
14 – PHI: Valdes (Caution)
70 – PHI: Okugo (Caution)
78 – PHI: MacMath (Caution)
90 – LAG: DeLaGarza (Caution)