Photo: Paul Rudderow
A dramatic stoppage time winner from Carlos Valdes saw Philadelphia Union grab a last minute 2-1 victory Saturday against the expansion Montreal Impact.
Just when the Impact looked to have stolen a point in their first visit to PPL Park, Valdes saved his side and the Union earned their third consecutive league win for the first time in club history.
After a dour first half, substitutes Lionard Pajoy and Antoine Hoppenot provided the lift the Union needed. Following Hoppenot’s powerful run to the endline, Pajoy caused chaos in the box and when Montreal goalie Donovan Ricketts failed to gather the ball, the striker smashed it into the roof of the net. The Union looked set for victory until a 90th minute mix-up between Keon Daniel and Zac MacMath gifted Montreal an equalizer off a Patrice Bernier corner.
That set up Valdes’ dramatic winner as he pounced on Sheanon Williams’ long throw, slotting underneath Donovan Ricketts to seal the victory in stoppage time.
With Michael Farfan unavailable due to injury, Union manager John Hackworth dropped Freddy Adu into the midfield and deployed Keon Daniel in the right forward channel. On the other wing, Josue Martinez made a rare start in place of Pajoy.
The Union were out quickly with Martinez streaking up the wing to receive a fine flick from Jack McInerney. Finding space to deliver, Martinez picked out Adu at the top of the box, and Adu forced Ricketts to claw away a fine shot at full stretch.
Minutes later, McInerney and Adu found each other to set Martinez free again. The Costa Rican’s pass fell to Daniel, who set the table for the onrushing Michael Lahoud, but Lahoud’s shot flew high and wide of the target.
Despite the strong early pressure, the match fell into sloppy back and forth play as neither side kept possession in midfield, with both sides guilty of passes that failed to find their marks.
Montreal began to make small inroads. Compact and organized at the back, Montreal was content to absorb pressure and seek out counterattacking opportunities. As the half wore on, the Union grew increasingly careless in midfield, gifting the Impact more chances to get forward.
In the 35th minute, a Lahoud giveaway sent Justin Mapp streaking in on the Union net. MacMath was quick off his line and made an excellent save on his former teammate, with Gabriel Farfan sliding in to clear the danger before Marco Di Vaio could pounce on the rebound.
Two minutes later, Felipe had the best chance of the half when he found space in the box and rose to meet Mapp’s cross. Fortunately for the Union, Felipe’s header rattled off the woodwork, and the scoreboard remained blank.
Halftime could not come soon enough for the Union, with Montreal winning the race to the ball and controlling the physical play.
A knock sustained in the final move of the first frame saw Adu take his place on the bench, with Pajoy entering the match and Daniel moving to midfield.
Pajoy was active early and got behind the defense in the 50th minute, only to see his touch let him down.
Montreal fought back. Di Vaio had a chance after Justin Mapp picked him out at the top of the box. Cutting inside Williams, Di Vaio could not get good contact on the ball, sending his shot wide of the far post.
The Union were looking to push the game, and their response was immediate. A switch of fields found Williams in space up the right wing. His bending cross sought out the head of a diving Jack McInerney, who was unlucky to see his powerful header saved by Ricketts following a redirection off the hand of Hassoum Camara which was not spotted by referee Juan Guzman.
Camara again came close to conceding a penalty in the 61st minute when he hacked down McInerney in the box. Caught flat-footed by the streaking Union striker, Camara stuck a leg out and felled McInerney. Guzman got the call wrong however, not only deeming there was no foul, but also incorrectly awarding McInerney a caution for simulation.
Undaunted, the Union pressed forward. When Gabriel Farfan found himself alone near the left corner flag, he picked out Pajoy in the box. Left unmarked, Pajoy failed to find direction with his header, launching it over the bar.
Montreal nearly stole the lead moments later. Mapp again found himself deep in Union territory before squaring a ball for Patrice Bernier. With MacMath scrambling to get across, Bernier ballooned his shot over the bar with the help of a slight deflection.
In the 72nd minute, MacMath was needed to save the day for the Union. When Di Vaio stole in behind Amobi Okugo, MacMath came off his line and was fortunate to get the slightest of touches off of his right arm, sending the ball rolling inches outside of the post.
Both goalkeepers were in sterling form and Ricketts was the next to showcase his shotstopping. Cutting in from the left, Gabriel Farfan spun towards the center of the box and launched a shot to which Ricketts was again equal. The danger was not over for the Montreal keeper as the rebound fell invitingly for Pajoy, but the Colombian’s shot was too close to Ricketts, who smothered it with his legs.
Frantic final ten
Just when the match looked destined for a 0-0 scoreline, substitute Antoine Hoppenot once again provided the spark, setting up Pajoy for the opener in the 82nd minute. Strong on the ball, Hoppenot held off two defenders before connecting on a give-and-go with Gomez, who played Hoppenot toward the endline. Again holding off his defender, Hoppenot powered a low cross toward goal. Ricketts could not corral it among a maze of feet, and Pajoy reacted quickly, smashing the ball into the roof of the net from a yard out.
The Union looked poised to see out the victory, but in the 89th minute, Montreal would find an equalizer. Bernier served a corner to the near post, and a miscommunication between Daniel and MacMath saw Daniel deflect a header into the net.
It was a gut punch to a Union side who thought they had done enough to earn the victory. But rather than hang their heads, they pushed forward. Minutes later, in stoppage time, they were rewarded.
Philadelphia threw bodies forward in anticipation of a long Williams throw. Valdes was first to the ball. After he flicked a header off former Union defender Shavar Thomas, the ball fell back to Valdes. He then slid it beneath the sprawling Ricketts and sent PPL Park into euphoria and the Union into the lead to stay.
Having taken maximum points from their last three matches, the Union are beginning to reel in the rest of the Eastern Conference. The Union will face Aston Villa in a friendly Wednesday night before heading to Harrison, N.J. to renew their rivalry with New York Red Bulls.
Zac MacMath: Sheanon WIlliams, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan; Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud (Gabriel Gomez ’66), Freddy Adu (Lionard Pajoy ’46); Keon Daniel, Jack McInerney, Josue Martinez (Antoine Hoppenot ’60)
Unused substitutes: Chase Harrison, Raymon Gaddis, Roger Torres, Chris Albright
Donovan Ricketts; Zarek Valentin (Dennis Iapichino ’85), Hassoun Camara, Shavar Thomas, Jeb Brovsky; Collen Warner (Sinisa Ubiparipovic ’85), Patrice Bernier, Felipe Martins, Davy Arnaud, Justin Mapp (Lamar Neagle ’69); Marco Di Vaio
Unused substitutes: Evan Bush, Eduardo Sebrango, Josh Gardner, Karl Ouimette
82 – PHI: Pajoy (Hoppenot)
89 – MTL: Own goal
90 – PHI: Valdes (Williams)
60 – PHI: McInerney (caution; simulation)