Saturday, April 14, 2012

Union get first win, blank Columbus


By John McMullen
jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com

CHESTER, Pa (The Phanatic Magazine) - Gabriel Gomez's marker off a penalty kick in the 38th minute held up as Zac MacMath recorded his second straight clean sheet in the Union's 1-0 win over Columbus in front of 18,526 at PPL Park.

"Extremely important for these guys in the locker room to have this feeling," Union team manager Peter Nowak said when talking about his club's first win in 2012.

Neither side had a ton of scoring opportunities in the fist half but the Union (1-3-1, 4 points) finally broke though late thanks to Freddy Adu, who was playing on the frontline today.

Adu pressed the action with some nice footwork from left of the area before finally firing on goal from an angle and drawing a handball from Crew (2-3-0, 6 pts) defender Eric Gehrig.

For two years the penalty kick in Chester was the domain of Sebastien Le Toux but with the popular Frenchman now in Vancouver, Nowak went with midfielder Gabriel Gomez. The decision was a prudent one as the Panamanian let Andy Gruenebaum commit to his right before chipping it down the middle to give the Union a 1-0 lead in the 38th minute.

"What can you say. Before the game the last thing you wanted to see was a chip [on a penalty kick]," Nowak said. "But he [Gomez] has confidence in himself."

Philadelphia pressed for some breathing room early in the second half when Michael Farfan ignited the River End faithful in the 49th minute by winning the ball and drawing a corner with some fancy footwork just outside the area.

In the 52nd minute Keon Daniel was able to get loose and fire on goal from 20 yards after a lay off from Lionard Pajoy, but Gruenebaum gobbled it up.

Columbus finally countered in the 54th but MacMath showed some great instincts by coming off the line and knocking away a point blank shot from Olman Vargas.

Adu almost created some magic again by the 57th minute when his long cross from the left found Daniel, who headed it just over the crossbar.

MacMath stopped another dangerous try in the 75th minute when Kirk Urso lofted a promising cross into the area. The Maryland product rose above traffic to snare it and clear. If MacMath had missed it would have been an easy header for Columbus.

Bernardo Anor had the Crew's last chance after a deflection in the area found his head in stoppage time but the headed went harmlessly wide as the Union earned their first win on the young season.

"Across the board we had 14 guys that played pretty well today," Nowak said.

UNION Dues:

*The Union's substitutions were Josue Martinez for Adu in the 61st minute, Amobi Okugo for Gomez in the 71st and Antonie Hoppenot for Pajoy in stoppage time. Okugo and Hoppenot both made their 2012 debuts.

*Union defender and captain Danny Califf was scheduled to start but tweaked his hamstring in pre-game warmups and was replaced by rookie Raymond Gaddis in the starting lineup. Sheanon Williams moved from to center back in place of Califf while Gaddis was inserted at right back.

The Union was already down one starter on the backline. Porfirio Lopez originally wasn't going to be available after being called up to the Costa Rican National Team for a Wednesday night friendly against Honduras. Lopez has started every match this season and was replaced on the backline by second-
year swingman Gabriel Farfan. When Califf went down, however, Lopez was added to the bench but did not play.

Defender Carlos Valdes wore the captain's armband in Califf's place. Farfan, meanwhile, went down in the first minute after taking an elbow to the face from Finlay but was able to continue.

Gaddis, who was masking his MLS debut, acquitted himself well.

"Because of the speed he's got, He's in a good position to recover," Nowak said when talking about Gaddis' style.

*Popular Union midfielder Roger Torres underwent successful surgery on Friday morning after sustaining an MCL sprain and minor meniscus damage in a 4-2 reserve league win against the New England Revolution on Monday. The 20-yearold is expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks of action.

*Earlier this week MLS announced that Chelsea FC would play the MLS All-Stars at PPL Park July 25. Union team manager Peter Nowak will pilot the All-Stars.

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