Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pajoy returns to bite struggling Union

By Dave Zeitlin, MLSsoccer.com

Chester, Pa. (September 20, 2012) – Former Philadelphia Union striker Lionard Pajoy compounded a disappointing night for his old club on Thursday, scoring the only goal as D.C. United earned a crucial 1-0 win at PPL Park in a nationally-televised Eastern Conference showdown.

With the win, D.C. United (14-10-5, 47 points) leapfrogged the Houston Dynamo and Columbus Crew into fourth place as they battle for one of the final Eastern Conference playoff spots.

Meanwhile, the ninth-place Union’s winless streak was extended to eight games.

D.C.’s goal came after smart work by Chris Pontius, who drew Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath from his line before cutting back to Pajoy. The striker took the time to settle the ball before dispatching a crisp half-volley high into an empty net.

It was the seventh goal of the season for Pajoy, who scored five for the Union before being traded to D.C. for Danny Cruz on Aug. 16.

Before that, both teams struggled to generate much offense, in part because the Union were without suspended playmaker Michael Farfan (yellow card accumulation) and D.C. were missing the influential Dwayne De Rosario through injury.

The Union’s best chance in the first half looked to have arrived in the 15th minute when Antoine Hoppenot fed Jack McInerney, who pushed a close-range shot wide – only for the flag to raise. The Union didn’t get off any shots on target on the first half, while D.C. United had only one – a speculative effort from Pontius from distance.

The action picked up early in the second half, when a rebound from a McInerney long-range shot landed right at the feet of Hoppenot in front of net in the 52nd minute. But D.C. keeper Bill Hamid was able to make the save to preserve the scoreless tie – the flag again raising to spare the striker’s blushes.

Three minutes later, D.C. United responded with their best chance to break the deadlock; Pajoy hitting a cross from Branko Boskovic over the bar.

In the 62nd minute, McInerney got his head on a long ball from midfielder Gabriel Gomez but Hamid came up with another good save.

Later, the Union brought in a trio of offensive-minded players in Josue Martinez, Chandler Hoffman and Freddy Adu but could not find the equalizer, despite pushing numbers forward. In the 89th minute, Hoffman’s spinning touch on the ball skirted just wide as the Union fell to 7-14-6 on the season.

D.C. United have now beaten the Union twice at PPL Park this year, while losing to their I-95 rival in the U.S. Open Cup and tying them in league play at RFK Stadium. D.C. also ended a six-game road losing streak with Thursday’s result.

Both the Union and United have quick turnarounds, with Philly hosting Houston and D.C. hosting Chivas USA on Sunday.

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.

FULL TIME: Philadelphia Union 0-1 D.C. United

ATTENDANCE: 16,024

GOALS:

D.C. United:                     

Lionard Pajoy (67).

LINEUPS:

Philadelphia Union starting XI: Zac MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Gabriel Farfan (Chandler Hoffman, 70), Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdés (c), Brian Carroll, Gabriel Gómez (Freddy Adu, 77), Keon Daniel, Danny Cruz, Antoine Hoppenot (Josue Martinez, 57), Jack McInerney.

Subs not used: Chase Harrison, Raymon Gaddis, Michael Lahoud, Roger Torres.

D.C. United starting XI: Bill Hamid, Chris Korb, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Branko Boskovic (Maicon Santos, 57), Nick DeLeon, Andy Najar, Perry Kitchen, Lewis Neal, Chris Pontius (c), Lionard Pajoy.

Subs not used: Emiliano Dudar, Joe Willis, Hamdi Salihi, Robbie Russell, Ethan White, Raphael Augusto.
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