Monday, April 13, 2015

Union finally find win column

Chester, Pa. – John McCarthy may not have Rais Mbolhi's resume but the new Philadelphia goalkeeper now has something the deposed former World Cup netminder doesn't, a 2015 win as the Union's starter.

The Union edged New York City FC 2-1 Saturday when Vincent Nogueira deposited the game-winner during the second minute of stoppage time in front of a capacity crowd of 18,603 at PPL Park.

It was the first win of  the season for the Union as 20-year-old Zach Pfeffe notched his second career goal as a complement to  Nogueira's late-match heroics.

It was also the MLS debut for McCarthy, who took over the club after the organization decided the much-hyped Mbolhi was not a fit. The La Salle product made three saves.

"For the night the city will be his," Union head coach Jim Curtin said of McCarthy. "He’ll have a good time but you’ll have to move on and start to think about Thursday (for the rematch against NYC FC) . It was a solid performance from him. It kicked well into a tough win in the first half. He made the saves when we needed him to."

As for Mbolhi, he's future remains in flux but its unlikely to be in Chester despite a denial from Curtain.

"Rais is still a Philadelphia Union player," Curtain said. "He’s a guy that is taking some time away from the team right now clearing his head and when he comes back we all know what he’s capable of. He’s a goalkeeper who has been noted at the highest level for a long time. Rais and I will have a discussion and when it’s time for him to come back he will come back."

The Union first broke through in the 27th minute when a long run from Andrew Wenger set up Sebastien Le Toux on the left flank. The Frenchman beat a defender near the end line and centered a ball that appeared to go in off Eric Ayuk Mbu, who was originally credited with the marker. It was later changed to Pfeffer who touched it last.

“If Ayuk scored it, it doesn’t matter because the team scored a goal,” Pfeffer said. “That’s what most important, the team scoring that goal and getting those three points.”

The 1-0 Union advantage was a precarious one which was erased when David Villa equalized things in the 55th minute after a scramble inside the Union box. Wenger, McCarthy and Josh Williams all converged on a ball that got loose for Villa.

Nogueira won it on stoppage time, pouncing on the ball from about 12 yards out and slicing it past NYC FC GK  Josh Saunders.

“He’s coming off the ankle injury so the fitness isn’t fully there but for him to make the commitment to get in the box that late in the game; it’s a play where he could have easily not have fun the extra 50 or 60 yards but he took that initiative and he got in,” Curtin said about Nogueira. “The ball bounced to him and it’s a good goal for us in so many ways.”

With the win, the Union moved to 1-3-2 (5 points) on the season while the setback drops NYC FC to 1-2-2 (5 points). The two teams will finish off the home-and-home set on Thursday at Yankee Stadium. 
 
“I’ll probably sleep better tonight,” Curtin said. “I didn’t sleep against Kansas City at all so this feels good. They guys will celebrate it. Some of the heartbreak and tough games we’ve had, whether it be Salt Lake or the crazy red card game, it feels good.”
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