By John McMullen
Chester, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - The schedule looked favorable on paper for the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night but New York City FC stunned the local MLS side by rallying for a 2-1 win.
It was the just the second victory of the season for NYCFC (2-7-5, 11 points, which halted an 11-match winless streak.
"Obviously I’m really pleased with the guys efforts and the result. It’s like a breath of fresh air around here and I hope that these points will mean something to our confidence level because I feel like we’ve really had some guys that have struggled with confidence for a few weeks now." NY head coach Jason Kreis said. "Those are the positives but we still have a long way to improve and I think that everyone on the locker room here knows it."
The Union (4-9-3, 15 pts) started the scoring in the 46th minute when Sebastien Le Toux's corner kick found the feet of C.J. Sapong, who beat New York goalkeeper Josh Saunders on the far side for his team-leading fourth marker of the season.
"It kind of just dropped at my feet in the right spot and left me with not too much to do really," Sapong said. "Just put it in the net and I was fortunate enough to get it on goal and it went in."
The Union's advantage didn't last long, though, as NY's Thomas McNamara unleashed a brilliant, bending strike from distance that found the top right corner behind Union netminder Brian Sylvestre in the 53rd minute.
"It was a turnover at midfield where he picked it up 45-50 yards from goal, started to run with it and at a certain point you need to step up," Union coach Jim Curtin said. "McNamara hits a great shot in the end but at the same time we talked about playing a team whose backs where against the wall."
Saunders was the story from there, keeping the Bronx expansion team in things with two nice saves, in the 78th minute on a Le Toux try that looked like it was all but behind him and again a minute later when substitution Zach Pfeffer put another shot on target.
Despite dominating play for the majority of the second half, the Union saw any chance of points slip away in the 87th minute after New York's Patrick Mullins took a simple throw-in, wheeled around and put a shot on goal that was deflected and got by Sylvestre.
In five minutes of stoppage time Philadelphia was unable to get the equalizer and any momentum after winning three of its previous four was lost as Curtin's club suffered a home setback to perhaps the worst team in MLS.
The Union had many more opportunities throughout as evidenced by their 31 open-play crosses, including 17 in the second half, to just seven for NYCFC. Overall, Philadelphia put seven shots on target against Saunders and New York had five shots on goal.
NYCFC did have a slight edge in possession with a 52 to 48 percent margin.
"After a run of good performances, this was a good game but one where we’re disappointed to leave with no points," Curtin said. "It’s an empty feeling right for the guys but I think we pushed the game well and had good moments ... I just looked at the stats and I think we had 31 crosses which shows the quality of the final ball was lacking a bit. Whether the timing of our runs was a little off or our service let us down. We were never able to take a real stranglehold of the game."
-The Union finished the 2015 season 1-1-1 against their newly-minted rival. The prior meetings between the two sides came over a five-day span in April. Vincent Nogueira scored well into the second-half stoppage time on April 11 at PPL Park to lift the Union to a dramatic 2-1 win. Five days later in Yankee Stadium, Sapong netted a late equalizer to secure a 1-1 draw and salvage a point for Philadelphia.
-Sapong was back in the starting lineup in place of Fernando Aristeguieta, who was forced to leave Wednesday's win over Columbus late in the first half with a left shin contusion.
-Sylvestre, who is on loan from the Carolina RailHawks of the North American Soccer League, is now 3-3 as the Union's goalkeeper. Philadelphia's other netminders -- Rais Mbolhi and John McCarthy -- are a combined 1-6-3.
-Ex-Union MF Andrew Jacobson, who played for the club in 2010, started for NYCFC
-Attendance was 18,517, a sellout.