Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Williams stars as Union edge Seattle

Union and Sounders battle at PPL Park
By John McMullen

Chester, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - A night's worth of frustration evaporated in one brilliant sequence Wednesday as Sheanon Williams lofted a beautiful entry pass which found the head of C.J. Sapong in the 70th minute to lift the Philadelphia Union to a 1-0 win over Seattle at PPL Park.

"The amount of headballs that C.J. wins is somewhat incredible. He’s a monster so you just loft it up and let him go get it," Williams said.

It was the team-leading sixth goal of the season for Sapong as the Union avoided what has become a rather tired cliche for Philadelphia's MLS side, the squandering of multiple opportunities en route to losing matches they've dominated.

The triumph was also a bit of revenge for Philly, which suffered a heartbreaking loss in the 2014 US Open Cup title game the last time the Sounders visited PPL Park, a setback many believe sent the Union into their current spiral which has resulted in their dismal 5-10-3 record (18 points).

Philadelphia goalkeeper Bryan Sylvestre did not see a shot on goal until the 83rd minute as he recorded his fourth clean sheet of the season as the Union bounced back from one of their most lopsided losses in the club's history, a 5-1 road setback to the Los Angeles Galaxy. His counterpart, Sounders netminder Stefan Frei was spectacular in a losing cause for Seattle (9-6-2).

" Important bounce back from what was an awful performance in LA," Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin said. "I think the guys put a lot into the game, were we perfect on the night, absolutely not, but the guys stuck with it you know, Sheanon puts a good ball in and C J makes a big plan at a time where we needed one."

The Union dominated the first half with three legitimate scoring opportunities.

Things started to heat up in the 18th minute when Sapong, Philly's top sniper, found himself in space at the top of the box but fired a shot just wide of the near post.

The Sounders, who were playing a very young lineup, really felt the pressure moments later when three consecutive corner kicks and a great throw-in by Williams had Seattle wilting. Williams' toss in the 28th minute found Maurice Edu, who put it home but the goal was waived off due to a foul on Andrew Wenger.

In the 32nd minute Edu had an even better chance on the Union's first penalty kick of the season garnered when Seattle's Dylan Remick caught Wenger in the face with a high kick in a scrum caused by yet another terrific Williams throw-in. Edu, a defender, telegraphed his attempt, however, and Frei made the diving save before popping up and snaring the rebound.

Overall the Union had a 53 to 47 percent possession advantage in the first 45-plus minutes, a 5-0 edge in corner kicks and the only two shots on net.

The near misses continued in the final frame when Cristian Mariana's blast from distance in the 56th minute just missed the top left corner. Moments later a Wenger cross in the 59th found the net and Frei steered it away.

In the 62nd a streaking Sapong played a great ball to sub Eric Ayuk, who slid for it and nearly put it home.

The barrage finally got to Frei in the 70th and this Union were able to hold a more aggressive Seattle team off in the waning moments.

"That’s playing together enough and finally getting the timing right," Sapong said of his game-winner. "I think we’ve been looking for it all season and it finally clicked."

"I thought we did alright," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "I thought we played a lot of young players, in essence. A lot of youth out there so we wanted to play well defensively. Stefan Frei kept us in the game with the penalty kick save. I thought we did alright defensively. We were too loose on the goal, obviously, and then we had some chances at the other end but the final passes, the final play, makes it difficult so with all the players that were missing."

Union Dues:

-Williams throw-ins continue to be one of the Union's best offensive weapon. The defender is the Brett Favre of MLS, capable of distance and accuracy no other player in the league can match.

-Veteran goal scorer Sebastien Le Toux never misses on penalty kicks but wasn't even dressed for the second consecutive match due to injury. Edu is regarded as the Union's best overall player but choosing him to take the PK over a proven finisher like Sapong was a big mistake by Jim Curtin.

-Seattle has never won at PPL Park in MLS play, falling to 0-2-2 in Chester.

-This was the only league meeting scheduled for the two distant foes this season.

-Attendance was 18,072, just shy of a sellout.

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