A season-defining September match, three points towards a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Philadelphia Union, behind a clinical strike from their second round draft pick, stated their intentions for the Eastern Conference, defeating DC United 3-2.
Michael Farfan, a midfielder who coach Peter Nowak has used in multiple roles in the squad, took advantage of space afforded by the DC defense, and broke a 2-2 tie with a blistering shot that beat Bill Hamid high and to his right. Farfan, drafted 23rd in the 2011 Entry Draft out of North Carolina, was a force down the right flank through the middle portions of the match, and stood out in this match of considerable importance to both teams.
It looked early like the Union would have a smooth ride into the weekend. Two goals by Sebastien Le Toux at the 4 and 15 minute marks pushed Philadelphia in front. The first resulted from direct play, a long ball from Carlos Valdes deflected forward off Ethan White into Le Toux’s path. The Union’s leading scorer deposited the shot past Bill Hamid. On his second tally, Le Toux chested forward a cross from Farfan and placed it home. Farfan’s cross was well-placed, just over the shoulder of center back Brandon McDonald.
As the game of soccer often goes, an early lead can lead to complacency, and DC United drew even before the half-hour mark. In the 21st minute, Dwayne DeRosario flicked a near-post corner kick from Austin Da Luz into the net to draw United within one. The ball was nearly cleared off the line, but the deflection from DeRosario was too strong to turn away. A few minutes later, Andy Najar bit back on the counter, driving through the Union defense to beat Zac MacMath near-post for the equalizer. The point of interest in the goal was that Nowak had moved Farfan to left back, swapping with his brother Gabriel. Najar’s move also was aided by De Rosario; DeRo was in an offside position, but simply his presence seemed to distract Farfan and Danny Califf enough to give Najar time to shoot.
After the Farfan goal, the match became much more scrappy. DC pressed to grab another equalizer. Philadelphia tried to strike on the counter. DC’s most dangerous player was Najar, principally because he was matched up against converted midfielder Gabriel Farfan. Najar had three shots on goal, the most by any United player, and nearly equalized with a free header at the far post that he couldn’t quite direct on goal. While DC applied pressure near the end of the match, the defense held strong for the Union, and Nowak’s group earned the victory.
For Farfan, his night could be described as nomadic. He started in the left midfield, working against Perry Kitchen and setting up Le Toux’s second goal. But by the 25th minute Nowak moved him to left back, swapping him with his brother Gabriel. After being beaten for the Najar goal, he was then moved back to midfield. With the substitution of Justin Mapp at halftime, Farfan moved to the right side of a midfield 3. It was from this position he looked his most dangerous, notching the decisive goal and creating several chances. Finally, in the 80th minute after Sheanon Williams was replaced by Kyle Nakazawa, Farfan dropped to right back to close out the match. The one thing that Nowak demands of his team is versatility, something that seems to come naturally for both Farfan brothers.
The match itself was very entertaining. Home matches at PPL Park always showcase the Sons of Ben Supporters Group, but DC fans made the trip to PPL Park and did their best to try to rival the Sons of Ben. It was a great match to showcase nationally on ESPN2, relatively offensive contest between two geographic rivals.
The victory lifted the Union back into 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Kansas City with a match in hand. DC United remains in 6th place, three points behind their next opponent Columbus (who stand in 4th).
4′ – PHI LeToux
15′ – PHI LeToux (M. Farfan)
21′ – DC De Rosario (Da Luz)
30′ – DC Najar
57′ – PHI M. Farfan
39′ – DC Kitchen
70′ – DC McDonald
PHILADELPHIA XI (4-4-1-1) MacMath; Williams (Nakazawa 80′), Valdes, Califf, G. Farfan; Torres (Adu 60′), Okugo (Mapp 45′), Carroll, M. Farfan; Paunovic, LeToux
DC UNITED XI (4-1-3-2) Hamid; Kitchen, White, McDonald, Burch; Simms; Najar, King, Da Luz (Brettschneider 73′); De Rosario (Quaranta 61′), Wolff
SHOTS PHI 14, DC 10
SHOTS ON GOAL PHI 8, DCU 4
FOULS PHI 7, DCU 9