A match that appeared to be headed to a scoreless draw came alive in the final 10 minutes, as the Philadelphia Union prevailed 2-1, beating back the Montreal Impact with a stoppage time goal by Carlos Valdes.
The tactical match was one of unproductive possession and razor-sharp counterattacking for much of the match. The Union took on the former role, holding the ball in the back 7 nearly uncontested. The trouble came in the final third, where few quality passing lanes were picked out by the likes of Freddy Adu and Keon Daniel.
When the Union lost possession, Montreal was often quick to counter, and because players like Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud, and Sheanon Williams had vacated their positions to press. This led to a number of chances created for new DP signing Marco Di Vaio. His most promising chance came in the 72nd minute, as he was played behind the defense with a wonderful through ball by Felipe. Zac MacMath cut down on the angle, and Di Vaio’s shot from 10 yards was deflected by the keeper, and the ball just barely bounded wide.
The first half was not a good one for the Union, but they came out in the second half energized. In the 55th minute, a cross by Sheanon Williams was low, but Jack McInerney found a way to head it into the turf. The ball was destined for the goal, but Donovan Ricketts poked it away to keep the match scoreless.
After the 75th minute, the Impact were ready to see the match out for a draw, but Philadelphia had other plans. After two wonderful saves by Ricketts in the 79th minute on shots by Gabriel Farfan and Pajoy, the big Colombian forward was rewarded for another strong showing playing wide. 60th minute sub Antoine Hoppenot played a give-and-go pass with Gomez on the left side. He came free towards the byline, and crossed the ball towards Pajoy. The pass glanced off Patrice Bernier, and the pinball sequence in front allowed Pajoy the opportunity to poke the ball home.
At 1-0, Montreal brought in offensive substitutions in Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Dennis Iapichino, but it was a defensive blunder by the Union that leveled the score with one minute left in regulation. A corner by Bernier came at MacMath’s near post. Before he could secure the ball, his teammate Keon Daniel got his head to the ball, but it ricocheted into the net to square the match for the Impact.
The final score wouldn’t be obtained until after one more bit of drama. A long throw-in by Williams came at Valdes, but he didn’t get his head on it. Instead, the ball glanced off Felipe into a position where Valdes could put his right foot through it. He did, and Ricketts was not in position to prevent the go-ahead goal.
It was another heartwrenching loss for the Impact. Coach Jesse Marsch spoke of the exasperation: “It’s exactly the same. In my mind that’s a game we should win. We fight back, and actually now it’s a draw.” He said further, “There’s no words to describe how we give that game away, and it’s familiar to other games that we’ve played this year.” The Impact will need to put the loss behind them quickly, as they welcome New England to Stade Saputo on Wednesday evening.
The win pulls Philadelphia to within a point of the Impact for 8th place, but Montreal has also played four more matches than the Union. Coach John Hackworth commented, “We’re just taking it one game at a time right now. When you can put together the results that we have recently, that’s what we have to do in this league.” After a winless stretch of 6 matches through mid-June, the Union has won four of five league matches and inch closer to a position where they can consider the postseason. After a quick Wednesday friendly with Aston Villa of the English Premier League, Philadelphia will travel up I-95 to Red Bull Arena to take on New York. The East Coast rivalry got even more interesting Friday, as the Red Bulls acquired former Union star Sebastien Le Toux.
PHI Pajoy 82′
MON Daniel (og) 89′
PHI Valdes 90+1′
McInerney – Caution – (Simulation)
PHI (4-2-3-1) MacMath; Williams, Okugo, Valdes, G. Farfan; Lahoud (Gomez 66′), Carroll; Daniel, Adu (Pajoy 46′), Martinez (Hoppenot 60′); McInerney
MON (4-4-1-1) Ricketts; Valentin (Iapichino 85′), Camara, Thomas, Brovsky; Arnaud, Warner (Ubiparipovic), Bernier, Mapp (Neagle 69′); Felipe; Di Vaio