BY JONATHAN VERA
CARSON, Calif. – The Philadelphia Union were just a few seconds of regulation and a few minutes of overtime from regaining the hold on first place they lost during the summer, but before they could even celebrate it, Juan Pablo Angel stepped in to spoil the party.
The Chivas USA striker scored his seventh goal in seven games, burying a 90th minute header to help the Rojiblancos post a 1-1 draw at Home Depot Center on Sunday.
Despite the dramatic equalizer, the result was a blow to Chivas USA's playoff hopes as the club still sits four points out of the playoffs with only two games left to play.
Surrendering the late lead was tough for the Union, but their playoff hopes remain solid, as they now sit tied for second place in the East, with a game in hand.
The Union took control of a match that saw an uneventful first half when Justin Mapp scored the opening goal in the 60th minute on a long-range left-footed shot.
“The ball turned over on their half of the field and there was a lot of space and options but no one stepped up,” explained Mapp. ”I was on the top of the 18 and just hit a low shot and it went in.”
Freddy Adu came in as a substitution and made an immediate impact assisting on the goal.
“It was a tough game to come into,” Adu confessed. “When you come in at half time and the score is 0-0 and battling for points, it’s a tough game. You got work both ways, you got to try your best to help the team going forward and defending. You always have to be tuned in.”
“One of the things the coaches have been talking about is putting pressure on the ball and I was able to step in and do that,” said Adu.
It all seemed to be over for Chivas USA. They sporadically executed decent passing and possession, but the final touch was lacking. The playoff picture was a good as dead.
“With a game of that kind of importance, we didn’t start with the right amount of urgency,” admitted Head Coach Robin Fraser. “It wasn’t until we gave up the goal that we saw the right kind of urgency.”
Going down lit a fire under Chivas USA, and Angel stepped up his play and scored the game tying goal in the 90th minute of play. The Colombian now has seven goals in seven games for Chivas USA.
The Rojiblancos playoff hopes are still hanging from a limb. They could still make the playoffs provided they win their encounters with the Galaxy and Seattle, AND, all the teams above them lose. There’s always a punchers chance it could happen, but probably won’t. They’re just playing for themselves now and go out strong.
“Our chances are extremely slim,” said Fraser. “But it’s better to have a lifeline and some chance than none at all.”
As for the Union, they are now tied with the Columbus Crew for second place in the Eastern Conference with 44 points, but only trail first place Sporting Kansas City by a point, with a game in hand.