Photo by ISIphotos.com
By JOEY SAMUEL
CHESTER, Pa. — Freddy Adu hasn't always lived up to the hype during his time in Philadelphia, but on Sunday, he delivered one of his best performances in a Union uniform as he led the club to victory.
The mercurial midfielder scored after an impressive individual effort in the 28th minute before converting a second-half penalty kick and the Union went on to defeat the Houston Dynamo, 3-1, at PPL Park.
After Oscar Boniek Garcia answered Adu's opener with his own tally in the 44th minute, the teams entered the locker room tied at halftime. Philadelphia came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, though, and took the lead in the 50th minute. Sheanon Williams drew a penalty when he was hauled down on a corner kick, and Adu slotted home the enusing spot kick.
Houston tried to create an equalizer in an effort to take something out of a match that held importance in the Eastern Conference playoff race. It was the Union that would score again, though, as Josue Martinez finished a loose ball in the box in the 70th minute to put Philadelphia up 3-1, and that's how the game would end.
"I knew the goals were going to come for us, and more so than that, I think we put together a pretty complete performance today," said Union coach John Hackworth. "We were really good on both sides of the ball against an excellent team. We would have been eliminated from the playoffs if it had been anything other than three points. They did a fanastic job."
Houston went back to Texas empty-handed, while the Union remained mathematically alive in the hunt for a postseason berth after a match that saw Philadelphia awaken from a scoring drought in which they had only mustered four goals in their last eight matches.
The Union started Martinez at striker instead of Jack McInerney or Antoine Hoppenot, who had been preferred in previous games. The switch seemed to work, as Martinez looked dangerous throughout and even tallied the first MLS goal of his career in the second half. According to Hackworth, though, the decision to start Martinez was one based on player fatigue, and not necessarily tactics.
"We knew going into these two games, with the three day turnaround, that we had to play a lot of different players," Hackworth said. "We talked about this being a team effort, these two games, that we we would have to use our depth. Josue, along with a lot of our other young attacking players, needs opportunities, so it was good. He did a really good job of doing what we asked him to do, in terms of training and preparation, and that made a big difference today."
While Martinez had seen extended time before, he had never scored, so Sunday's win held added importance for the young Costa Rican as he looks to solidify his role with the club.
"I'm really happy. I think I've worked hard these past few months," said Martinez. "The opportunity arose, and I think I took advantage of it the best way I could. The team did its best and we got the three points."
Martinez's impact was important in the result, but he wasn't the best player on the field Sunday. That honor belonged to Adu, who showed the potential that soccer fans around the country and around the globe know he possesses. Unfortunately, though, Adu injured himself when he scored the penalty kick, and he had to leave the match early in the second half.
"Personally, it feels good. It means a lot," Adu said. "Two goals in league play are good for your confidence, especially when the coach tells you to push forward. To reward the coach with two goals, it's a great feeling. It feels like it's been a while since the team won a game, so hopefully I'm able to stay out in that position and play the rest of the games this year at that position."
For the Dynamo, the loss represented a blown opportunity for the club to distance itself from other teams trying to get into the postseason. Houston remained in the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Columbus Crew now sit just one point behind them. The Dynamo failed to convert any momentum from their 4-0 midweek win in the CONCACAF Champions League into the game against Philly.
Houston will have a chance to get back on track on Saturday, when they return home to host the New England Revolution. Philadelphia, meanwhile, will take on another East contender when they travel to Columbus to take on the Crew.
Here are the match highlights:
What did you think of the match? Can Philadelphia somehow pull off a miracle and challenge for a playoff berth, or were they just playing spoiler? Will Houston rebound next week against the Revolution?
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