Photo by ISIphotos.com
By JOEY SAMUEL
CHESTER, Pa. — The fans at PPL Park were used to seeing Lionard Pajoy play on their field. After all, he had started his MLS career with the Philadelphia Union. But they weren't so used to him scoring goals at PPL, and that's exactly what he did on Thursday. It just wasn't for the Union.
After a lackluster first half that saw neither team create any quality chances, Chris Pontius found Pajoy wide open in the penalty area in the 67th minute. The Colombian striker, who had plenty of time, calmly and powerfully beat Union goalie Zac MacMath to put United up 1-0. D.C. then shut the Union down on defense and held on to leave Chester with a quality road win.
"There were no excuses, having lost our last six games on the road," said D.C. midfielder Lewis Neal. "To come to our local rivals, which they are now, and get a 1-0 victory, is a massive result."
Pajoy's goal stood up despite a late barrage of chances from the Union, and D.C. earned three huge points in the East playoff race. The win moved United up to fourth in the standings, passing Columbus and Houston.
In a game that featured three former DC players in Union uniforms and former Union striker Pajoy playing for D.C., the second half was where all the action took place. A Chris Pontius free kick was the only shot on goal in the entire first 45 minutes.
After Philadelphia came out firing in the second half, D.C. managed to weather the storm and keep them off the scoreboard. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who experienced a shaky first half, responded with a quality second half and ended up recording five saves.
The Union actually controlled more than 68% of the possession in the second half, but they weren't able to find an equalizer after Pajoy put United up in the 67th minute. A flurry of late chances came from Philadelphia, but not a single one of them, including Chandler Hoffman's deflection in the 89th minute, got past Hamid.
In the end, it was former Union striker Pajoy that decided the match, earning three vital points for D.C. that they desperately needed to keep pace in the East.
"I'm happy because we won the game," Pajoy said. "Regardless of the goal, what has us happy is that we won. It's really important, because this team is trying to get into the playoffs. We're close, but now we have a difficult game on Sunday and we want to win to keep pace in this race."
Philadelphia, on the other hand, were left wondering how to solve the seemingly endless problem of finishing. They took 12 attempts on goal in the second half, including five shots on goal, but none of them translated into something on the scoreboard.
"This is a tough one," said Union coach John Hackworth. "I didn't feel like that one was going to end with that result. Our team is struggling. We're doing everything possible to try and put ourselves in a position to score, and get attempts on goal, but for whatever reason, even though we had some really good looks, we just didn't get the chances we needed."
D.C. United's win moves them up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and the club is only three points away from second-place Chicago. United will host Chivas USA this Sunday.
The Union, meanwhile, is all but eliminated from playoff contention. After failing to play spoiler to a contender in the East against D.C., they will get another chance on Sunday when they host the Houston Dynamo at PPL Park.
Here are the match highlights:
What did you think of the match? Do you see D.C. United eventually sealing a place in this year's postseason? Should the Union start thinking about who will score goals for the club in 2013?
Share your thoughts below.