By AVI CREDITOR
CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union sure have a knack for coming up with strong showings in home openers.
Sebastien Le Toux converted a penalty kick and had a hand in two other goals, all in the second half, and Chris Seitz preserved a 1-1 scoreline by saving a Pat Noonan penalty, as the Union opened PPL Park with a 3-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders in front of 18,755 Sunday night.
Two of the Union's three victories have come in home openers. On April 10, the "soft" home opener at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, the Union defeated D.C. United, 3-2, behind a hat trick from Le Toux.
Sunday, in the debut of their picturesque, waterfront, soccer-specific park, the Union (3-7-1) dominated the run of play but needed a come-from-behind effort spearheaded by Le Toux to take the three points from their Western Conference counterparts.
Noonan scored a 44th-minute goal, off a feed from Fredy Montero, that negated the Union's vast advantage in possession throughout the first half and gave the Sounders (4-7-3) a surprise edge heading into halftime.
Alejandro Moreno drew a penalty on Tyrone Marshall 10 minutes into the second half, though, to recharge the Union and their raucous fans.
Le Toux, a former Sounder and teammate of keeper Kasey Keller, picked out the upper right-hand corner of the net to convert the 55th-minute penalty and tie the score at 1-all.
"I've known (Keller) a long time, and we used to practice PKs and I knew he knew my favorite side," Le Toux said. "I just waited until the last moment, and I knew he would dive early and I put the ball in."
Four minutes later, Montero was fouled in the Union box by Christian Arrieta, and Sounders coach Sigi Schmid chose Noonan to take the penalty. The veteran went for power instead of placement, firing slightly to Seitz' right. The first-year starter wasn't fooled at all, reading the kick perfectly and smothering the ball to not allow a rebound.
"I try and look at tendencies of players throughout the game and try to make the best guess I can," Seitz said. "I think it was big for our team to just tie it up and for that it gave us a little bit more momentum to go forward. It felt good, but more importantly, it was good for our team."
It took less than 20 minutes for the Union to capitalize on the momentum swing.
A minute after Keller robbed Arrieta of a goal-bound header, Le Toux found space to cross from the right. His ball eluded three Sounders defenders and reached an unmarked Fred by the far post. The midfielder one-timed it into the empty goal for the eventual game-winning goal in the 79th minute.
"I saw the ball coming through the legs of somebody and just said, 'Thank you,'" Fred said.
Rookie Danny Mwanga iced the game in the 84th minute with his fourth goal of the season, and the first to not come in stoppage time.
"We've been kidding him, that if he could score before injury time that'd be great, and that's what he did today," Le Toux said.
He received a cross from Le Toux in the center of box on a counterattack and had his initial shot stuffed by Keller – the keeper's seventh save – before touching home the rebound for the final goal.
"In the 80th minute the game is not over, and we need to keep fighting, and I think that's the result of teamwork and a team effort," Mwanga said.
Following the final whistle, the Union players trotted over to the end of the stadium containing the Sons of Ben, the team's supporters group, to milk the celebration of a victorious stadium opening.
"It was a historical moment," Union coach Peter Nowak said. "The place was just amazing. If you are not motivated playing in front of these guys, with this kind of atmosphere, you should change your profession. Of course it's just the beginning, but we are very happy with the win."
Here are highlights from the match:
- Schmid said that Switzerland international Blaise N'Kufo would join the squad when he first becomes eligible to, on July 15. "He can't play until July 15, so that's when we expect him to be able to be on the field for us. … He's going to help us when he comes," Schmid said.
- Seitz, on saving a PK while one of his childhood idols, Keller, was on the other end of the field: "To be honest, I didn't think about it. He's a great goalkeeper. Historically, he's probably the best goalkeeper we've ever had in the U.S. He's still doing a great job and playing very well. For me, I try to take pieces from his game and adapt them to my game."
- According to the heat index, the on-field temperature was 103 degrees in the first half, 106 in the second. Schmid alluded to the heat and humidity being factors that hurt the Sounders' performance. "When you don't train in the humidity, it's a little tougher to play in it. …It was our first time we had to play in it, and it made a big difference. It takes a period of adjustment."
- Among the unique features that PPL Park boasts were boats camped out in the Delaware River, with people on the boats watching the game on the stadium video board. A Union official also said that cars driving by the stadium on the adjacent Commodore Barry Bridge can see the pitch from the bridge.
congrats to Philly. new stadium looks great
Is it just me or does Freddy have a decadency to not show up in games. The DP in MLS have not exactly made a huge difference in play. You could argue that the rookie crop for the last three to four years have made a bigger splash in quality of play. Maybe the draft is doing more for the league than most people want to admit?
I’ll have what he’s smoking please
It makes me smile when Seattle loses.
Good for Chris Seitz. He has talent.
Seattle fans are not fair weather and are not jumping ship, we are just waiting for that top pick in next year’s draft.
Happy for Letoux and his success, not protecting him is just one of so many mistakes made by the Seattle FO this year that put the team in the downward spiral that is this horrid season. Hope they can stop looking at the easy money and make some good moves for next year.
In the corner, next to the river end (left hnd side if you were looking at sons of ben) there were about two rows of sounders supporters, not sure if it was official or not…. but it led to the best chant of the day (SoB directed to sounders at the very top) Jump! Jump! Jump!
Does Union’s new stadium have an official section for away fans? I want to take a trip down to Philly next time NYRB are playing away to them.
my first look at the accompanying pic: I thought there was a rip in it. 🙂 Then I realized it was a streamer.
Well I think we can now say that the Sounders stink this year. It will make home games so much more entertaining now that I’ll be drinking so much to drown my sorrows. Hopefully management uses all the season ticket revenue on a 2nd/3rd DP and gets somebody who can play in the middle of the park.
The only saving grace is that this is the MLS and all we need to do is qualify for the playoffs to have a shot. 8th place, here we come!
Or did he mean the other slang version of “cap”?
Can we see a halfway point article on the rookies for this year – we’re seeing another stellar year from them!
Um, what? Moreno is a target fwd and does a great job at it……
LeToux is playing great and Fred is Fred. And Mwanga was playing fwd at times yesterday…. in real soccer, players change positions and sides throughout the game….. this isnt fifa10………
Le Toux may not be the greatest, but he is tailor-made for Philly. He brings it every game and has earned the respect of the fans. I’d be crushed if we lost him.
Yes, they should definitely cut their leaders in Goals and Assists. Sounds like a very smart plan to me…
Re: Le Toux
Yes, you are the only one. He has an endless motor (he actually tracked back to stop a break in the 2nd half), has a scoring rate close to Buddle (who by the way went to South Africa), and is one of the leader of the team.
Philly was a better team and dexerved to win, but if you don’t think the weather was a factor then you werent’ watching the same thing I was. When you consider it hasn’t been above 75 in Seattle this year then the heat will be a factor. Again it isn’t the reason they lost, but I am sure it was a contributing factor. I don’t care who you are if you haven’t been training in warm and humid contitions it will affect you.
The bigger issues for Seattle is that we have Ianni and pass back Pete starting as our center mids. Until they find someone that can go forward with the ball the Sounders will not win many games.
Another question should be: Why didn’t the Sounders try Le Toux up top last year, if they had he may not be on another team.
Congrats to Philly (and Chester) on the opening of their stadium. Nice! The pitch was already beat-up, though; hopefully they can get a better grounds-crew.
Philly looked good–they’re coming along nicely.
Love the Union, but I hope over the next year or two they drop Moreno (terrible), Fred and Le Toux.
Am I the only one that isn’t impressed by Le Toux? He’s not going to get it done when we need him to. Moreno is self explanatory. He’s terrible.
As for Fred, I like em, but he needs to be put out wide.
And for goodness sakes, Slot Mwanga up top, not in the midfield, Nowak. Don’t tell me he was at forward on Sunday because he wasn’t.
It felt strange at first to be watching MLS again since I’ve watched multiple WC matches every day since the tournament started, but this was definitely a fun match. PPL Park looked great and really reminded me of Rio Tinto when the RSL fans bring it for big home games. Nowak seems like an intense, hard-working coach that would do anything for a team. I’m very excited once again for the rest of the MLS season and playoffs. WC is still first and foremost but we’re all about a week away from the slow descent back down to reality
“When you don’t train in the humidity, it’s a little tougher to play in it. …It was our first time we had to play in it, and it made a big difference. It takes a period of adjustment.”
Excuses, excuses. They are professional athletes.
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Well I will still watch and support the Sounders but as a fan I have the right to bitch when they suck. I mean you can not blame the heat when they pretty much sucked from minute one. Midfield was horrible, defending was horrible, no attack from FL or SZ on the wings..yep they sucked all around today.
P.S. Congratz on the win and the new stadium Union, it looks really nice.
And Charles is as fair as the come..
For all those that think the Sounder’s fans will fade if the Sounders do. We are finding out.
That team looks old in the back, still can’t score in the front and with a few injuries in the middle field, the team is borderline terrible.
I think a lot of us will still go to games, but Seattle is a town of fair weather fans, in a rainy city….and I am not talking about the weather.
A few things:
– the stadium looks really nice. It’s good that boats and people driving on the bridge can see the pitch during games.
– does anybody go down easier than Moreno?…..no
– it takes a lot of effort from the fans to make a lot of noise due to the open construction of the building
That pic is just begging for a caption contest.
We rocked. We rolled. What the hell is a Sounder? PPL erupted passion. Sigi erupted $100 worth of sweat water and looked like a lost whale that swam up the Delaware. Union undefeated at home. Le Toux is god, glad to see him get the first Union goal, was dangerous all day – he’s of a higher class on a off the field. Its clear the Union plays significatnly better with the support they get from the Philly fans and everybody played with confidence. Mwanga and Seitz get better every game. Nowak is a cool dude.
The temp was hot as hell but it was great to see a win and the Union be rewarded for going forward with the ball. Great atmosphere, it really is a nice place for a soccer game. The work rate of Le Toux in this heat was incredible and Mwanga looked special today.
He’s not a US citizen.. Yet
until he is, USA can’t cap him
Seitz looked wonderful tonight maybe that was just first year starter jitters early in the season.
Cap Mwanga. That is all.
Love, USA Supporters