A pair of potential candidates for Rookie of the Year traded goals on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center as the Philadelphia Union and Chivas USA battled to a 1-1 draw.
Danny Mwanga found the back of the net in the 21st first minute of play and just a few minutes before the end of the first half, Chivas would tie up the match thanks to a goal by Blair Gavin.
After falling behind early the Rojiblancos equalized just before half time in the 42nd minute when Gavin was able to fire in a shot from the edge of the box on a rebound for his second goal of the season. The midfielder is quietly having a Rookie of the Year caliber year on Chivas USA. With a vital point after a six game losing streak, the point was of true value to the home side.
"We were able to battle back and get that big emotional goal, but as the game wore on fatigue set in," said Gavin. "Unfortunately we couldn't get the victory, but its better to get that point and tell ourselves that we can turn it around because it starts here and we can start to get start taking this momentum forward."
The team was emboldened by the return of defender Jonathan Bornstein fresh off his successful stint with the United States at the World Cup. Bornstein was moved up from his typical left back position to the left wing, a position that paid dividends for the defender as he was active in the attack all game. With US National Team head coach and former Chivas USA manager Bob Bradley in attendance, Bornstein invigorated a club that had failed to create offense for some time.
With the US international marauding down the left side of the field, the Rojiblancos were able to generate offense for a team that had struggled to create substantial chances in the last six matches. The defender turned midfielder showed a great deal of confidence and nearly scored his a goal himself several times before the end of the first half as the club pushed up field for the equalizer. It was the play of Bornstein that inspired the 14 minute stretch of consistent pressure for Chivas USA that led to the tying goal.
"We're lucky to have him try to help us after the World Cup and maybe it wasn't his best football, but his effort was there and I think that what he's been through this week mentally he helped us," said Chivas USA head coach Martin Vasquez. "He makes us a better team and he makes his teammates better players so to have him back on the field is a big plus."
For the Union, the team was guilty of another uneven appearance on the road. The club were the aggressors in the early part of the match and were duly rewarded in the 21st minute. Roger Torres fired in a pass from mid field that was headed by striker Sebastien Le Toux into space in front of the Chivas USA goal. The rookie Mwanga made a splendid run and was able to lift the ball over Thornton for his fifth goal of the season. Although the Union put the pressure on the home side early, as the first half wore on the Rojiblancos began to take the game to the visitors.
In the second half, the game which had been so active in the end of the first 45 minutes, stagnated with each side failing to generate scoring chances. The best opportunity for both club's game in the 65th minute when Philadelphia attacker Fred motored down the field on a break away, but Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton was up to the task and made the save that would keep the match a stale mate.
"We came out pretty well in the first 20 minutes and we got a goal, but we seemed to fall out of the game for a little bit and in the end we were able to battle hard to earn a point," said Mwanga. "We didn't start off the season very sharp, but getting this result on the road is very is moving in the right direction and hopefully on the road we can get a victory."
Chivas USA snapped (3-9-2, 11 pts) their six game losing streak, but the club is still winless in their last seven matches. They will have little relief as they get ready to travel to Houston for a US Open Cup match on Wednesday against the Dynamo before continuing their travels in Kansas City and a weekend game with the Wizards.
The Philadelphia Union (3-7-2, 11 pts) now return to the City of Brotherly Love where they will play four out of their next five matches. After being the league's travelers earlier in the season, the Union will not go back on the road in MLS play till August 8th.