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Union down Crew for first win of 2012



CHESTER, Pa— It took more than a month, and it wasn't pretty, but the Philadelphia Union earned their first win of the season in front of 18,526 fans at PPL Park on Saturday.

Eric Gehrig handled a Freddy Adu cross in the 37th minute and Gabriel Gomez buried the ensuing penalty to give the Union a 1-0 lead. Then the Union defense held strong for almost an hour, and kept a clean sheet to seal the three points for Philadelphia. It was their first win of the season, and it snapped an eight game winless streak that stretched back to last year.

Led by Adu, who returned to the lineup after missing several games due to Olympic qualifying, Philadelphia controlled possession for large stretches of the game. Columbus made a solid effort to find an equalizer in the last fifteen minutes, but it wasn't enough as the Crew fell to their second straight loss.

"It was extremely important for the guys in the locker room to have this feeling of the three points," said Union coach Peter Nowak. "They played an exceptional game, from having a second shutout, we didn't give up many shots on goal; it was very important for their confidence."

The Union's lineup was forced to change suddenly in the moments leading up to the match. Captain Danny Califf, who has struggled to stay on the field this season, was a late scratch when he aggravated a hamstring injury in the pre-game warmups. Rookie right back Raymon Gaddis was forced into action and Sheanon Williams shifted to center back.

Philadelphia came out looking for a goal early, and they combined well in the midfield through Adu, Michael Farfan, and Keon Daniel. When the Gehrig was called for a handball on Adu's driven cross in the 37th minute, Gomez's ensuing penalty goal was nothing more than the Union deserved.

Columbus improved in the second half, bringing on Bernardo Anor and Emilio Renteria to aid in the attack. Their best scoring chance came in the 54th minute when Olman Vargas was sent in on goal but Zac MacMath came out of his net to strongly clear the ball from him.

The Union withstood a late push from Columbus and held on for the 1-0 win, one that they desperately needed.

"We've stressed over weeks now that if you're in a position where you've lost a couple of games, and there's pressure on you, then sometimes you take the safe way," Nowak said. "But they start trusting each other with the ball, with the combinations, with the triangles. They were very good in this regard."

The key to victory for the Union, in the end, was their defense. Despite having to readjust moments before the game, the team managed to record their second straight clean sheet.

"Danny (Califf) was with us in warmups and just didn't feel ready to go," said Williams. "So we just made some quick adjustments and got ready for the game. But with that said, and us having to change the lineup right before the game, I think that the whole team helped each other out and the back line did a good job of making sure we had cover for each other."

The make-shift Union back-line wound up handling the Crew offense with relative ease, as Williams looked like a natural in central defense and Gaddis put in an outstanding performance in his professional debut.

Columbus, on the other hand, was very disappointed with the result, losing 1-0 in a game where they only goal was a penalty from handball.

"I think it was a physical game, and we came to play," said coach Robert Warzycha. "Obviously Philadelphia, with their record, wanted to win the game. For us, I think we matched their intensity. Unfortunately, we lose on a penalty that was very questionable."

It was the second straight loss for Columbus, having dropped a home game 4-1 last week to New York. They return home next week, where they will host the Houston Dynamo. Philadelphia, meanwhile, takes to the road as they will face Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center next Saturday.


  1. I’ll take the W but it was an ok win. Nowak at the end of the game was all smiles. Not so fast as you need to win a few more before is forgotten. Daniel is best player and shows his quality game in and game out. I did see a few nice plays where we should great skill in holding the ball, especially in the attacking third. Were moving in the right direction but still don’t feel that Nowak is the man to right this ship.

  2. Adu is a shell of his former self. The best that I’ve ever seen him play was at the U20 WCup. He played as a withdrawn forward, was incredibly lively, fit and willing to take on any defender. Fast-forward to today and he looks nothing like that player. From a fitness standpoint, he looks awful. 1/2 of the game, he merely trots around the park and when he gets it there’s very little urgency or liveliness. His single remaining attribute is his vision and passing ability … which is good, no doubt. He’s no longer a dynamic player … and never will be. He should be a dominant force on the pitch very time he steps on it … he is not.

  3. Very little was created by either side. A pretty boring game and while I’m not saying it needs to be like an ice hockey game, a bit more end-to-end directness would be appreciated. I go to the game to be entertained, not to watch a few passes amongst players in their own half and then have them turn it over in the opposing one.

    I was at the game and here are my thoughts:

    – Pajoy’s strength is his strength, but against Chad Marshall, it wasn’t working. There were a few times when Philly played into space and Pajoy didn’t have the speed to beat Gehrig/Marshall to it. Mwanga would’ve been great here.
    – Adu was mediocre. This is quite an improvement as he normally is a big negative.
    – Kyle Martino weighs no more than 110 lbs. and is trying to be some kind of clothes horse.
    – The makeshift defense did a good job, but Columbus offered very, very little going forward.
    – MacMath played well (aside from a few poor kicks).
    – Farfans looked good.
    – Brian Carroll was the best player on the field.
    – Okugo looked good when he came on as did Josue Martinez.

    Finally, the writer of this posts needs to check on his writing as Gomez did not “bury” the penalty. He chipped it in. Also Philly and their play was hardly “led by Adu” as he didn’t do a whole lot. No need to overwrite, Joey.

  4. Wow. After leading an expansion team into the playoffs in their second year, you want to fire Nowak because we lost 3 games. Nowak isn’t super human. He has and will continue to make mistakes, but he’s also won the league as both a player and a coach. I’m the first one to wish we still had Le Toux, but to be honest, I’m not sure it would have made a difference today. And you know what… despite our record after a few short weeks, I think Philly looks like a better team this year than last. They are more creative, keep possession better, and link up better. All they are lacking is finishing, which is a concern, but not surprising given that our forwards are new to the MLS and to each other. They need time to gel. Anyway, As the saying goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Over the long run Phillys quality will speak for itself.

  5. Philly only get one goal and it’s a PK. God Nowak should be fired just based on how unwatchable this team is. They are so boring despite having Adu and Farfan. And why did he remove Adu?

  6. I was at the game, and besides a lucky hand-ball, there was no offense on either side. For the Crew, Urso, Gehrig (besides the handball) and Finley all showed well. Chad was a rock as usual, but Mirosevic was all but invisible. Gaven didn’t get much ball time, and I’m very surprised that Renteria didn’t start. Vargas and Shoenfeld as a combo didn’t cut it.

    For the Union Daniel probably showed the most spunk out there, Marfan had some great composure on the ball and almost made it work for a goal in the second half. I would play Gomez again, and overall the back line was solid.

    Not to surprised at the result and it’s not far off from what I expected going into the game. At least it was a nice day out today.

  7. Man, I was hard on Carroll. But when you play him in his best spot, like today, he can still be fantastic. Playing him deep and letting Gomez get forward was an epiphany and it looked great on the field.
    Adu played well and it was unfair for Nowak to sub him out. I also liked Pajoy. He hasn’t been flawless, but he is that physical holdup presence that we needed and all that is left is to find him a good partner.
    Marfan is so good on the ball. He is still invisible at times, but other times he proves he can slice through the defense. I think he had 2 dribbles this game where he just made the defense look like it was standing still.
    Daniel, MacMath and Williams all played well too. Gaddis was steady, though I don’t think he did anything particularly noteworthy either.


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