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Late Valdes winner lifts Union over Impact



CHESTER, Pa. — For more than 80 minutes, the first-ever meeting between the Philadelphia Union and the Montreal Impact left something to be desired. But in the last 15 minutes, that all changed.

Philadelphia took the lead in the 82nd minute when Lionard Pajoy pounced on a loose ball in the box, only for Montreal to answer moments later when the Union fell asleep on a corner kick and conceded an own goal. Then, in stoppage time, Sheanon Williams found Carlos Valdes with a long throw-in and the Union captain beat Impact goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to give the Union a 2-1 win.

After more than an hour of uneventful, sloppy soccer that saw Freddy Adu leave injured at halftime and the two goalkeepers combine for six saves, Pajoy's goal opened the game up and after a flurry of late action, Philadelphia emerged to pick up three valuable points from the team directly above them in the standings.

"I can’t say enough about that result," said Union coach John Hackworth. "The fans certainly got their money’s worth tonight, and seeing a game, and two teams, full credit to Jesse Marsch and Montreal, because I thought they were really good tonight. In fact, I thought they were much better than we were in the first half, but we responded at half time. We came out and controlled the tempo a little more, knocked the ball around, made them really work hard, created some chances for us."

The Union were without playmaker Michael Farfan on Saturday night, as he picked up a knock in training during the week. Adu, meanwhile, didn't play particularly well in the first half, and had to leave at halftime. That led to a serious lack of creativity for Philadelphia.

Montreal, meanwhile, played better in the first half. In the 35th minute, Marco Di Vaio got in behind the Union defense but goalkeeper Zac MacMath was there to make the save. Two minutes later, Impact midfielder Justin Mapp found Felipe in the box, only for his header to clang off the crossbar.

It was more of the same in the second half as neither team could unlock the other's defense. It wasn't until Pajoy's breakthrough in the 82nd minute that things got interesting, and the Union eventually came out on top.

"The character and the strength of these guys, they’re amazing," Hackworth said. "They really are. I can’t say enough.  I think, even the guys sitting on the bench behind me were like 'we’re going to win this game. We’re still going to win this game.'  I think that is something that is pretty special in this team right now."

Montreal was left without anything to show for a decent performance, one that may have yielded a draw or even a win if the ball had bounced a few yards their way. The team showed resilience in responding after conceding Pajoy's goal, but the Union still managed to take all three points in the end.

"I think that our team was organized and disciplined and you know it was humid here," said Impact coach Jesse Marsch. "We managed to keep the game tight and first half, second half we had chances. We had the better chances of the game. So you know the way we lose this game it leaves you speechless. It leaves you unable to describe, because it’s happened too many times.

"There’s no time to feel sorry for ourselves," Marsch said. "Unfortunately, that’s been the message all year, and we can’t just figure out how to take performances and turn them into results. I've said that for about three months now."

Philadelphia has now won three league games in a row for the first time in the team's three-year history. They now sit just one point behind Montreal for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but the Impact have played four more games. And the Union sit only two points behind the New England Revolution and Colombus Crew, who each lost on Saturday.

"I think it’s massive, and when you can do that it really changes the balance of things. You know, you get three points back in the standings but you take away three points from the opponent, who’s battling the whole time. We have a couple games in hand over Montreal. You have to keep plugging away and making sure we go after those points."

Montreal will return to action quickly, hosting New England on Wednesday. The Union, meanwhile, will host Aston Villa in an international friendly on Wednesday before traveling to face fierce rivals New York on Saturday.


  1. I think Zack can sometimes be too aggressive. The goal went in because he didn’t complete blast through two of his own men. He bumped Keon and turned him and the ball goes in. Not entirely sure why they (Pajoy was there as well) were not called off by Zack or if they were why didn’t they listen.

    As to Adu, he wasn’t bad, he made some nice passes that nobody went for, if they made the run they would have been wide open for a shot. Sadly when ever someone else had the ball that is when they wanted to run. When Freddy has the ball, get ready to make a run. If he didn’t get hurt I think Daniel or Lahoud was off at the start of the 2nd as Gomez was warming up well before half, Torres was there as well. Torres cannot start as he cannot go a full 90 especially coming back from knee surgery. The Union sorely missed Michael Farfan in this one.

  2. Daniel is a good athlete and serves a role (can carry the ball up the field, make routine passes, defend, combine well in small-ish spaces). Unfortunately for him, I think the same of Michael Lahoud and I think Lahoud does it better. I like Torres a lot but he doesn’t defend well and he’s guilty of over-elaborating. Nonetheless, I think Torres instead of Daniel would’ve been the perfect move for this game. Good call.

  3. With a smerf defense like the Union has, Gordon Banks or Lev Yashin would struggle on crosses (for those old enough to remember those guys). Union fans, enjoy the team that Piotr Novak built in his own image. Small with short legs and a big butt. Actually, McMath reads crosses well for a young keeper. The team expects him to attack crosses because of a lack of height in central defense. Mondragon at least had Califf to head them away. McMath has to battle his way through a bunch of opposing big bodies to get to the ball.

  4. I love the Ollie Williams “You Gon Lose!” banner! Hilarious, especially given how then game ended in the Union’s favor.

  5. and this post didn’t mention that it appeared that Adu was injured. When he came out of the tunnel during the second half he was limping

  6. I actually agree with everything. MacMath makes me hold my breath on every corner. I feel like it must be our goalkeeping coach because aside from Mondragon, every keeper we’ve had, MacMath, Seitz, and Knighton, never knew when to come out or stay in net. Also, I’d add that Okugo continues to grow as a CB tonight I think was his best game, he got in front of almost every shot and deflected everything

  7. Random thoughts on the game:

    1. The officiating was (at best) very below average. Very annoying.

    2. Union passing was very poor and lacked vision. McInerney and Hoppenot make great runs behind the defense, but there was no Union player who was looking to drop one over the top of the Montreal backs. This is where Gomez makes a difference.

    3. I think it’s official that McInerney is no longer garbage. He’s a completely new man under Hackworth. I haven’t seen a turnaround like this ever. To say it’s a night and day change doesn’t do his improvement justice.

    4. Macmath looks very, very shaky on corners. He just looks a bit lost.

    5. Adu was bad. Had two good moments early (the shot and the backheel pass) and that was it.

    6. Without Gomez, Philly lacks someone who can thoughtfully pass the ball. I think he’s a bit slow in his play, but at least he thinks. I just wish he would think faster.

    7. Keon Daniel, Michael Lahoud and Josue Martinez definitely looked like they lacked first-team action. Their runs and passes were just out of synch with the rest of the team. Lahoud had some moments but gave the ball away a bit much. Daniel and Martinez just looked like they were reading off a different sheet of music.


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