By JOEL HOOVER
On a night when the elements threatened to play the role of the great equalizer, the Philadelphia Union started their match on Friday night against Chivas USA looking like they might be the ones to pay the price for a crazy night of weather. Ultimately though, it was the Goats who left PPL Park wondering how they endured such bad luck.
Amidst torrential downpours and wind at PPL Park, a controversial indirect free kick goal from Michael Farfan in the 82nd minute was the deciding goal that lifted the Philadelphia Union to a 3-1 victory over 10-man Chivas USA on Friday night.
“Because of the previous three games (two late draws to FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake and a loss to Houston), we knew we had to come here and get three points,” Union head coach John Hackworth said. “We felt like Chivas were a good team. They deserve a lot of credit…what they do, they do well and they make it hard for teams.”
The match looked like it would play out as a draw amid the awful conditions, but the result turned on a questionable call that pushed the match in Philadelphia’s favor. Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy was adjudged to have handled a back-pass after Chivas USA’s Edgar Mejia kicked the ball from the ground and it went into Kennedy’s arms (replays appeared to show it to be an inadvertent kick).
The call gave Philadelphia a very dangerous indirect free kick, and Josue Soto’s reaction to the call, which included making light contact with referee Jorge Gonzalez, led to a second yellow card for Soto, which left the Union up a man for the final 10 minutes.
Farfan ran onto the indirect free kick layoff pass from Sebastien Le Toux and roofed his shot over Chivas USA’s defenders to make the score 2-1 in the 82nd minute.
“I figured the only place it could possibly go in was above (the Chivas defense’s) heads and under the crossbar, so I pretty much set out to do that,” Farfan said of shooting past the 10-man wall Chivas had employed to defend and charge down the free kick.
The Union made it 3-1 just six minutes later when second-half subsitute Fabinho, making his MLS debut, delivered a cross to a wide-open Casey, who finished it off for his seventh goal of the season.
Chivas USA started the match off in promising fashion, opening the scoring in the 14th minute after a slip on the wet surface from Union defender Amobi Okugo. His error allowed Jorge Villafana to glide into the penalty area, drawing Zac MacMath from his goal before setting up Correa for an easy tap-in. It was the striker’s first goal of the season.
“We gave up a silly goal,” Hackworth said of it afterward, “But part of that’s the field, and we kept plugging away.”
The Union pressed back at the visitors as the half went on, with Danny Cruz the recipient of several good opportunities. His best came in the 31st minute after some slick passing gave him a open look on net, but Kennedy closed him down to make a fine save.
With the puddles growing and the game slowing, the first half ended uneventfully for both teams. The second appeared to be starting in similar circumstances, until the Union found their equalizer.
A short corner from the Union teed up Le Toux to cross near post for Conor Casey to head toward goal. His effort was deflected by Carroll past Kennedy, putting the Union on level terms in the 58th minute.
“To be honest, I was trying to get out of the way,” Carroll said candidly afterward. “But if it doesn’t hit me and go in, maybe it doesn’t go in at all…just something that happens in the run of play.”
With the intensity of the game picking up despite the conditions, the Union ran close on several chances midway through the half. One effort from Sheanon Williams in the 76th minute that went high was preceded by a possible handball on the endline by a Chivas player defending Le Toux on the ground. Hackworth’s protests for a penalty were met with an ejection by referee Gonzalez.
“The player on the ground, to me, clearly took his elbow and knocked the ball. That’s a handball, it’s in the box…I don’t think I was the only one who thought it was a PK,” Hackworth said, figuring that it was his actions, rather than his words, that got him sent off.
Farfan’s go-ahead goal came just a few minutes after Hackworth’s ejection, and Casey gave the Union insurance in the 89th minute. A whipped-in cross from debutant Fabinho on the left gave Casey an easy tap-in past Kennedy at the back post for his seventh goal of the season and fifth in six matches.
The win snapped a three-match winless run for the Union (8-6-6; 30 pts.), who moved into a tie for second place in the Eastern Conference with a win, just one point behind East-leading Montreal.
Chivas USA (3-11-5; 14 pts.) remain at the bottom of the Western Conference and have not won in 14 league matches dating back to late March.
Chivas will return to action on July 17th with a home match against Toronto FC, while the Union host the Portland Timbers on July 20th.
Here are the match highlights: