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Match Report: Union 1-0 Earthquakes

Photo: Paul Rudderow

After a tight and fairly chance-less forty minutes, referee Mark Geiger made sure that the critics of MLS refereeing have all the video evidence they need to strengthen their case. Sebastien Le Toux’s 76th minute penalty kick winner was the icing on the cake for a team that continued to take the game to San Jose after losing Jordan Harvey to a straight red card.

Harvey’s crime  – “violent conduct” – was attempting to leave the scene of a tackle after he became tangled with San Jose’s Chris Leitch. From the ground, Leitsch executed a wild leg swing at the retreating Harvey, an action that referee Geiger reacted to with the swift and improbable red card to an incredulous Harvey.

It was a moment that could have broken the Union. Instead it showed just how tough they are.

The Union came out in an aggressive 4-3-3 with Danny Mwanga and Roger Torres added to the starting eleven. Manager Peter Nowak was not shrouding his intention to show MLS that Philadelphia is capable of scoring more than one goal in ninety minutes.

The match started slowly, with the Union holding possession and looking to go forward up the left wing through Daniel. The long balls failed to produce much and it was clear that Torres would have to get on the ball for the goals to come.

The diminutive playmaker involved himself by dropping deeper and combining with Okugo to move the ball forward. This resulted in some opportunities for Le Toux and Ruiz, but they were half-chances at best.

San Jose was offering little offensively but holding a stout back line. The Union pressed forward and the Quakes responded by slowing the game down. Lenhart went down hard after an aerial challenge from Okugo, and the referee saw fit to produce the game’s first yellow.

A minute later, two more yellows appeared after Mondragon slid to grab a ball that was skittering around his box. McDonald, standing at the top of the box, took exception to The Dragon’s aggressive play and began yelling at the goalie. Never one to back down, Mondragon screamed right back and the two players were carded for their troubles.

Mwanga was showing great composure on the ball and he brought the others into play to boot. It seemed like the breakthrough was moments away when Harvey’s red changed the course of the match.

Keon Daniel moved to left back so Nowak could properly address the situation during the break. The manager’s solution was the introduction of Michael Farfan at left back and Miglioranzi in the middle. The moves were defensive, but they gave the Union a new shape that San Jose struggled to break down.

Keon Daniel moved inside to help defensively as Wondolowski tried to get involved by coming central. This opened up the left flank for Michael Farfan, and his impressive running put the Union on the front foot.

After a few good crosses came through the San Jose box, Bobby Convey was brought on to give the visiting side a calming presence in midfield. It worked – although Convey picked up a yellow card for time wasting – and the game took on a cat-and-mouse quality. Philadelphia went away from the Farfan/Daniel combination up the left, which suited San Jose just fine. Soon another big even would change the game again.

In the 75th minute, Le Toux picked up the ball down the left side and brought it central. He played Ruiz who trapped the ball and left it for Le Toux to run onto. Or did he? Neither striker seemed sure, and a San Jose defender poked the ball away. Okugo picked up the loose ball and drove into the box. His second touch took him well wide of the goal but he turned on the jets and beat the ball to the endline. His left-footed cross was blocked by a diving San Jose player’s arm and the referee awarded a penalty kick.

Le Toux finished high and to the middle and celebrated in front of The River End.

Another 1-0 win and another three points for the U, who reclaimed PPL after Seattle’s late dagger two weeks ago.

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