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Match report: Union vs. Chivas USA

After going down 1–0 at the half, the Union stormed back through Paunovic, Ruiz and the brilliant Danny Mwanga to earn three points against Chivas USA with a 3–2 win on a muggy Saturday night in Chester.

An open and ugly first half saw Chivas slicing through the Union midfield like a Republican governor through unions of a different ilk. Philadelphia responded with their typical array of angst-inducing missed opportunities.

Early chances

Jack McInerney came close in the 5th and 7th minutes, and Seba Le Toux remained bewitched as his opportunity from six yards out (off a great Mac run) was cleared off the line.

Chivas on top

Chivas made the Union pay for a lackluster defensive effort with a 27th minute goal. Faryd Mondragon made a tough save to deny Nick LaBrocca’s half volley, but on the ensuing corner, the Union number one misread the ball and could only punch softly to the top of the box. A volleyball display with various heads was tucked into the corner of the net by Michael “right-place-right-time” Umana.

The Union nearly equalized off the restart with Le Toux breaking through and seeing his flick shot deflected wide by an alert Dan Kennedy.

Ruiz then had two chances to tie the match in the final ten of the first half. But the Guatemalan international could only turn a Harvey cross outside of the near post and then his breakaway attempt was smothered by good defending from Heath Pearce and Kennedy.

Halftime subs

Peter Nowak acted quickly to make both personnel and tactical changes. Danny Mwanga and Keon Daniel entered for Jack Mac and Jordan Harvey. With Daniel and Williams in the back, the Union were pushing their wingers high up the pitch and relying on Brian Carroll to act as a human fishing net and catch every player Chivas sought to push forward.

Whether it was something said at halftime or just a case of statistical odds dictating that shots on goal must eventually enter the frame, the Union found themselves level only three minutes into the second half.

Pau off the mark

Keon Daniel slotted a pass to Le Toux wide on the left. He shook off his marker and cut inside, blasting a cross to Justin Mapp on the right. Mapp made for the endline before floating a ball back across the box for Veljko Paunovic to chest down and fire home.

The next ten minutes were a tense affair as both teams were unclear whether they were playing for a tie or a win. For Chivas, a win meant a leap two slots up the table: And so they went for it.

In the 62nd, Valdes slid in to deny Mondaini in the box. Moments later, Valdes was booked for catching Mondaini outside of the eighteen after Justin Mapp gifted Chivas an odd man rush. The Chivas striker stepped up and curled a wonderful free kick against the bar.

Galvanized into action, Philadelphia turned to the calm yet dangerous Keon Daniel to push them back up the pitch. Daniel glided through two defenders and played a low cross to the front post. Carlos Ruiz beat Kennedy to the ball and dropped it back to Paunovic, whose shot was blocked off the line.

Ruiz is too strong

As long as the Union had the ball they were dangerous. The problem was keeping it. Carlos Valdes smoothly cleared to Sheanon Williams, and his square ball to Paunovic keyed Carlos Ruiz to break off the lats defender. Paunovic floated a hopeful ball up to Ruiz, who has made a meal of defenders one-on-one since his return from the Gold Cup.

Heath Pearce had a strong match, but Ruiz held him at bay as he moved into the box, spinning off his plant foot to fire between Kennedy’s legs and put the Union ahead.

An insurance goal was next on the docket, and Danny Mwanga was doing his best to deliver. The young striker picked up a loose ball in midfield and held off both Ben Zemanski and Paulo Nagamura while tapping the ball beyond Andrew Boyens. Heath Pearce slowed Mwanga down long enough to force a shot from distance that stung the advertisements behind the far post.

Braun levels

Moments later, PPL was silenced when Justin Braun’s full match of hard work paid off. The Chivas striker was strong and active all game, but he rarely showed the instincts required to be a top striker. But if you just drop a ball at his feet, Braun knows what to do with it. In the 77th, Braun was running wildly when a ball popped into his path behind Carlos Valdes. Without hesitating, Braun beat Mondragon to the spot and lifted the tying goal into the far corner.

Mwanga to the rescue

Was there any Mwagic left in Chester?

The answer is yes.

Sebastien Le Toux saw Mwanga cutting into the middle of the pitch and hit his feet with a low, hard pass. Mwanga’s first touch popped straight up, but he collected the bouncing ball and, almost incredulous with the space he still had, unleashed a rocket that never rose above three feet and never hit the turf until it was nestled in the far corner of the net.

The Union came away with three points to end a week that raised more questions than answers. They move on from a trio of games they expected to win with only four points, but back in first place in the Eastern Conference.


  1. For all the wackiness and missed opportunities, both of the last two games could have been Toronto all over again if a few more shots had fallen. Jack Mac alone has had three shots that he could have made.

    I can’t figure out what to make of Ruiz. It seemed he did something good with the ball and got it.. if he was onside. If he had about a half-dozen fewer offsides (a small wish, right?), he would be man of the match.

  2. Adam Cann says:

    Six offsides in the second half alone. That’s quite a feat.

  3. Good report but you forgot to mention Mapp’s incredible miss from 5 yards out! That surely should have been a goal. Was great to sit behind the goal under attack during the 2nd half and the atmosphere in the river end was phenomenal!

    Not so sure about some of those offsides based on the show of disgust of the fans who sat right behind the linesman.

  4. Mondragon, stop rushing out of your box! You’re too slow. You have been beaten to the ball several times in the last several games. Stop!

  5. Matt Kirk says:

    Ruiz being offsides that many times only shows he is lazy, at the pro level its inexcusable really to be offsides that many times, but then again, chivas really did well to exploit his laziness with their high line and Ruiz was really starting to make good run and be in the right place.

  6. Ruiz is a poacher. He’s a talented player who plays a certain role. For the goal, all of the offsides ended up being worth it (and he wasn’t off every time he was called off). While at certain times, I think we would be better off with different forwards, he can help out in certain games. I’m glad he’s on the team; I just wish Nowak did a better job of getting Mwanga, Farfan, and Daniel minutes at the expense of Ruiz, Paunovic, Nakazawa, and now Mac.

  7. Andrew Desiderio says:

    For all the complaining about Ruiz being offsides look no further than a comparison to Chicharito. Forwards try and time there runs perfectly and for every 5 offsides it’s that 1 time that will get them the goal. Chichartio is offsides alot and no one calls him lazy (not that I’m saying Ruiz isn’t lazy). Alot of times he is offsides because someone waits to long to play the ball or Mapp decides to take an extra touch or two and then play it

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