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Match report: Union 1-0 Crew

On a chilly night in Chester against a listless first place Columbus Crew team, a goal from the resurgent Sebastien Le Toux was all the Philadelphia Union needed to earn their first victory since July 17 with a 1-0 scoreline.

In an effort to breathe life into his team, coach Peter Nowak rang in the changes, most notably bringing 16-year-old Zach Pfeffer into the starting lineup for his first MLS start. Pfeffer lined up alongside Roger Torres and Freddy Adu forming a creative, if undersized, midfield. With Gabriel Farfan returning to the left back spot, Michael Farfan moved up to occupy the second holding midfield role alongside Brian Carroll, while Le Toux was preferred as the lone front runner.

The Columbus ranks were depleted, with Chad Marshall declared unfit and Emmanuel Ekpo suspended for a midweek red card. Long-term injuries to Emilio Renteria and Eddie Gaven further limited coach Robert Warzycha’s options and his team lacked their usual strength and grit.

Tight at the beginning

Despite the apparent weaknesses of their opponent, the Union got off to a timid start, usually favoring the long ball over possession. Roger Torres continued to show the industry he has displayed in recent weeks but he, along with Pfeffer and Adu, failed to generate early opportunities and Sebastien Le Toux found himself on an island.

While the Union were unable to climb into the ascendancy, neither were they threatened. Outside backs Sheanon Williams and Gabriel Farfan did well to marshal the runs of Robbie Rogers and Dilly Duka. In the middle of the park Michael Farfan adapted well to his new role, showing his range on both defense and offense, as he supported the fullbacks in the tackle and provided a creative outlet once the ball was won.

Playing against two large, physical forwards, Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes were rarely forced to leave their comfort zone. With referee Alex Prus allowing the rough stuff, the Crew’s Andres Mendoza and Tommy Heinemann found themselves deprived of service and confidence.

As the half wore on, neither team took control of the match and sloppy turnovers dominated. Roger Torres was the most active attacking force for the Union. Freddy Adu disappeared on the right flank and Pfeffer, while confident and skilled on the ball, struggled with the pace of the game.

Terrific Torres

In the 32nd minute, a moment of magic from Torres sprang Le Toux to break the deadlock. Spinning outside to face defender Shaun Francis, Torres curled a teasing ball beyond the defense from his own half. Just out of the reach of the Crew’s Eric Gehrig, Sebastien Le Toux raced in behind to control the ball before sliding it past a helpless Will Hesmer, who was caught out on the play.

The goal energized the Union and they pressed for a second as halftime approached. Again it was Torres playing in Le Toux, this time the Union man beating Gehrig off the dribble on the end line. He cut his pass back for the onrushing Pfeffer who could not find a clean first touch and ultimately only mustered a soft shot, claimed easily by Hesmer.

Second half

A goal to the good, the Union entered the second half braced for a Columbus push back that never came. Brian Carroll and Michael Farfan grew in stature as the ineffective pairing of Danny O’Rourke and Dejan Rusmir struggled to retain possession for the visitors.

Instead, it would be the Union who had the better of the chances early in the second half, with Roger Torres pouncing on a misplaced clearance and racing passed Gehrig only to toe-poke wide of Hesmer’s net.

Lacking a playmaker to challenge the stout Union defense, Columbus was forced to attack from the wings. But, as in the first half there was no way through and the Union grew in confidence as Columbus failed to threaten. Zac MacMath, in net for his third straight match, earned his second straight MLS clean sheet. More vocal and better in distribution than against New England or Portland, MacMath was rarely troubled and made easy work of the lofted ball that occasionally floated into his area.

Langley debuts

The Union welcomed another debutant in the 80th minute when recently acquired midfielder Morgan Langley entered the match. Acquired only two days before the match from the Harrisbrg City Islanders, Nowak brought on Langley to offer a persistent counterattacking threat as Columbus threw numbers forward looking for an equalizer.

That equalizer would never come as the Union defense saw out a much needed victory.

Philadelphia now sits two points out of first place with a game in hand and one point behind their next opponent, Sporting Kansas City, who lost to Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.


  1. Loved seeing Le Toux back in the out and out striker role. His runs were very good and his goal was class. Roger is settling into the role of midfield pest. He never gives up on a play and just harasses bigger and stronger players. I agree with you on MacMath. I thought his vision up field was good. He is much calmer and catches balls cleaner. Valdes and Califf were titans at the end of the match. Knocking every cross the Crew threw at them out of the box. Freddy is still a bit lost. Marfan was an interesting selection in the middle, but would much rather see him on the flank. It was great seeing the youth movement on the field!

  2. Adu was a piece of shit tonight – pretty much what he’s been every game other than the NE game. He needs to start earning that paycheck. Always just dancing around the field – never hustling – Christ, it’s like a new Ruiz on the team.

    Need 5 hands to count the # of times tonight he was beat to a ball, just gave up, or had no interest. Thank God Nowak finally noticed in the 2nd half and got his lazy ass off the field.

    • Kensington Josh says:

      Slower than a snail. He was the worst think in blue and gold out there, by far. How long does it take to get match fit?

    • Santas Grotto says:

      I agree. The other thing he does that pisses me off is the way he barks orders at other players. What a prick.

      • Santas-
        Thank you for also noticing that! He screws up – then yells at the other players. I even noticed LeToux getting frustrated with Adu.

        And Nowak constantly whistling out new instructions to him.

    • Wow, and how many games this season has Le Toux been invisible, or ineffective or plagued with a bad touch and a ad shot? Often.
      Now yeah Adu was pretty bad but LOL @ the utter venom towards him after 5 games – all of which being played of out position.
      Are people still bitter over the failed hype thing or something?

      • I think the frustration with Freddy is that he isn’t working hard enough on coming back to the ball. his skill is dictating the game from the middle and when he gets stranded out on the wing or goes stretches without the ball, his concentration suffers. he’s got to pick it up but i still have full faith in him and would start him every game.

  3. Loved the lineup tonight although I would like to see keon back in there for pfeffer once he gets back. as 136 sang tonight, free keon.

  4. It was a good game. They actually had some rhythm and movement. Good possession. Could have been better and faster but good. Let’s see what they can do on an away game next week.

  5. also, is there any goalie controversy if macmath shuts out kansas city?

  6. Marfan also did a great job on Rogers. For most of the first half, it looked like his job was to take Rogers out of the game first, support offense second. Did a great job of it. Rogers ended up switching sides with about 10 mins left in the first half to get away from him.

    The moves Garfan put on along sideline in the second half were just dirty…

    Also thought Amobi looked very good in his late minutes…

    Califf is a beast. I like him more every game I watch him.

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