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Match Report: Philadelphia 1-2 Colorado

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Though they huffed and they puffed, the Union could not find a late equalizer after conceding two second-half goals to the visiting Colorado Rapids. Lionard Pajoy’s 67th minute diving header made for a nervy conclusion in front of a full house of 19,074 at PPL Park but in the end the Union fell 2-1 in their second consecutive defeat to open the 2012 season.

First half

With captain Danny Califf a healthy scratch for the Union, Peter Nowak’s side opened in a 3-5-2 with Gabriel Gomez doing double duty between midfield and centerback. Danny Mwanga, Chris Albright and Keon Daniel came into the side for Freddy Adu, Josue Martinez and Califf on a Union team that had the majority of the first half chances. Again preferred in the center of the pitch, Michael Farfan proved his credentials far better than he did in Portland, but the Union could not find a way past Matt Pickens in the first 45 minutes despite Farfan, Mwanga and Pajoy all going close. The lack of composure in front of goal will trouble Nowak as his side built beautifully but could not convert any of the gilt-edged chances they created for one another.

It could have been a very different night had referee Mark Geiger chosen to award a foul in the first minute of the match as Danny Mwanga raced into the box and was hauled down. The question seemed only to be whether it was a free kick or a penalty. Geiger waved play on.

Mwanga continued to look lively in the first half as he played in Pajoy, only to see the Colombian striker caught from behind by the quickly-retreating Marvell Wynne. It was a role reversal for the two Union attackers as Pajoy chose to run off of Mwanga’s strong hold-up play. Regardless of roles, however, Mwanga and Pajoy were finding each other and Mwanga’s artistic heel flick sent Pajoy on a run in the 36th minute. His well-placed delivery found Sheanon Williams – playing in midfield – but he skied his first time effort.

Restored to the starting lineup, Keon Daniel displayed the strong possession and passing the Union missed when visa issues kept the Trinidadian international out of action for the second half of 2011. In the 41st, his deft touch sent Mwanga in on Pickens. While the Rapids keeper made the initial save, the ball fell dangerously into the center of the box only to find Pajoy a step too late in his sliding attempt to bury the opener.

With a goal seemingly imminent, the Rapids were relieved to hear the halftime whistle, and the Union were forced off the pitch with the score still level.

Second half

Ultimately, an inability to finish would prove costly for the Union.

As in Monday’s defeat in Portland, an error from goalkeeper Zac MacMath would open the Union’s opponent’s scoring, when he spilled Omar Cummings’ cross onto the feet of Jaime Castrillon, who did little more than tap home the opener in the 56th minute.

If the Union were deflated by the goal, they were given a lifeline when Jeff Larentowicz was dealt a second caution following a tackle on Keon Daniel and ejected from the match.

But with the Union pressing forward in search of an equalizer, rookie Tony Cascio sprang onto a poor touch from Chris Albright and powered home Colorado’s second with MacMath helpless to defend.

Roger Torres’ introduction brought a spark into the Union ranks as he and Farfan pushed forward with Brian Carroll dropping into the back line. Four minutes after his introduction, Torres engineered the Union’s opener when his corner was headed back into his path. The second ball found the head of a diving Lionard Pajoy and nestled in the bottom corner of the net, finally breaching Pickens goal. It was exactly what the Union needed as they continued to pour forward, making the most of their numeric advantage.

In the 72nd minute, Union academy product Christhian Hernandez made his Union debut in place of Keon Daniel. It was one-way traffic for the Union as a rejuvenated Lionard Pajoy snuck through the Rapids defense to serve Michael Farfan. His chipped effort beat Pickens but not the cross bar, bouncing up and away where it was headed to safety.

Cummings had a chance to seal the match for Colorado but after racing free of Valdes, he was unable to guide his chip on target.

Nowak used his final substitution to introduce a third striker, with Josue Martinez joining Mwanga and Pajoy up top. Martinez brought instant life and nearly opened his account when he sliced through the box, but he could not poke Torres’ lofted service on target.

Despite the Union’s relentless pressure, Colorado retained composure, staying compact in front of Pickens and refusing to be drawn out as the Union switched fields in their searched for a gap that, in the end, did not come.

Philadelphia Union

Zac MacMath; Chris Albright (Roger Torres ’63), Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Porfirio Lopez; Brian Carroll (Josue Martinez ’79), Gabriel Gomez, Michael Farfan, Keon Daniel (Christhian Hernandez ’72); Danny Mwanga, Lionard Pajoy

Unused Subs: Chase Harrison, Zach Pfeffer, Chandler Hoffman, Danny Califf

Colorado Rapids

Matt Pickens; Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Luis Zapata; Pablo Mastroeni (Ross LaBauex ’76), Jeff Larentowicz, Jaime Castrillon; Brian Mullan, Omar Cummings (Quincy Amarikwa ’83), Tony Cascio (Wells Thompson ’68)

Substitutes: Andre Akpan, Scott Palguta, Steward Ceus, Tyrone Marshall

Scoring Summary:

56 – Colorado: Jaime Castrillon

62 – Colorado: Tony Cascio

67 – Philadelphia: Lionard Pajoy (Roger Torres)

Misconduct Summary:

31 – Philadelphia: Gomez (Caution)

44 – Colorado: Larentowicz (Caution)

52 – Philadelphia: M Farfan (Caution)

58 – Colorado: Larentowicz (Second caution – Ejection)

74 – Colorado: Castrillon (Caution)

91 – Philadelphia: Torres (Caution)


Mark Geiger, CJ Morgante (Assistant), Steven Taylor (Assistant), Andrew Chapin (Fourth)

Have questions that you’d like the PSP’s Eli Pearlman-Storch to answer in a post? Send them to epstorch@phillysoccerpage.com along with your full name and where you live, both in PPL Park and in the world, and he will get to them in an upcoming post on the Philly Soccer Page. 



    After much consideration the Union and Peter Nowak have agreed to part ways. It has been a long road and much good has come from Peter’s leadership. However, the Union must strive for bigger and better soccer. As such, it has become clear that the team needs a new manager to take it to that next level. We thank Peter for all of his time and effort and wish him all the best in his future endevours.

    — The game review is too generous; way too generous. The Union had no looks at goal in the first half. They could not even string a even a few passes together. In short, they looked worse than they did last season. The responsibility lies with the manager.

    To loose at home, for the season opener, while a man up is embarassing. This was the worst performance I have sat in the stands for in the teams three seasons. With time a team must improve. Not the case here.

    It is clear that Nowak has got these guys so confused and scared that they don’t know what to do, or which way to go. The only bright spot was Pajoy, and no one was feeding him the ball. The team looks as lost as they did last season. But in many ways they are playing worse. Responsibility for this does not lay in the failure to “jell” or whatever other excuse their press depatment will make. It lies at the feet of the manager.

    It is doubtful that he will be fired, however, but should be. Its a shame. They got the talent on the field now they need it in the manager’s position. It is clear that Nowak is not the man to lead this team to bigger and better things. Time for him to go.

    • yea that game review was very forgiving. Whenever the Union had chances I had to wonder are the Union creating this or are Colorado just bad.

      The Union was a hot mess out there.

    • I was sitting directly behind the portland goal in first half and the U were definitely creating chances but they weren’t shooting. as well all know you cant score if you don’t shoot. Also they strung plenty of passes together and maintained possesion well, yes the couldn’t find the final ball but they were certainly making passes. And this can’t be the worst game you’ve seen in three seasons cause we had some pretty damn bad games in 10′ at home. And while I would love to get rid of novak it is a long season, if he doesn’t produce by the end then I’ll be calling for his head.

    • PhillyHotSpur says:

      I do agree……..

      Nowak needs to go. He continues to experiment at the wrong times, gets his tactics consistently wrong, plays key players out of position and moved our best player and fan favorite for a bag of futbols.

      He was nice coach to start a franchise off w/ , but this club has bigger plans & Nowak is simply getting in the way now.

  2. the union needed a striker that has a nose for the goal and can finish when under pressure….. I cant think where i have seen one of those before……..

  3. LE TOUX. At least the Union are getting what they deserve now with their shit coach Nowak. Feels pretty satisfying.

  4. “…sprang onto a poor touch from Chris Albright.”

    Ha. Award for understatement of the year? That’s like calling Sandusky’s years of molesting children an “unfortunate thing.”

  5. Now repeat after me “the most important part of this team is me, the Great Nowak, Captains,MVP,Top Scorer,Fan Favorite, FANS, they don’t matter
    Only ME!” Say this three times you’ll be fine.

  6. After reading the articles this morning, I’m on the boat now – Nowak has to go.

    When the team captain says “well, apparently I have a knee injury” when asked why he isn’t starting, it’s bullshit.

    I got ove the LeToux comments, but it appears Nowak has no clue how to run a team and keep it together.

  7. PhillyHotSpur says:

    Yet again –> Our keeper gives up a terrible , terrible goal at a crucial point in a game which probably cost us the game. How hard is it ? Catch it or Punch it……But you cannot let that ball go thru your hands.

    And check out nowak experimenting again…..3-5-2 ???

    All i know is…

    vancouver: 6 poitns
    Union: Goose Egg

    Patience wearing thin…..

    The positives: Pajoy & Gomez look legit.

    Time to move Carroll…….Gomez is the much better option and they occupy the same space. bring in an attacking option like Torres for these home fixtures

    What an awful start.

  8. PhillyHotSpur says:

    And Danny Boy………..

    I know the service was poor , but those 90 minutes of your futbol y’day –> can it get any more unproductive ??

    And, I know Torres is small and gives the ball over cheaply at times, but by far the most dynamic player out there who actually can do something in possession…..

    I know he was hurt, so I’ll give Nowak the pass y’day…….but he best be in the line-up on Saturday vs Chicago.


    • T of the U says:

      I agree with your comments…we need Torres on the field from the start. Yeah he’s a great sub in the second half, but I think in our current state of disarray, we need a consistent offensive playmaker…and Marfan is looking better, but not cutting it. I think Pajoy and Mwanga can form a good duo up front (that’s one area I’m willing to wait on), but the midfield needs to be figured out pronto.

      I thought Keon looked really good yesterday…holding the ball, good possesion, and made others around him look better.

      Oh man…wouldn’t it be nice to have Gary Cahill at CB? haha

    • Cahill might be a little expensive for us. 🙂

      • T of the U says:

        …and far too old for Nowak’s liking.
        >25 years old…sell ’em for Allocation $$

        3/24 vs. Chi
        GK-MacMath (what’s our other option?)
        RB-Williams (actually playing RB)
        CB-Califf / Valdes
        F-Pajoy / Mwanga

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I doubt if Califf will be feeling better by then.

      • Especially now that he has come out and said he wasn’t hurt to start with…

    • I agree exactly i think that should almost always be there starting 11 maybe adding carroll in for keon though or okugo. Here are the subs i think would be good.

      MFarfan for torres
      Martinez, mcinerney, hoffman for adu (and turn it into a 433, it’s an option) or for mwanga up top.
      Carroll for keon or gomez
      Okugo for keon

  9. I want Garfan back at left back, Porfi Lopez and his afro are TERRIBLE, DREADFUL, AWFUL. Too passive, too much ball watching, too much wandering. Heard a young boy behind me pin a perfect nickname to Porfi, Slow-pez.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Sideshow Bob is wretched at left back. Zac Mac just might be terrible in goal. Midfield is a giant black hole. These issues need to be remedied sooner rather then later. 0-2 is not the end of the world, but if Nowak does not “manage” to iron out these kinks, we will not be competitive.

  10. Pulling Keon Daniel yesterday was just awful. Hernandez looked like someone who had never played in an MLS game before and Daniel had been our most controlled player up till that point.

  11. I think the game review was too positive but a bunch of the comments way too negative. We were the better team out there despite an inferior formation, a poor goal keeper, and every defender playing out of position. Might be that colorado is bad but they could exploit a disjointed 3 back set up. I also agree that my initial reaction to porfirio lopez is that he is not worth it, I think Garfan should be given another shot, his D is improving and his distribution would be better. Thought Keon was great yesterday with patience, good vision and service and a number of tough possession maintaining touches. Pajoy is legit and should not come out of the game, thought Mwanga looked better with him, stick to that pairing for now they had some rhythm. As for Albright, glad to have a Philly guy back but not good enough for the MLS game anymore. Christian Hernandez was not the right sub if we were trying to win yesterday, glad he could get his first MLS cap but he had a number of turnovers and was uncreative in his passes in a time when we needed to press. I thought Torres’ service was good but he kept the ball at his feet for way too long, keep it moving and the defense shifting.

    • We had better players out there, there is little debate in that. But I don’t know about the better team. If we were the better team it is only because Colorado was bad.

      The formation was horrible, players were bunched together in the middle. Lopez was bad, real bad and the players never went to the ball, they seemed to wait for it and that caused a lot of turnovers.

      Despite all that I am really warming up to this team for the most part and I think they could be really good if only Nowak would get out of the way.

      • Have you seen anything from Nowak that makes you think he will?

      • Bill Bergey 66 says:

        No and we never will!!!

      • Agreed also feeling like the squad is better than last year, if Nowak doesn’t get out of the way…I have confidence that it will become even more obvious and Sakiewicz will step in to make the adjustment.

  12. Bill Bergey 66 says:

    Nowak is an IDIOT! No Califf and a 3-5-2! Should we not have learned from this last year. If you are trying to win the game why bring on an 18 year old to make his debut? What about Jack Mac??? I like the hustle of Pajoy but his touches were terrible on long passes. SLopez stinks @ LB. Bring back Garfan.

  13. What concerns me (which no one seems to mention) is the fact that we played up for more than 30 minutes and during this time gave up 1 goal and scored only 1…. That shows how weak the team is. Also, we kept on playing them as if it was 11 v. 11 (long balls thru the middle); terrible!!

  14. Fear the Black Hand! There is a new wind blowing in the River End! Come to Section 138 and ask for the Rejects if you want to know more!

    • The Black Hand says:

      Nowak has three games to make strides in the right direction. Three games before the Black Hand reaches out for his neck.

  15. CityHeroesSpursZeros says:

    1. Williams and Marfan had good chemistry last year on the right side, why change it?
    2.Macmath needs to improve quick or he is going to be a confidence killer ala Seitz.
    3. Lets get Torres a start, I would rather have him at the beginning than the end.
    4. DannyBoy needs to start moving better off the ball and he needs a little killer instinct.
    5. When/if Pajoy Mwanga get on the same page they will impress.
    6. Didn’t think Lopez is as terrible as every one says.
    7. On the second goal, who got beat and left Valdez on an island? I don’t blame Macmath for that one and think he made a valiant effort.
    8. If you have a shaky goaltender make sure that you play solid d and build from there. It looked chaotic at times.
    9. Protect the F%^&ng ball.
    10. It is early, I still think we are going to click, but you have to wonder.

    • no argument with Albright being at fault, doesn’t change the fact that Lopez was slow, had poor service and has no place in that amoebic 3-5-2. Maybe he would look better in a traditional flat backs where his height matters but we might never know.

  16. After his comments do we think Califf will play v Chicago? This is very concerning. The 3-5-2 was crazy yesterday with a young GK. Play four at the back and let the high center back push up if the opportunity is there but first protect the back line. Albright couldn’t make the Red Bulls, why would he make ours except as cover for injuries. Forwards running into the same channels, another season with a suspect left back…wow

  17. 3-5-2 against a team that played 4-3-3 the week before, good choice coach. All they need to do is play 1v1 outside and beat 1 man and wala free shot on rookie keeper. Remind you of second goal coach?
    Have to give coach credit on not starting Califf, he can not play in 3 back system as he cannot get into any footraces with strikers and would thus play it very deep opening up flank space for other team.
    Zak not only missed ball on cross for 1st goal but on second 1v1 hands went toward farpost…ooops. He’s a trainwreck. Valdez did take away farpost shot but could not become pressuring defender in time to stop the shot or channel the dribbler. SYSTEM coach.
    I do like Pajoy and what he brings to the table, he showed in Portland game ability to hold ball in targeting situations but he is not going to outrun many centerbacks so stop putting him through from 40 yards. COACH?
    Gomez is a nice player and hard worker. He serves free kicks as well as anyone and with either foot. Porfie i really can’t say yet. He had Adu lost in middle of field most of the time against Portland and no help with no cover in the corner to help stop crosses so can’t really blame him much. On first goal he had 2 players crashing his area to finish cross so no help in this system either. COACH?
    Mr Nowak do you see any of these things?
    Sir you are paid to see these thing on practice pitch and choose a system and team that can defend as well as attack. How long is management going tolerate this. Please use some of that allocation money for more beer in Section 119 because maybe then i won’t notice all your blunders.

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