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Match report & quotes: Philadelphia 1-0 Columbus

Photo: Nicolae Stoian

They had to scrap it out until the end, but the Union kept a clean sheet and, most importantly, earned their first victory of the season with a 1-0 over the Columbus Crew at PPL Park.

The Union were the better side throughout, but the margin was only a 37th minute Gabriel Gomez penalty, after Crew defender Eric Gehrig handled a Freddy Adu cross in the box. With the Union midfield finally finding the chemistry coach Peter Nowak has been looking for in 2012 the scoreline could easily have been greater, but the Union’s strike force continued to sputter on the day mustering only two shots on target.

After the match, Peter Nowak said, “It was around sixty-five minutes feeling that we got to hold up. I think it was very important to the confidence. They start to see now that the work pays off and we got to keep going.”

Fortunately, there were no struggles for the defense, as Zac MacMath collected his second consecutive shutout. A pregame hamstring injury to captain Danny Califf forced a last minute shuffling of the Union lineup, with rookie Raymon Gaddis stepping into the back line and Sheanon Williams partnering Carlos Valdes in the center of the pitch.  Additionally, Gabriel Farfan was restored to the left back position – replacing Porfirio Lopez – completing an unexpected back four in front of Zac MacMath.

After Califf was controversially benched against Colorado Peter Nowak made clear today’s absence was just an injury issue:  “He was in the starting lineup, but then he went to do the warm-up and all of a sudden the stuff got worse, much worse…So it’s not me, I love Danny Califf. Don’t get me wrong.”

First Half

In an erratic first half, punctuated frequently with fouls, injuries and histrionics, the Union were able to capitalize on the only true chance.

Gaddis dove straight into the action, showing pace and intent in shutting the door on Eddie Gaven. The rookie also got forward well to support Keon Daniel. Gabriel Farfan was equally aggressive on the opposite wing, and Columbus, missing several regular starters, struggled to keep possession under the high pressure of the Union.

Despite a brief early spell of attack from the visitors, the Union settled into the match with Gabriel Gomez, deployed above Brian Carroll, joining Daniel, Michael Farfan and Freddy Adu in dominating the midfield contest. The foursome found each other with ease as the Union built seamlessly, and Columbus was forced to concede territory through the middle third.

However, the dominance yielded few results and the Union grew frustrated as the half wore on, unable to turn possession into goalscoring opportunities. Lone forward Lionard Pajoy displayed some delicate touches up top, but could not turn any of the quality service into chances. Too often Pajoy was found wanting for pace against the pairing of Chad Marshall and Eric Gehrig, not known to be speedsters themselves.

With Pajoy ineffective up top, it was the midfield, through Adu, that created the breakthrough. Cutting in from the left, Adu’s cross was handled by Gehrig and referee Michael Kennedy did not hesitate in pointing to the spot. Gomez stepped up and lofted a soft chip, with Gruenebaum thoroughly beaten.

Lacking the cutting edge to trouble the Union, Columbus were unable to mount a response and the home team was happy to take a one goal lead into the locker room.

Second Half

It was more of the same in the second stanza. Continuing to grow into his role in the center of the Union midfield, Michael Farfan pulled the strings, spreading the ball well and attacking the heart of the Crew defense. Still, an insurance goal would not come, with Marshall and Gehrig resolutely denying Pajoy’s breaking runs.

Against the run of play, Columbus set alarm bells ringing in the 54th minute when Olman Vargas knifed into the Union box. As he has been over the passed two matches, MacMath was quickest to react, flying off his line to save Vargas’ effort.

Philadelphia responded quickly on the other end with Adu’s inch-perfect cross finding Keon Daniel’s streaking run at the back post. Unfortunately for the home side, Daniel’s powerful header blazed just over the bar and the margin remained a single goal.

While it was assumed Josue Martinez’s introduction would result in the young Costa Rican running off of Pajoy, Martinez found himself alone with Pajoy dropping into midfield. The Union battened down the hatches to see out the result, and Martinez failed to enjoy the service Pajoy had in the first half.

Amobi Okugo entered for Gomez, adding defensive steel alongside Brian Carroll, and the Union did well to switch fields and retain possession as the match wore on and the three points came into focus. Antoine Hoppenot made his first MLS appearance in the dying minutes to add added fresh legs to the Union’s efforts.

But it was a day for the Union defense. And while they were made to sweat out the final result during a late string of Columbus corner kicks, the visitors fell short and the Union ran out deserving winners.
Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath; Raymon Gaddis, Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan; Brian Carroll, Gabriel Gomez (Amobi Okugo ’71), Keon Daniel, Michael Farfan; Freddy Adu (Josue Martinez ’62), Lionard Pajoy (Antoine Hoppenot ’93)
Unused substitutes: Chase Harrison, Jack McInerney, Cristhian Hernandez, Porfirio Lopez
Columbus Crew
Andy Gruenebaum; Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Eric Gehrig, Shaun Francis (Nemanja Vukovic ’73); Kirk Urso, Milovan Mirosevic, Eddie Gaven, Ethan Finlay (Bernardo Anor ’65); Olman Vargas, Aaron Schoenfeld (Emilio Renteria ’68)
Unused substitutes: Matt Lampson, Josh Williams, Tony Tchani, Cole Grossman

Scoring Summary:
37 – Philadelphia: Gabriel Gomez (PK)

Misconduct Summary:
25 – Philadelphia: Gomez (Caution)
48 – Philadelphia: Carroll (Caution)
70 – Columbus: Gehrig (Caution)
71 – Philadelphia: G. Farfan (Caution)
78 – Columbus: Gaven (Caution)
85 – Philadelphia: Martinez (Caution)

Post-match quotes:

Peter Nowak

  • On Ray Gaddis: “From the beginning you see that he was just trying to be secure…When the time goes by, he was not shy to go forward as well.”
  • On Freddy Adu’s play: “It was very good. I think Freddy did alright. He’s still progressing.”
  • On getting the season’s first win: “Getting the second consecutive shutout, I don’t think we gave any shots on goal [officially one shot on goal for CLB]. So, from any kind of perspective it was good.”

Ray Gaddis

  • On his pre-match emotions: “I don’t think i had any emotions. Coach always tells us to feel prepared, and I felt prepared. I knew had to step up for the team and get three points today.”
  • What went through his head when he heard he was starting: “I didn’t really think about it. I’ve been playing soccer all my life, this is what I do. You live for this moment.”
  • On the fans: “The fans were amazing today. The intensity, how loud they were, it was a tremendous thing.”
  • On his confidence after making his debut: “It felt really good. The coaching staff is confident in all the players here.  So when you hear the coaches call your name, you have to perform.  It does wonders for my confidence to get to play the full 90 and get three points.”
  • On support from his teammates: “I have tremendous teammates; they were encouraging me before the game, saying “Come on Ray, come on Ray.” Everyone out on the pitch helped me make the transition to my first professional game.  Sheanon was playing behind me and conducting me, telling me to do this and that.  My teammates helped me tremendously.”
  • On joining the attack as the game wore on: “I like getting forward. It puts the other team under a lot of pressure and creates avenues and opportunities for other players to get on the ball.  Getting up and down the lines is something the coaches preach, and I enjoy it.”

Gabriel Gomez

  • On getting three points: “We worked this past week to get this result. We have to congratulate the group, all teammates, our attitude and our dedication, and the supporters.”
  • On his penalty kick: “I try to make the best out of every situation hoping to score the goal and win. But for me, it’s all about teamwork rather than our individual game. I congratulate the team.”
  • On being substituted: “These are decisions made by the technical staff and I need to respect them as a player. He sees the game from another perspective and creates strategies. I was substituted but I believe that the entire team is working hard and the player that enters the field is going to give his best.”

Carlos Valdes

  • On the big win: I think that the most important thing today was winning. We lacked attitude sometimes. But the situation we were in, the pressure that we felt from the people, and the necessity to win encouraged us to get these results. We were able to meet our objectives and get those three points.
  • On what fans should expect from this team: I think that this is what we need right now. We needed a victory to start showing who we really are. We have had good matches but unfortunately, we haven’t had the best results. But we have a team that knows how to play soccer, a team with young players, a team with a lot of experience, and good dynamic. Every day, we are getting along better and people can expect this team to only get better.


  1. Man, I was hard on Carroll. But when you play him in his best spot, like today, he can still be fantastic. Playing him deep and letting Gomez get forward was an epiphany and it looked great on the field.
    Adu played well and it was unfair for Nowak to sub him out. I also liked Pajoy. He hasn’t been flawless, but he is that physical holdup presence that we needed and all that is left is to find him a good partner.
    Marfan is so good on the ball. He is still invisible at times, but other times he proves he can slice through the defense. I think he had 2 dribbles this game where he just made the defense look like it was standing still.
    Daniel, MacMath and Williams all played well too. Gaddis was steady, though I don’t think he did anything particularly noteworthy either.

  2. Adu was the most dangerous player on the field today for the Union. most composed on the ball and created the most chances. Yet Union fans are still idiots and yell sh*t at him. Nothing can show your stupidity about the game of soccer than standing up at a Union game and yelling “Adu. You suck!” If you’re still expecting him to be Pele.. newsflash… you’re a naive moron. Take away all names/expectations from our players… and judging solely on play…. Adu’s the best player.

    • Aside from his one good cross in the second half name another good chance.

      This is what i generally see from Adu. He lines up against a defender he does 3 or 4 unnecessary step overs and little juke moves. Then he loses the ball. Defenders do not fall for his shit… ever.

      • Good observation regarding his one-on-one dribbling. But he had some really good passes in the attacking third. I think he was a mixed bag today: The most dangerous Union attacker, but someone also finding that all the step-over dribbles in the world won’t beat athletic, experienced defenders because he’s just not explosive enough.

      • Couldn’t agree more. I don’t know how many times I yelled at him to make a decision and stop playing around with the ball! All the little step overs weren’t doing anything and just resulted in him losing the ball.

      • well then natalie… like my original post said… if you’re standing up at the games screaming at Adu… then you probably don’t know much about soccer. All those stepover and “little jukes” are what people in soccer call composure. To be able to hold the ball, and not do anything with it, but have the defender on the back foot reacting to you, as opposed to tackling you… is what good soccer players do. The goal isn’t always to beat the defender… but retain possession until your teammates can make a run and get into better positions. Like when he made a run into the corner opposite where the SOB sit. He did about 4 or 5 “little jukes” and he had the defender sliding all over the place. his goal wasn’t to beat the defender one on one, if he had, great, but what he did was hold the ball for a good 4 or 5 extra seconds to let his teammates crash into the box and be in position for a cross. So while you’re ignorantly and maniacally screaming at Adu to do something… he is doing something… you just don’t get it.

      • you obviously didn’t watch the game. he took on a player 1 on 1 and made the cross to win the penalty. he made the cross to keon that keon missed a pretty basic header on. he made the dangerous cross that Gehrig almost put into the back of his own net in the first half. you guys just know nothing about soccer. You’re naive and you’re still waiting for Pele to show up. Any touch that Freddy Adu has that doesn’t result in a goal is just another opportunity for your morons to bitch and moan. But if you were objective, you’d see that more of his possessions result in positives than any other of our players. I don’t give a shit if he loses the ball every now and then. That’s like saying Jeff Gordon sucks at driving because he crashes his car more than your 95 year old grandma who drives 25 mph down the highway. When you take risks and you’re striving to make plays, some turnovers will result. Better than never taking a risk and making back passes that don’t lead to shit 100% of the time. People fall for his moves all the time. I saw it at least 5 times this game where I’m’ sure you were bitching about his dribbling, and then he got past the defender or freed up enough space to make a cross. Learn soccer before you start getting opinionated.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Nascar analogy…really?

      • you didn’t understand it? I made it as simple as I could. I guess you required simpler.

      • The Black Hand says:

        wait for it…

      • You make a fair point, Donovan. Next time do it without insulting other commenters. Thanks.

        Love, PSP

      • I’ll stop insulting other commenters’ performances when they stop insulting the players on my team. You want to start throwing out insults at players…. or anyone…. you’re fair game in return.

      • That is not composure. How does that relate to composure. Here is my interpretation. It is a guy who was the best player when he was younger who never evolved his game and is still pulling out the playground tricks like they still work, when everyone he plays against has evolved past them a long time ago.

      • You don’t understand soccer.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    I’m curious as to why Nowak won’t play Adu for more than 60 minutes? He was able to go 90 in the Olympic qualifiers, so I can’t believe he isn’t in good enough shape. Even with the win, I’m not convinced Nowak can actually coach a game.

    A win against Columbus isn’t all that impressive. However, I do expect to see several Crew players at the Olympic diving trials.

    • Adu played really well today. I think he’s better when he can play further up the pitch. Union fans are so bitter because they’re still waiting for Adu to turn into Pele. So nothing he does short of replicating Pele numbers will make them happy. It’s sad that they don’t know how to appreciate soccer, because Adu did a very very good job today. I don’t think they appreciate the fitness that goes into the game and the stamina required either because they expect every player to sprint after every single ball regardless of how likely the player is to get it.

  4. Agreed that Adu was dangerous today. By far his best performance for the Union to date. His work rate was excellent (which is why he needed to come off at 62, though I’m sure he wanted to stay on). For those saying we should fire Nowak, don’t be absurd. He’s won the league as a player and a coach, and he took us to the playoffs as a second year expansion team. It’s ridiculous to call for his head because we lost 3 games. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s see where we are At the end of the season. I bet that once our new forwards begin to gel, the Union do just fine.

  5. Finally three points. Was mwanga injured?

  6. PhillyHotspur says:

    3 points, but our attack was pretty dismal yet again……..

    I still think that Carroll should not be used in these home games and could be sacrificed for a more attacking MFer…….Gomes is up to the task and I think Carroll & Gomes over-lap too much

    The lone striker Pujoy was MIA yet again………..Nowak’s defensive strategy is pretty tough to watch. 2 shots on target ?? And that PK was basically gifted to us by the zebras, so we were probably looking at another 0 0 result……

    Adu was electric out there and far and away our best player in the front 6…………So Nowak subs him in the 60th minute

    Nowak is pissing me off…………

    • I’ve been defending Pajoy but yesterday he was clearly missing something. Unfortunately we don’t really have any other strikers who can provide a physical presence, which you really need in MLS.

      I agree that Adu created some good things out there but I also agree with “Doc” above – it’s admirable to see Freddy trying to be a two-way player out there but he clearly doesn’t have the engine for it.

      • The Black Hand says:

        He can’t get it going as the lone striker. He seemed to show signs of life, the few instances that he had another striker to play off of.

      • Gordon Thompson says:

        449 minutes and 2 SOG. Not sure that is defining a striker/finisher that should be getting all the playing time.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I would have to agree with you on that one. The team has not done much to get him quality balls, but he should be able to generate more than two shots on goal. He did have a couple, of nice crackers, that were pretty close. The fact is, strikers have yet to show up for the ’12 season.

    • Carroll had a great game yesterday, not really sure where he went wrong, besides his yellow card he received. He is great at his position and with Gomez further up the field it freed Carroll up a bit.

      Carroll and Gomez overlap because Nowak does not play 1 single formation during a game, when we have the ball, we drop in and play almost a 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 with the 3 midfielders dropping but when we have the ball we play more of 4-1-4-1 with Gomez stepping up to get involved and Carroll staying home. This is a really complicated system to play because of how discipline the players have to be with their positioning throughout the whole game and we saw a couple times yesterday where Gomez ran into another player because they didnt have good positioning but Nowak is asking a lot of them with this kind of system.

      Our attack was good yesterday, not great but fairly good. As a whole, we were a bit wasteful. Our counters were decent, but also wasteful.
      You should be more upset at Adu then Nowak. When a coach makes a sub you get your ass off the field, look at the coach in the eyes, with a smile on your face if your winning and shake his hand like a respectful player. I like Adu, I am not a hater of any sort, that is not the fan I am but he needs to respect the coach’s decision a lot more than he did yesterday, it was very selfish of him to walk slowly off the field and not even look at Nowak when he shook his hand.

      Pajoy was not MIA he did well he was just wasteful, which does not be he was MIA he was just missing the goal, he was Robinho like yesterday, having a couple chances to put the game away and he didn’t
      And to say the refs gifted us that PK, I respectfully disagree with you completely. The refs missed one earlier in the game which was a clear cut PK. The PK given was also very clear cut, the arm was away from the body, in an unnatural position when it hit the ball or the ball hit it, it was PK, no gift, part of the game.

      • whaaaaaaa. more crying about Adu walking off the field. that’s what every player in the world does when you’re winning and you get subbed. you get off the field slowly. Lionard Pajoy was hiding for a good minute before the ref forced him off the field when he was subbed.

      • It was less about the walking and the disrespect he showed the coach when he got off the field, because the walk wasted time for us same for Pajoy except he respected the coach

      • could anything be funnier than Union fans complaining about someone else not respecting Peter Nowak? Lol. Hypocrites. The stadium boos every time his name is announced. The fans abuse him on twitter. Get real. Competitive players are disappointed when they get taken off the field. Just because Freddy Adu was visibly disappointed and didn’t agree with being subbed, doesn’t mean he necessary “disrespected” Peter Nowak. Let me ask you this… did you have a problem with Danny Califf ACTUALLY disrespecting Peter Nowak by coming out in the media and completely denying everything that Peter Nowak said, and contradicting it? Because that is ACTUALLY disrespectful. I haven’t heard Freddy come out in the media and criticize the coach, unlike Califf. Let me guess though. You sided with Califf on that one, because he’s one of your favorite players, and he’s white, and he hangs out with the SoB’s more than Freddy Adu. You’re all biased. You don’t give two damns about respecting Peter Nowak, you just want something to cry about.

  7. CityHeroesSpursZeros says:

    Glad we got the points, but it is a dreadfully boring product to watch.

  8. Thank goodness for that PK, because the offensive flow was almost non-existent for almost the entire game. I was shocked to read that we even had 2 SOG – did they count the PK as one of those? Ugly, ugly ugly.

    Carroll played his best game of the season IMO. A very good showing by him (and I’m normally an advocate of getting Amobi into that spot).

    I thought Adu played very well. Definitely one of his better games as a member of the U.

    Gaddis had a very shaky first half, but his second half play was tremendous – showed a ton of pace as well (reminded me of the Shaenon’s first start).

    MacMath stepped up when needed, though not under a lot of pressure in this game.

    We need more help up front, BADLY. Pajoy v. 3 or 4 defenders is not going to get the job done.

    Overall, I left game feeling we were very lucky to get a W and not at all impressed with the development of the team.

  9. snugsmac-rejects says:

    As a team we looked great, our best game since last year by far. Sure the offense leaves something to be desired, but it was better. Both wing-backs looked outstanding. We came out with punch and did not take any shit all day. We do need someone who can kick the ball into the freakin net during regular play, but aside of that it was a strong showing.

    If we can manage 3 more points in LA vs Chivas we will be back in the hunt in the East (in the hunt for a 4th or 5th playoff spot). I thought we were more ogranized and had the proper starting 11 out there for the first time. I am sorry to say this, but our back line looked faster and more agile then with Danny back there.

    Freddy Adu, plainly put had his best game as a Union player. Was it perfect, no, but it was pretty damn good. He looked dangerous, connected play and caused the PK. Haters need to stop hating him for a minute and let the guy spread his wings with us, you may be surprised with what you get.

  10. snugsmac-rejects says:

    @ Donovan. Good for you sir. Alot people on these PSP boards are here solely to complain. ADU was very good on the ball today. He made many attacking plays and was the reason we got the win. Keon almost finished an outstanding ball from him with a lightning header that didn’t miss by much.

    I am on here alot, and will complain about the team when needed. But to come on and shit on your own team after any 3 point win is classless.

    Support your team, we played well this weekend and got a win…enjoy your week!

    PS – Natalie, you are new to soccer, it is obvious.

  11. I saw some improvement in the offensive flow. Not great yet but I’ll take Pajoy (and Josue for that matter) over Mwanga and JackMac any day. It’s only a matter of time before Pajoy starts finding the back of the net. He is a presence out there. I don’t think he disappeared at all…

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