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Chivas USA 0-1 Union; Nowak, Daniel, Garfan ejected

It’s hard to imagine the assist being nicer than a backheeled goal. But Michael Farfan set up Freddy Adu’s winner with a hypnotizing run, and the Union held on to earn their first road win of the season over Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.

Philadelphia is now unbeaten in their last three, and Chivas USA remains winless at home.

The Union lost Keon Daniel and Gabriel Farfan to second-half red cards, both for dangerous tackles.

Chivas control possession early

Adu’s goal came against the run of play, with Chivas on the front foot for much of the first half. In fact, the Union barely touched the ball in the first five minutes. In the 7th, Philly mounted their first semblance of an attack through Daniel and Michael Farfan. After forming an outlet pattern through the center, the two midfielders began to create pushback against the relentless Chivas attack.

In the 12th minute, the Union almost took advantage of an Adu corner kick. Brian Carroll stepped into a rebound but blazed well over the bar.

Chivas regained control in the 16th minute as Alejandro Moreno’s quick turn and shoot worried the Union lines. Sitting deeper, they allowed Chivas to build attacks with short passes around the box. Only great teamwork and coordination held together the Philadelphia defenses as the goats probed down both wings.

In the 33rd, the service began to improve, and the situation looked dire. First Ante Jazic sent a hard curler in from the left that was barely cleared. Then, after a mazy Marfan run led to a free kick that Adu drove into the wall, James Riley sent a gorgeous ball into the Union box that Brian Carroll barely cleared from danger.

Magic Marfan and fancy Freddy

If the tie was to be broken, it seemed certain that Chivas would be swinging the wrecking ball. Michael Farfan felt differently, however, and continued his growth with a dynamic, weaving run down the right to set up Freddy Adu’s 40th minute strike. Farfan collected the ball and drove at Heath Pearce, juked to the left to confuse the help defender, and an isolated Pearce soon found himself signed up for an impromptu spin class. Alone near the endline, Marfan drove in a low cross that Riley misplayed on the slide. Adu instinctively put a backheel to the loose ball, and the woodwork eased the ball into the netting.

If they were put off by the goal, Chivas hardly showed it. A trio of corners were poorly cleared by the Union and a tying strike seemed likely. In first half extra time, a frustrated Moreno came in late on Gabriel Farfan and earned a caution. That brought the first 45 to an unsatisfying end for the home side.

Union stronger to start the second half

Though they had been thoroughly pinned in, the Union took heart from their first half lead. Early in the second frame, Lionard Pajoy’s consistent defensive pressure resulted in a misplaced pass onto his feet. The striker’s touch let him down as he drove to goal, however, and Chivas easily cleared.

In the 56th, Moreno rose dangerously in the box to head a free kick wide. The Union raced down the field, and Sheanon Williams appeared to double their lead, but his fine tap home was called back for offsides. Now Chivas was on the quick restart, and Nick LaBrocca drove in alone on Raymon Gaddis. As he has done since joining the first eleven, Gaddis calmly manhandled his opponent. LaBrocca used a speed move, and Gaddis put his body between the attacker and the ball. After 180 minutes, the young right back has hardly put a foot wrong, and his offensive confidence was almost visibly growing.

Through all of Chivas’ pressure, few shots had made it to Zac MacMath. In the 59th, Blair Gavin made sure the young goalie was ready to contribute. MacMath palmed away Gavin’s free kick blast.

Final third gets rough

The rough third of the match began in the 60th. Carlos Valdes earned a yellow for clattering in with his elbow on a header. Then, after Kennedy claimed Michael Farfan’s low drive, Juan Pablo Angel made his return to the home lineup. Moments later he blew a gilt-edged chance to even the score.

Miller Bolanos was proving a handful on the right, and when he found space he curled the ball onto Angel’s head. The striker had space between defenders but nodded the ball wide of net.

Amobi Okugo came on for Gabriel Gomez, who put in a hardworking shift despite a slight calf strain. Okugo and Carroll held a deep line, and Chivas began looking to run off Moreno posting up defenders. The big striker attempted to turn Sheanon Williams in the 74th, and the Union defender earned a caution for playing fine defense.

Keon Daniel ejected

In the 75th, Keon Daniel was sent off with a straight red card for a high challenge. Chasing a loose ball, Keon turned and swung a loose leg at high shin level. The card was immediate and hard to dispute. It was a rare moment of madness from the best midfielder on the team this season.

Bolanos’ growth led Peter Nowak to withdraw Adu and put Chris Albright in at left midfield. It proved a fortuitous substitution five minutes later when Albright was forced into the back four.

Garfan and Nowak join Daniel

Gabriel Farfan and James Riley were both lunging in after the same loose ball in the 85th minute when Garfan caught Riley and was ejected. Riley stayed down, motionless, for a number of minutes while Nick LaBrocca and Dan Kennedy sprinted over to confront Garfan. Michael Farfan quickly joined the fray and then the Union bench, in front of which the incident occurred, got involved.

Peter Nowak was at the center of it all, arguing and shoving all comers. Gabriel Gomez, now wearing his sweats, calmed Kennedy as more players arrived on the scene. Nowak was told to join Daniel and Garfan in the locker room before play resumed.

Wolverine James Riley suddenly fine

Oddly enough, James Riley was fine. He walked off the field under his own power and moments later returned with nary a tender step. In fact, he drove a shot over the bar soon after rejoining play. Both players went in to a poor tackle; Riley just turned out to be the better salesman.

Chivas was running out of ideas, and after MacMath did well to hold Gavin’s powerful drive from the middle, the three points were in sight. In the 91st, Ryan Smith blazed high off a poor Marfan clearance. Then Jack McInerney, on for Marfan, powered a headed clearance from danger. Bolanos wasn’t quite done, though, and he isolated McInerney in he 93rd before floating a tempting cross over MacMath. The Union defense scrambled the ball into their keeper’s hands.

Ryan Smith had one more delicious cross in his quiver, and Juan Pablo Angel showed his rust in heading the ball wide. An inexplicable corner was given, from which Okugo broke out and released McInerney up the middle. The young striker curled to the left corner, and the Union ran out the win with nine men.


It was a costly win but three points that Philadelphia desperately needed. The offense continued to show a disturbing lack of consistency, but the skill and guile of the young midfield shone through with more regularity than past affairs. Losing Gabriel Farfan is a terrible blow with a dangerous San Jose team next on the docket, but losing Keon Daniel is just as tough to take. Daniel has been in brilliant form throughout the 2012 season, and his composure in the midfield will be hard to replace. While it’s likely that Porfirio Lopez will step in t0 Garfan’s shoes (unless Califf returns and Gaddis slides over), Peter Nowak has no ready-made replacement for what Daniel brings to the table. Josue Martinez, Jack McInerney and Chandler Hoffman are all options, while going to a 4-4-2 and pushing Michael Farfan to the wing is a realistic maneuver as well.

The Philadelphia Union are forging an identity as the first full month of the season winds to an end, but with two key contributors out against the Earthquakes, that identity will be sorely tested next weekend.



GK: Kennedy

DEF: Jazek, McKenzie (89′ Townsend), Pearce, Riley

MID: Minda (55′ Gavin), Smith, Cardozo (63′ Angel), LaBrocca, Bolanos

FWD: Moreno


GK: MacMath

DEF: Garfan, Valdes, Williams, Gaddis

MID: Adu (81′ Albright), Carroll, Gomez (71′ Okugo), Marfan (’89 McInerney), Daniel

FWD: Pajoy


40 – Adu (Marfan)

Yellow cards

46 – Moreno

60 – Valdes

70 – Pajoy

73 – Williams

87 – Kennedy

Red cards

75 – Daniel

85 – Garfan


  1. Isn’t a straight red card a Two game suspension? Meaning Garfan & Keon are out for Seattle as well?

  2. Keon’s left leg was never high off the ground, I don’t get that card at all. Glad about Nowak’s card though, he should just get the fuck out of our team.

  3. The person (after MacMath) I’m most impressed by is Peter Nowak. Excellent job. For starters, he stuck with the same lineup two matches in a row! And it was a good lineup! Unlike most of the time were there’s a need for a sub at the half, I was sad to see anyone come off.

    One of the most impressive parts is the faith he’s showing in Gaddis, who is clearly responding. I also liked the energy this team came out of the half with, and their composure down two men when they played smart. I know the Nowak haters will never give him credit because “waah, he sold Letoux! waah, he won’t play Danny Bust-wanga” but he definitely deserves it.

    Also, were the early MacMath struggles a good thing? It seems like he’s been completely fearless and confident ever since those.

    As unfashionable as it is to say this, I’m very optimistic about our club moving forward.

    • McMohansky says:

      Not at all unfashionable to state optimism for the future of this team. Its the youngest team in the league with many quality youngsters.
      I can’t agree MacMath’s early struggles were good for us- they cost us points we can’t get back. His confidence was there last season too, but not the blunders.
      Finally, I’m a Novak hater, but I’ll gladly admit he’s nailed the last two games. Long may it last.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Nowak did have the future of the team in mind, when he made his offseason decisions and I commend him for that. Seba wanted substantial money. Quite a bit more than he was making and far more than the Union could afford. If we paid him, we would have a thirty-something Seba and an unflattering supporting cast of aging players, to make up our football club. No potential future growth. In the long run, he made the right choice. Point Nowak. Bringing in Herdling, for his young players to learn from is a solid move made with the long-term benefits in mind. He can provide leadership to our very young club. As is evident by our double straight red performance, we could use a lesson in composure on the pitch. Nowak deserves credit to go along with the blame. Thats all the credit I have. The constant use of Lionard Pajoy is poor. He just can’t get the job done up front and that has been showing for four matches. He dribbled two balls out of play, completely uncontested. He provides no presence in the box. Leaving him in the game for so long was a bad managerial decision, in my opinion. I hope to see a change for next match. I feel bad for Keon. He might have opened the door for Herdling to walk right in. Keon has played well and earned his spot in the XI, but that does not mean that Nowak will honor it. I don’t know where else to plug the German in. Marfan and Adu are coming into form. With a finisher up top, our offense might just show up after all. Mwanga has never really had a real shot at striker. I’d like to see him get a solid run of games. He is a bigger, faster target than Pajoy. I’ve seen enough of Pajoy half-assing it out there. All in all, we got the three points. We are right back in the hunt. We’ve seen progress made on the pitch. Now, let’s see the boys tidy up play a little bit and take it to San Jose. We are a stronger team than we have been credited for. If we can get our youth focused on playing strong, composed football; we will make a solid run this year.

  4. Farfan’s assist was a real act of brilliance, but otherwise we were dominated. Just look at the possesion and shots numbers. We were just lucky we played a crap team like Chivas. And our only goal last game was from a PK. Not much to be optimistic about.

    • The Black Hand says:

      We are not a possession ball club, by any means. We are reactive and for now that is okay. We are still above water. I see our midfield getting stronger and developing some real chemistry. Given the fact that our defense had to restructure on the fly, I feel that they have held up to the task. Zac MacMath is looking more and more like a solid goalkeeper. There is cause for optimism. Support your club!

      • I agree with many of the Black Hand’s point here.

        1) Pajoy sucks- his touch is worse then the striker on my nephews u-16 team.

        2) You will not see ADU or Marfan coming out of the game anytime soon.

        3) Garfan is dirty – he is a good/tough back which is what you want. But a double footed studs up tackle is too much. He may get an extra game or two for that one. He was dirty vs. Columbus as well. I like it.

        4) Keon – he is a lanky dude who took a wild swing at a tackle/ball and missed. It was a bad call. A yellow probably, but not a straight red.

        5) Liz, we are not a possesion team, nor will we be anytime soon.

        6) People need to understand we are a defensive minded club that is built from the back forward. Would you rather be built like the NYRB? Either win 4-1 or lose 4-1 every week? Not me.

        A gutty game and a super win BECAUSE it puts us back in the fold. Another result this week would be unexpected and HUGE.

        Let’s keep our heads up, we are back to being competitive.


      • Saying the options are bad offense/strong D or Red Bulls is a false dichotomy. The goal is to be like last year’s LA team: Strong defense and organized offense. I think dismissing the possession approach is a bad idea. Why can’t a team with Keon Daniel, Freddy Adu, Gabriel Gomez and Michael Farfan in the midfield be possession-based? In fact, you could make a strong argument that they should be.

        And as a final note: It’s totally fine to be pessimistic and critical. That doesn’t mean you don’t support the club or the players. All opinions are welcome.

        Opinions like this one: Garfan’s red card was harsh. It was a 50/50 ball and if Riley doesn’t act like he was in his final throes, it’s a yellow.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        50/50 maybe but 100% studs up=red card

      • The Black Hand says:

        Our midfield does not hold possession, because we don’t have a forward option to progress play. All balls are either played laterally, (never across the entire field), or back. When you play like that, you do not stretch the opposing teams. They can focus more on pushing us back and cut off space, forcing us to play the ball away (most times). Now, that is not to say that we do not advance the ball at all. It is only saying that we do not hold possession because we play ourselves out of options many, many times. To be a strong possession club, you need quality, well placed passing. We play a lot of passes to players without outlets, rather than holding until something opens. Keon has been the strongest at holding on to the ball and waiting for a lane. Adu does as well, but many times plays himself into a corner with one too many touches. Farfan makes some poor decisions (not leading a player/ playing a pass to a player without options or space), but makes up for it with his willingness to take on a defender one on one. Can they progress to be a more possessive midfield? yes, I think so. Are they now? No. To be like L.A. (last year), you need a strong threat from the striking unit to keep back lines on their heels. They had/have Robbie Keane. Do we even have a striker???
        Garfan led into an undisciplined tackle with two feet and cleats up. That is a red card every time.

      • Garfan’s tackle was stupid but what the hell is James Riley doing sliding two footed across the pitch 2 seconds before the ball is ever going to arrive. Farfan was going to get to that ball first and Riley is an idiot and just slide tackles the grass in front of the ball.

        Keon’s was tough. At first glance it seemed a straight red but then when you watch replays you realize he very long, that his left foot on the ground makes contact with Smith and his wild swinging right foot doesnt touch Smith and it just looks bad because of his length.

      • @Adam. I am not dismissing a more total approach. What I am saying is that our culture is of a defensive mind. We ARE built from the back to the front, and there is nothing wrong with that. Of course the goal is to be like the Champions of the league….that is the goal in any sport. “Possession” is a tricky word, a team can sit there and knock it around all game – that does not make them the better club.

        We had more our most success last year, Yes? Were we more of a defensive club then? Yes, I think only the Galaxy gave up less goals then we did.

        You cannot have everything in the MLS, especially with no DP’s, no Robbie Keane, no Landon, no Beck. We have to do what we can with what we have. We have not given up a goal in ages, and that is something of beauty too.

        PS – Garfan’s tackle looked like a red to me, not Keon though. If you come in with a double footed, studs up tackle any ref is going to show you the rojo.

    • Careful with possession, it is one of the most misleading stats in soccer.

  5. Many respected clubs pride themselves as being counterpunchers and NOT possesion heavy.

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