Union match reports

Match Report: Philadelphia Union 4-2 San Jose Earthquakes

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

After throwing away an early two goal lead, Philadelphia Union roared back with goals from Sheanon Williams and Andrew Wenger to insure a precious three points, defeating San Jose 4-2 at PPL Park on Sunday night. Wenger finished with a brace after he and Sebastien Le Toux had the Union in front by a pair of goals after only 14 minutes.

Despite finishing the first half with all of the momentum, the Union sat back after the break, allowing San Jose back into the game. And the visitors took their chances with Sam Cronin smashing an unstoppable volley past debutante Rais Mbolhi, before Chris Wondolowski capitalized on a Ray Gaddis mistake, pounding home the equalizer.

The Union’s lead was quickly restored only two minutes later when Williams’ pouncing on a Le Toux free kick, before Wenger raced away from Shaun Francis and launched an unstoppable drive past Jon Busch.

“Credit to our guys for sticking with it and getting the result,” Union interim head coach Jim Curtin said after the match. “Scoring four goals at home is always a positive, but all week we talked about shutouts and protecting this house and not giving up goals. But hey, four goals at home; we’re happy with three points and that’s kind of the name of the game at this stage.”

First Half

With a full week of rest,, Jim Curtin chose to deploy Amobi Okugo and Maurice Edu together in the midfield for the first time, as he looked to control the center of the park against an exhausted Earthquakes team, who were coming off of a road draw in Seattle on Wednesday. Out wide, Wenger’s recent form earned him the start opposite Le Toux, with Conor Casey returning to the starting lineup.

And the Union got off to the best possible start only 10 minutes into the game. After having conceded a free kick, Casey picked off Shea Salinas’ poor delivery and sent Le Toux away on the counter. Casey and Le Toux both factored twice in the build, with Le Toux playing in the final ball for Wenger, who took a touch onto his left foot then ripped a drive into the top corner past Jon Busch.

Wondolowski nearly pulled one back when he pounced on a loose ball in the box, but his effort rebounded back off of Mbolhi, who knew very little about the shot, but was well positioned.

Four minutes after Wenger’s opener, Le Toux doubled the Union’s advantage. Sheanon Williams’ dangerous delivery had San Jose scrambling and Casey did just enough to put off Victor Bernandez, whose awkward header fell to the feet of Le Toux, and the Frenchman made no mistake to tally his 11th goal of the season.

It remained one way traffic with Wenger driving past Ty Harden in the 27th minute, though his low ball was straight at Busch. Vincent Nogueira had the next chance,  sending a rasping drive just wide of the near post.

Second Half

Comfortably on the front foot, Wenger nearly scored againl early in the second half, but after he raced past Harden, he took the wrong option, electing to cut back a pass rather than firing on goal.

Casey was the next Union player to spurn a gilt-edged chance, when Williams’ cross froze Busch, but the striker sent his powerful header straight into the grateful arms of the Earthquakes goalkeeper.

The Union would rue the missed chance, with Cronin halving the lead two minutes later in the 59th. When Carlos Valdes struggled to deal with a long ball into the box, his soft header bounced out to Cronin. Taking time to size up his shot, Cronin’s volley was perfectly placed, leaving Mbolhi with no chance.

Wenger immediately tried to drive the Union back forward, but after beating Harden, Nogueira failed to make anything of his entry pass.

And with the Union again failing to put away the result, San Jose found an unlikely equalizer. In the 70th minute, Shea Salinas did well to hold off Valdes and launch a cross to the back post. Gaddis had the post covered, but when the ball flew over his head, Wondolowski crashed in behind him, lashing home a one-time effort.

Rather than hang their heads, the Union came right back at San Jose and two minutes after Wondowlowski’s goal they regained the lead. With Le Toux over a free kick wide on the attacking right flank, Williams crashed the near post. Racing inside of Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, Williams stooped to send a skimmed header past Busch.

Mbolhi had the Union supporters biting their fingernails in the 77th minute when he misjudged a Jordan Stewart long ball, allowing it to carom off of the crossbar and back into the box. Fortunately for Mbolhi, his defense reacted quickly, scrambling the ball out of the danger area.

With the match wearing towards a tense conclusion, Wenger insured his team could breathe more easily, burying an insurance goal in the 79th minute. Le Toux grabbed his third assist of the night releasing Wenger, who showed power and pace to first hold off, then run past, Shaun Francis. Before Jason Hernandez could arrive to offer support for his fullback, Wenger unleashed a drive that was past Busch almost before the goalkeeper could react, settling the result to claim a vital three points.

Save for a road friendly against USL PRO affiliate Harrisburg City Islanders on Thursday, the Union are off from play until Sept. 3 when they host Toronto FC.

Philadelphia Union

Rais Mbolhi; Sheanon Williams (Michael Lahoud ’75), Ethan White, Carlos Valdes, Ray Gaddis; Amobi Okugo, Maurice Edu; Sebastien Le Toux, Vincent Nogueira, Andrew Wenger (Danny Cruz ’82); Conor Casey (Brian Brown ’62)
Unused substitutes: Zac MacMath, Fred, Brian Carroll, Cristian Maidana.

San Jose Earthquakes
Jon Busch; Ty Harden (Shaun Francis ’66), Victor Bernardez, Jason Hernandez, Jordan Stewart; Shea Salinas, Sam Cronin, JJ Koval (Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi ’46), Cordell Cato; Tommy Thompson, Chris Wondolowski
Unused substitutes: Bryan Meredith, Adam Jahn, Brandon Barklage, Billy Schuler

Scoring Summary
PHI: Wenger (Le Toux, Casey) — 10
PHI: Le Toux — 14
SJE: Cronin — 59
SJE: Wondolowski (Salinas) — 70
PHI: Williams (Le Toux) — 72
PHI: Wenger — 79

Discipline Summary
PHI: Le Toux (caution) — 67

Referee: Ted Unkel

Philadelphia Union San Jose Earthquakes
12 Attempts on Goal 6
6 Shots on Target 4
5 Shots off Target 1
1 Blocked Shots 1
5 Corner Kicks 3
24 Crosses 20
3 Offsides 1
14 Fouls 9
1 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
396 Total Passes 499
80% Passing Accuracy 83%
44.6 Possession 55.4%
46 Duels Won 41
52.9% Duels Won % 47.1%
17 Tackles Won 12
2 Saves 2
18 Clearances 21


  1. Sheanon Goal was either off of his head or Pierazzi’s leg. Sheanon stuck his face out there, not his leg. FUN to watch, I want whatever Wenger ate for breakfast…

  2. We can talk all we want about what went right and wrong in this result and not a bit of it matters, cause Rais M’Bolhi looked WICKED in that white goalkeeper kit.

  3. I wouldn’t read too much into this game. If the Dallas game was a game we were “supposed” to lose The San Jose game was a game we were “supposed” win. Toronto will be a more telling test.
    That first Wenger goal was pretty. So, So, Pretty.
    Why the hell was Nogueira such a threat? He seemed determined to score a goal.
    Mbohli looked rusty as hell and was in no way ready to start. I think there was more to Macmaths benching last week than it seemed like a good time to start Andre Blake.
    Speaking of Macmath he is handling this amazingly (at least publicly) If it were me I would be at Dick Allen levels of Fuck you trade me.
    Rais Mbolhi Beard level: BADASS

    • Zac has been putting on a clinic on how to handle a benching like a pro. Also, major bonus points to him for joining the kids during halftime.

  4. Rais is a lot bigger dude with a bigger wingspan than I had thought; maybe it’s the green jersey?

    I think Nogueira can read and speak english now because he played like he read the article about him from earlier in the week and sought to prove some people wrong. He looked fantastic up there in the 10 tonight.

    The Wenger trade looks much better after tonight.

    Good result; even after the game was tied I had a calm feeling knowing we would score again just because the team looked dangerous all night going forward.

    • I couldn’t provide you any evidence SJ has a RB after watching Andrew Wenger all night. And not just the two goals, either. He was open on the touchline nearly all night.
      What’s the Union record for points in a game? I failed my Google-fu earlier, but I gotta think Le Toux either set or tied that record with his 4 points, right?
      Also, was Le Toux’s yellow as bogus as it looked to me on first glance from my section? Or is he now reinventing himself as a badass, after earning his second yellow on the year?

      • We scored six against Toronto a couple years ago

      • Right. I meant points by a single player, though.

      • I did a little digging. I only looked at games where the Union scored 4 or more goals in an MLS regular season game. As best as I can tell, Le Toux’s 4 points last night is a club record. (Also, his 3 assists in one game ties Maidana for the club record for assists in a game; Maidana did it June 7th against Vancouver.)
        Aside from Maidana’s 3 assists in June and Le Toux’s hat trick against DC, the only other time I found a player with 3 points was Danny Mwanga, who had 2 goals and an assist in that 6-2 game vs Toronto May 28, 2011. (That game was glorious – Justin Mapp had 2 goals; Le Toux had a goal and an assist; and Kyle Nakazawa also had a goal and an assist. It doesn’t really affect the discussion, but it gave me an excuse to type Kyle Nakazawa’s name, which is always fun to say in my head while I’m typing.)
        There may be other instances of a player scoring 3 points in a game – I didn’t check any of the games where they scored 3 – but it certainly seems like it’s the first time a Union player had 4 points in a game. So, add two more club records to Le Toux’s ledger. 🙂

      • I’m glad you researched and enjoyed it but Le Toux was not credited with an assist on Wenger’s second

      • You are either biased, or didn’t see it properly, but Le Toux definitely deserved the yellow card, although it’s a yellow card you have to take to stop the breakaway.

      • Thanks. I’ll look for a reply and watch again. That’s the only downside to going to the games – any sport, really: the lack of reply in some instances.

      • It wasn’t a very hard foul, but definitely professional and worthy of a yellow. BTW, that kid Thompson on San Jose who Le Toux took down looked like the only player of theirs that wanted to be there.

  5. Great game all around. Passing on the first goal sequence was inch perfect. Only slip was the wondo goal. Sitting in 123, it unfolded in slow motion. Wondo waving his arms for what felt like forever and Ray too far center.

    • Ray was covering for Valdes, who after trying to break it up and failing at midfield the first time went all in and tried a second, falling it left the middle wide open.

  6. Mbolhi was not ready, but started because of all the flak about the delay. The pressure was on and we couldn’t hold the lead. Maidana must still not be ready to sub Noguiera and that’s increasingly worrisome. Casey was perplexing. He turned it over consistently, set up too close to corner kicks twice & only had the header & one – touch to Noguiera to show for 62 minutes. Brown on at intermission. Wenger finally starts & shows what he can do.

    • Casey always looks so damn tired.
      I liked Edu and Okugo a lot last night.
      Noguiera back to his old self? Lovely sharp movement and quickness and crispness to his play.
      Truth be told with the addition of Valdez and a keeper of Rais’ supposed quality and Noguiera and Maidana and Okugo and Sheannon rounding into form lately and Edu and Le Toux scoring and assisting like usual and Brown as speedy get behind defense threat and Cruz off bench to punish tiring legs and La Hood off bench late to strengthen and hold lead and and and….. this team has potential to make noise.
      It is becoming easier and easier to see.

    • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

      If you think Casey had a bad night then you must not be watching the game. 2 specific examples”

      1. Sent the perfect through ball to LeToux to lead to the first goal.

      2. Pressured the D on Williams’ cross leading to a poor clearance and LeToux’s goal.

      His hold up play as fantastic all night and his ability to drop deep and show for the ball brought defenders with him which provided space for Wegner and Le toux channels to run and windows for Nogs to run and pass through.

      He is old and will never go all 90, but he played really, really well last night.

      Side note: Williams played great last night (aside from the goal), probably best game all season and as a whole, this was one of the strongest lineups we’ve had in a long time. Okugo and Edu compliment each other very well.

      • Great points, Dan. The one thing that I like about Edu and Okugo is that you know one of them is going to get forward and be productive in attack when Noguiera drops deep. Noguiera didn’t do that a lot last night because he was able to find the ball in those advanced spots. It will be interesting to see how better teams clog that central midfield against us to see how we handle it with this midfield 3.

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        Did Nogs get the balls in advanced positions because he played differently or because having Okugo and Edu behind him allowed the ball to be actually played fwd? lol Those 2 pass a hell of alot better then Lahoud and Carroll. Will be interesting to see lineups when Maidana is healthy.

      • Dan, I don’t think Nog. played different. I think the difference is that the rest of the team actually was moving on and off the ball and the passing was with precision and pace. This is how Nog. plays every game and how he likes to play. If the U can keep this type of play against Toronto then I think The Union can have a good chance of making the playoffs. They need to play in this fashion throughout the rest of the season, no excuses.

      • Not a bad game, but if Casey knew he was coming out at the half, he could spend himself and keep possession – especially when holding a 2-0 lead.

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        I’ll have my midfielders look to hold possesion and have my target fwd look to spring advanced wingers on a counter attack against a team down 2 nil and pressing any day of the week.

      • I agree. Casey isn’t flashy at all, and he will give the ball away occasionally, but he made a lot happen last night. And the defense must account for him at all times, because of his delivery and physical presence.
        He has a very subtle game, but it’s critical to this team’s success.

      • I think Connor played well I was just commenting on the fact he always seems to look gassed.

    • I disagree actually on Casey. I thought he flicked on a ton of headers from punts/goal kicks, and had great touch on many a pass. The ball he put down the sideline for LeToux was a thing of beauty. I’m fine with him coming off after 60 for fresh legs, but thought he put in a solid shift.

  7. Awesome game to watch. It’s amazing how much more dangerous we look with a legit threat on the left, it felt like Nogueira and Le Toux had more room bc of it. Shaenon is finally starting to look like his old self, and the Valdes/White combo looked pretty solid all night. Edu and Okugo paired well together all night.
    It’s a shame we gave up the two goals, really just minor mental coverage slips by Okugo and Gaddis. But still it took a wonder strike and one of the best MLS scorers to capitalize.
    M’Bohli (hate switching the keyboard for the ‘) looked rusty, but I was actually surprised/impressed by his vocalness. Also he is a lot bigger than I thought. Great game all around.

    • I like your first point. Adam has broken down many Union games where 80%+ of the Union attack came down the right side. Most teams played the Union that way. If you make the opponent defend the whole width of the field-ala Chip Kelly- then there is great space for Maidana/Nogueira/Edu/Okugo to exploit. All those guys are capable of exploiting it too, unlike past years.

  8. Here’s a big problem though: between the 37′ and 38′ there was a counter attack while we were up 2-0. If you watch it, there are FOUR GUYS that SPRINT almost 50 yards…and then they lose the ball.
    Why why why not slow the game down with the 2 goal lead and stop running our players in to the ground?!

  9. Fun game to watch, but nerve racking. Loved Wenger’s Arjen Robben imitation. His confidence is growing. Maybe the home cooking. M’Bolhi looks menacing. Couple puzzling things- what was the point of the Sakeiwicz interview? He always looks annoyed, constipated or as if he’s up to something sneaky. Is anyone else bothered by the constant whining of the Union’s broadcasting and play by play team? To me the seem to dwell a lot about what could go wrong. When something goes right for the Union the compliments sound disingenuous.

    • I am not a big fan of the Unions play by play team this year. And where was Heather Mitts? She was my favorite part of the broadcast.

    • I noticed that about Sak as well. Would have expected him to be more upbeat.

      To be fair to the Union broadcasting crew, that’s standard operating procedure for all MLS crews. Complain about officials when they make a call vs your team. It’s very rare to have an unbiased broadcast, but since they’re getting paid by the team, why should we expect anything different?

      • The winning goal used to mean something special…but not in this game because it was Williams ….his cross led to second goal but you don’t c that in the stats. Such a game changer he is. People forget how good this dude is sometimes. Because of the other stars on this team…keep it up man one day you will get what you deserve.

      • I thought the Dallas broadcasters did an OK job during the Open Cup game. There was homerism, but not as much.
        Heather had a baby back in January. Extended maternity leave, maybe?

  10. Zac was probably out there with the kids most likely b/c he got his butt chewed for blowing off his appearance with a hundred kids the prior weekend. Might’ve been another reason for Rais starting last night.

  11. If the others, besides Wenger, had better shots on target it could have been 6-2. They need a serious shooting clinic before the Cup Final; then they will win the Cup for sure!

  12. It’s too bad the Union game was buried on Univision. Their showing, after the clinic Seattle put on vs. Portland, should generate some interest in the Cup final, even for neutrals.

  13. old soccer coach says:

    For the first half hour the space in front of our two center backs seemed utterly open whenever the back;ine won the ball for us and Okugo and Edu were creative and dangerous. That first half hour was gorgeous soccer. We were flying. Then we slowed down. Peter Nowak earned much deserved criticism, but he did have the 2010 team in amazing physical shape. Would we be fun to watch if the pace and quality of the first thirty could last for forty-five or sixty. There was a game against New England when we went down at least three goals, maybe four, and simply outworked them in the second half soo badly that were came away with a tie.

    • Having done some research earlier… that game was September 7, 2011. 🙂 We were down, I believe, 4-1 and came back to tie, with a stoppage time goal by Le Toux sealing the deal. Le Toux had a brace (including a PK for goal #3) and Old Serb Paunovic chipped in a pair of assists.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Game was supposed to be about a week and a half earlier but was postponed by Hurricane Irene. One of the most exciting matches ever at PPL. I think Roger Torres scored a goal that match as well.

      • Indeed he did. He opened the scoring for the Union.

  14. One of the best all around games I’ve seen in awhile. While I wasn’t happy to see it, San Jose’s first goal was one of those where you just have to say well done to the other team rather than blaming someone on your team. On the other hand, Wenger’s individual play on the last goal was likewise outstanding.
    As usual, I think Le Toux covered the second most ground at PPL Park last night. (The bearded guy who sells 50/50 tickets has him beat hands down. Has anyone noticed how much THAT guy gets around?)
    Did anyone else notice M’Bolhi seemed to bobble the ball his first couple of touches? Hopefully the work with Algeria will have him in better shape for the middle of September.
    Next game is Toronto who’ll be on 4 days rest compared to the Union’s 10. That’s followed by Toronto playing their third game in a week. It’s nice to see the Union get to be the better rested team for a change. Now lets see them take advantage of that.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Pretty sure that bearded 50/50 guy was in Lot A before the game too.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        He definitely was. That’s where I bought my 50/50 tickets from him. Then I saw him over inside the stadium a couple of times.

  15. The Black Hand says:

    Strong showing…pulling out the 3 points. Had SJ salvaged a draw, after being down by two, I think our coffin would have been nailed. BUT, that didn’t happen. We took the game back, got the three points and the confidence that goes with it.
    M’Bolhi is a presence. A couple of miscues aside, he was very confident and in command of his area. MacMath has been fantastic. He is handling his demotion like a true professional. That said, M’Bohli is on another level.
    The back line seemed shaky, to me. There wasn’t a lot of work for them, but they looked beatable when tested. Gaddis needs a rest.
    Okugo and Edu had something going in the middle. Will we see them paired, once Maidana is returned to the XI????
    Sebastian LeToux is winning me over.
    Wenger put on a clinic…and put Cruz in his place (sub). Cruz is a scary opponent, to see coming on fresh for the final 20′.
    Conor Casey is a very good footballer. Sometimes I forget just how good he was/is. Phenomenal signing by Hackworth!
    Jim Curtin is becoming more interesting, to me, by the match. Smart guy…

  16. Not Grumpy says:


    That dude was balling last night. Credit to Coach Curtain for recognizing it and turning Andrew loose on those unsuspecting Earthquakes. Feed the bear!!!!

  17. OneManWolfpack says:

    A couple points:
    Whoever taught or is teaching Wenger to be a winger, they need a raise. Dude was possessed last night. I think I was mostly blown away with how he ran past the substitute, brought in to slow him down, for his second goal. That was impressive as hell.
    Brian Brown was a solid substitute and looked good.
    For San Jose, Tommy Thompson is a hell of a player. He’s gonna be good. Very impressive for 19 years old.
    I was worried we had 3 DM’s on the field to start but for the first time in maybe forever, Noguiera, Edu, and Okugo looked very good together.

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