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Highlights & Video From a Late ‘Storm in a Teacup’ Win for Union

Jul 15, 2012, 12:42 PM EDT

A look at the Union's 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact, the week ahead, thoughts on male-pattern baldness, and what it might mean when you see a large group of fans wearing the jersey of a single opposing player.
Eighty minutes of scoreless soccer punctuated by long stretches of futility from both sides may have been the story for most of the night at PPL Park on Saturday, but we got to go home in a frenzy after both sides opened up play late in regulation and then stoppage time. Lionard Pajoy opened the scoring in the 82nd minute, and the Union appeared to have the result wrapped up until Montreal’s Patrice Bernier sent a corner into the box in the 89th minute, hitting Keon Daniel and winding up in the Philadelphia goal. 
At that mark on the clock, a draw might have seemed in the making, but we’ve seen too many late goals (both for and against) to think this one was over, and captain Carlos Valdes made sure it wasn’t, converting an amazing throw-in by Sheanon Williams for the 2-1 winner over the Montreal Impact.  
A look at the match, the week ahead, thoughts on male-pattern baldness, and what it might mean when you see a large group of fans wearing the jersey of a single opposing player, below. 

Match Summary

The Union were deployed in the familiar 4-3-3, with some players swapped in and out both due to the abundance of minutes everyone is playing this crowded month and an injury. Josue Martinez and Keon Daniel flanked Jack McInerney up top; Freddy Adu, Brian Carroll, and Michael Lahoud started at midfield, with Michael Farfan out due to injury. The familiar backline of Gabriel Farfan, Valdes, Amobi Okugo, and Sheanon Williams lined up in front of Zac MacMath. 
It was frustrating that the Union couldn’t generate a little more in the first half. Or much of any offense, really. Montreal is terrible on defense and looked lost, going for the safety valve of the sidelines frequently. Two great opportunities in particular narrowly missed, including a long strike by Freddy Adu in the second minute and a field stretching ball by Carlos Valdes toward his forwards in the 31st. The ball ducked in between Jack Mac and Martinez, with the latter tapping it up toward an empty goal, but local product Zarek Valentin snuffed it out just before it crossed the line. Even if it had crossed, the goal wouldn’t have counted, as the referee’s assistant threw what seemed to be a late flag into the air to signal offsides. 
Fortunately, the backline and MacMath kept it clean in the defending River End. Impact striker Marco di Vaio snuck under for a dangerous reception on a nice through ball by former Unioner Justin Mapp, but MacMath was there for a huge save, and Garfan muted the rebound attempt on the other side of the box. Not long after, Mapp sent a gorgeous service into the box that was headed dangerously toward goal and narrowly missed scoring, glancing off the crossbar. (Gonna go light on the refs in this one, but from my seats, it looked like Montreal got a gift in an overlooked bicepball before the pass went to Mapp in the first place.) 
The highlight of the first half came when two Impact players ran into each other on a free kick gone wrong. Wasn’t the prettiest first 45, and toward the break, it began to favor Montreal. 
Lio Pajoy came on for Adu to start the second half after Adu took a leg injury in the waning ticks of the first (John Hackworth says he’s OK). The Union’s offense picked up in the second half, and the sides traded dangerous early scoring opportunities, each muted by top-quality saves by the goalkeepers. On one, Sheanon crossed in a perfect ball that found Jack Mac, who headed it toward goal, but Montreal keeper Donovan Ricketts dove to make the stop. At the other end, di Vaio again got free for a clean look at MacMath’s goal, but the goalie got just enough of it with his right hand to send the shot wide of the far post. 
Ricketts, formerly of the LA Galaxy, was a rock for the Impact. For a stretch of the second half, it felt like the Union wouldn’t be able to crack him. Watch the 5:00 mark of the video below for one sequence in particular (note the slick move to create a shot by Garfan too). 
Antoine Hoppenot came on in the 60th minute, and with him came the attack we’ve come to expect with the rookie in the match. He just looks fearless with the ball, like a video game player that just keeps pushing forward despite being impeded. Some nifty work by Hoppenot and Gomez made what looked like a stagnated opportunity into the Union’s first goal, slicing through the right side of the Impact defense to set up Pajoy for a dunk on Ricketts. The net bulged comically with the force of a powerful shot from about three feet off the goal line, and the River End exploded on what felt like a winner. 
Hoppenot’s moves were just amazing, shaking Impact defenders and pushing forward with a veteran’s confidence. The image of Ricketts on his back, in the goal after the levy broke… 
The Impact would answer in the 89th minute though, when Bernier curled missile of a corner kick toward the Union goal. Keon Daniel went up to try to (I guess…) head the ball down and out before it reached the near post, but he didn’t get enough of it, and MacMath had no chance as it went past. 
Jubilation turned to deflation, a win that appeared to slip away. Then the Union seized the opportunity afforded by having rostered the rare quantity of a soccer player who is amazingly good with the ball in his hands. Few players on the field can throw the ball in from the sidelines with the length and accuracy of Sheanon Williams, who bombed a ball almost all the way to the near post of the Montreal goal, where Valdes broke it free from a mixed pack of players and slid it past Ricketts. 
A huge win to continue the Union’s climb from the depths of early season despair, and a little closer to the middle of the Eastern Conference pack. The full complement of points closed their gap under Montreal in the standings, with just one now separating them. With another win, the Union could move into sixth place, depending on what New England and Columbus do in their next games. Each have 22 points to the Union’s 20. With the 2-1 win, the Union also broke into the plus column in goal differential. 
No one’s confusing Montreal with a strong team, but the Union continue to progress despite a congested schedule and some bumps and bruises along the way. 
Video Highlights
Game Ball(s)
Valdes is the obvious choice because of the winner, but Okugo was everywhere last night. What he lacks in size for the centerback position he makes up for with speed and intelligence. MacMath also came up huge and kept the Union in this one, his lone goal against being Keon’s OG. It will be interesting to see what efforts Hackworth makes to keep Okugo involved once Bakary Soumare is fully healthy and up to game speed. 
Up Next
The Union schedule remains busy despite their ouster from the US Open Cup as they host a friendly with Aston Villa on Wednesday. After that they resume league play in north Jersey, where they’ll face Sebastien Le Toux and the Red Bulls. Another great opportunity to pick up points in the East… 
Rogaine and the U-S-A
I try not to tell people how to express themselves as fans. The spectrum on when, why, and how to support your team is wide, and people can rightfully fit into different places all along it according to their dispositions. But I feel like we should make every effort to try to keep chants and even jeers creative and informed. Last night, Mapp was treated to the ch
orus that originally welcomed Kasey Keller to town, that of “Roooooo-gaaaaiiinnnne,” owing to his balding head. Come on, guys… First, Mapp was one of our boys. Sometimes frustrating due to inconsistency, he was still a big part of this team early on. Second, “Rogaine” chants are just kinda lame no matter who the target is. Just my opinion, anyway. 
Second, if you see a large group of fans sitting together, wearing the jersey of a single opposing player, they’re likely his family. (I know, my powers of deductive reasoning are unparalleled.) While I’m personally opposed to going beyond some light-hearted ribbing of opposing families, especially since there are usually kids among them, these packs may also signify that the player is local to the area. That was the case with last night’s contingent of “Valentin” jersey wearers, an impressively large section in the northwest corner of PPL Park. Montreal defender Zarek Valentin hails from Lancaster, which made the U-S-A chants aimed at his family’s supporters unintentionally comical. USA chants outside the realm of international play usually ring fairly hollow and misguided despite a foreign home city of the opposing team, but this one was particularly so, at least to me. Like I said, I try not to be the fan police. Let’s just bring a little more game to the table…  
Postgame Kicks
One of the best parts of Union fandom, as is the case with our other teams and the bands we go see, is the tailgating. Last night we ended up tossing washers with the guys in the truck across from ours, who it turns out are in our section. After the game, our group had a beer while the cars cleared out of Lot A, then kicked the ball around the mostly empty lot for an hour or so, one of at least a handful of similar knock-arounds in the dirt lot. 
Not a bad way to spend a summer night. Especially after a win.
Picture of a Large Ship
Thought this thing might snag the Barry Bridge and pull it to Delaware: