Carlos Ruiz netted the lone goal of the game in the 77th minute as the Philadelphia Union defeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC by a score of 1-0. It was his first goal in Major League Soccer since July 19, 2008, when he was in his second stint with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Whitecaps had gone down to 10 men earlier in the second half as newly signed Designated Player Eric Hassli was issued a second yellow card for an unnecessary kick in the shin of Union defender Carlos Valdes.
It was the Union's home opener at PPL Park, and the team's fans showed up in full force. Ruiz's goal sent the announced sellout crowd of 18,591 into a frenzy.
The game started with a huge surprise; the Union came out onto the field donning their third or "alternate" jerseys, which were revealed here on the Brotherly Game back on the first day of February. The team did not make any moves to promote or even officially reveal the jersey before using it in their home opener.
Much of the match was marked by some sloppy play, especially in the first half. In total, referee Yader Reyes issued seven yellow cards, including the two to Hassli. Vancouver actually held the bulk of the possession in the first half, but were unable to capitalize before the red card. Much more after the jump, including the full match highlights.
Kyle Nakazawa was in the starting 11 for the second consecutive game to start the season, taking up the right midfield spot; Sebastien Le Toux moved to the left to cover the injured Justin Mapp while Danny Mwanga took back his starting spot at forward alongside Carlos Ruiz.
The first half was mostly back-and-forth, with both teams enjoying a few half-chances but neither dominating possession. Referee Yader Rayes was busy, handing out five cautions in the first half alone. The play was very choppy and physical.
The tide of the game really turned to one side when Hassli was shown a second yellow card. His absence led to a sustained period of possession for the Union, and it seemed like it was only a matter of time before they would score.
Coach Peter Nowak inserted Roger Torres in for Kyle Nakazawa, and made quite the offensive switch by bringing in striker Jack McInerney for defender Jordan Harvey. Torres was a breath of fresh air for the Union, creating a number of scoring opportunities with his skillful left foot.
A great save by Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon on a Ruiz bicycle kick in the 65th minute was the latest in a series of near misses for the Union. But "El Pescadito" put all of that behind him in the 77th minute.
A deflection off of a long shot by a Stefani Miglioranzi ended up with Le Toux, who only had the goalkeeper to beat. He slotted it over to Ruiz, who had an open net and had no trouble finishing the play.
The Union then dodged a few Whitecaps attacks, and Nowak inserted Gabriel Farfan into the game for Danny Mwanga for some extra insurance. Farfan mostly played at left back. After the referee allowed the Whitecaps to play past the three minutes of stoppage time, Yader Reyes finally blew his whistle and the Union wrapped up their second win in as many games.
The win put the Union provisionally atop the entire MLS table. Other teams could equal or pass the Union based on later results, but all of those such teams are from the Western Conference. The Union will head into next week's encounter with the Los Angeles Galaxy as the leaders of the Eastern Conference. Here are the full match highlights. The goal sequence can be found around 05:43.