CHESTER, PA- APRIL 14: Gabriel Gomez #6 of the Philadelphia Union reacts for the crowd after scoring a penalty kick against the Columbus Crew at PPL Park on April 14, 2012 in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
A great sigh of relief could be heard from thousands as the head referee, Michael Kennedy, blew his whistle three times to mark the end of the game. The home team had come out with a victory, despite not scoring a goal from the run of play for the third time in the first five games of the year.
Many left the stadium with the thought that a "win is a win is a win" or something to that effect because of the Philadelphia Union's slow start to the season.
In the end it was Gabriel Gomez's bravado and confidence that put the Union in position to win. The Panamanian international lofted a beautifully executed chipped penalty into the back of the net, fooling Columbus Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.
The 28-year-old midfielder converted his 37th minute penalty kick attempt, providing the Union with just their second lead of the year. The opportunity came about because of a hopeful shot by Freddy Adu that struck the awkwardly placed arm of Crew center back Eric Gehrig, forcing Kennedy to point to the spot.
Gomez's choice of shot hearkens back to 1976, when Antonin Panenka executed what is widely believed to be the first ever penalty scored in the aforementioned matter. Since Panenka's decision to gently tap a floater down the middle of West Germany's goal in the 1976 European Championships, hundreds of other players have imitated, with those confident enough in their delivery finding success.
The Union, desperate to find their first win of the 2012 Major League Soccer season, needed something to this effect to begin to fight against their early problems. A young team without the taste of victory needed someone to step up and disregard the poor form of the team.
While the offense was no more threatening that it had been in previous games, Philadelphia's midfield finally showed some unity, confidence and fluidity in its play. The previous four games had left a taste of a lack of chemistry and linking play from the group, but its display against the Crew was a reminder of how much talent the Union hold in the middle of the field.
Rookie Raymon Gaddis was equally impressive in his Union, and MLS, debut. Pairing up with usual starting right back Sheanon Williams, Gaddis was solid defensively and gained enough confidence by half time to start making forays into the opposing side of the field.
Williams showed off his defensive versatility, sliding from right back to right center back - typically Carlos Valdes' spot in the backline - and handling the responsibility of covering for Gaddis with ease. Valdes and Gabriel Farfan, the team's apparent new starting left back, were solid as well on the other side of the defense.
All the while it was Zac MacMath quietly having another good game, including a magnificent "Karate Kid" homage kick save in the 54th minute on Olman Vargas' attempt.
Philadelphia heads to Los Angeles to take on Chivas USA, who are having an up-and-down start to the season, but still have nine points from six games. Despite the gap in form, the Union will look to continue their winning ways and finally do so in LA, where they have drawn twice with Chivas and lost twice to the LA Galaxy.