Playing a line-up filled with youngsters against some of the biggest names in MLS, the Philadelphia Union showed up in a big way, counter-attacking their way to a shock 2-1 win over New York City FC Saturday afternoon at PPL Park.
The most notable change for the Union was benching expensive World Cup veteran Rais M'Bolhi for the inexperienced John McCarthy, playing his 1st MLS game after spending last season in USL Pro and the two seasons before that in USL PDL. John McCarthy was not tested much, which proved a good thing as he appeared shaky on the rare occasion the ball reached his area. Thankfully though, it did not matter as the Union came to life offensively when they had opportunities.
The Union opened the scoring in the 26th minute with a goal and a goal celebration Vine'd on the internet forever. Though he struggled with being visible for most of the game, Andrew Wenger did do a nice job of playing the ball to Le Toux along the left flank. Le Toux dribbled the ball to the end line then took it himself into the box where he slipped it to Eric Ayuk with NYCFC goalkeeper Josh Saunders occupying Le Toux. Faced with the open net, Ayuk got off the perfect shot, though before crossing the line the ball bounced off Zach Pfeffer's butt. Ayuk proceeded to do a series of backflips in celebration, though whether he was celebrating what he believed was his 1st ever MLS goal or celebrating the fact he witnessed a butt goal in person the world will never know.
The goal was initially credited to Ayuk, and once the official change was announced fans were quick to mourn the fact that Ayuk was still goalless. But in place of Ayuk's 1st goal, the Union were gifted something better: a Zach Pfeffer butt goal. Treasure it, you may never see a goal like that again.
City were quick to try and strike back, though. In fact it appears they had done so but the refs waved it off as City were ruled to have been offside. The teams went into the locker room with the Union up 1-0, but NYCFC were able to complete an equalizer in the 55th minute. After some nice link up play, Josh Williams got by a rather hasty challenge from McCarthy in the box and found David Villa alone for a point blank goal, which Villa did not miss. It was a rare defensive meltdown for the Union on the day, and City had finally been able to convert their possession into an equalizer. In related news, Mix Diskerud is good at soccer.
With the game tied at one, the Union had a scary moment after Sebastien Le Toux awkardly crasched into the electronic ad wall along the pitch. His arm smacked its edge, resulting in a gruesome cut along his arm. Le Toux will be all right, but the copious amounts of blood loss combined with the time needed to stitch the cut necessitated his substitution off the pitch for C.J. Sapong.
NYCFC came rather close to equalizing shortly thereafter in the 73rd minute. Ned Grabavoy's cross floated near the box resulting in McCarthy rather clumsily deflecting the ball away as opposed to trying to catch it. The ball went straight to the foot of Javier Calle with an open opportunity at goal. Fortunately for McCarthy and the Union, the ball went harmlessly into orbit.
Heading into stoppage time it appeared as if the game would end in a 1-1 draw, a result the Union probably would have gladly taken given last week's calamity. However, they managed better. Wenger sent a cross into the box which Saunders got a piece of but could not get all of thanks to Casey's charging run. Saunders's bobble resulted in the ball landing at the foot of Vincent Nogueira with a gaping net facing him. Despite some of Nogueira's previously documented issues with shooting, he had no problem kicking the ball in the open net to give the Union a stoppage time lead they would not relinquish.
Following the Union's disgraceful start to the season that saw them drop points in their first five matches, often in embarrassing fashion, they all of a sudden find themselves tied for 5th place in a rather weak Eastern Conference. They'll have a chance to add to their point total on Thursday when the Union make a trip to the Bronx where they'll complete this home-and-home series with New York City.