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Undefeated in Eight: Union 3-2 Crew

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The Union took down the Crew to maintain two undefeated streaks.

Trey Madara

After disposing of Columbus Crew SC, the Philadelphia Union will head into the summer break with an undefeated streak of eight games. Goals from Chris Pontius, Vincent Nogueira, and Fabian Herbers ensured the home side all three points, though the Crew stayed competitive until the end, narrowing the lead to one in second-half stoppage time.

Columbus struck first in the 14th minute. Ethan Finlay, just moments after nutmegging Fabinho into oblivion, found teammate Ola Kamara with a cross from the right flank. The Crew's lone remaining Kamara was able to connect acrobatically and send the ball past Matt Jones.

Six minutes later, Chris Pontius's shot took a fortunate deflection to even the score. After dribbling across the top of the box, the winger decided to fire from just outside the 18-yard box. Crew center back Chad Barson attempted to head the ball clear, but he barely made contact. That slight touch altered the flight of the ball just enough to fool Steve Clark, whose diving effort would prove fruitless.

Though the Union eventually scored the game's third goal, the Crew had two chances to retake the lead before the first 45 ended.

The Crew were unfortunate not to score in the 33rd minute, when Ken Tribbett lunged to clear a ball off the goal line. Ethan Finlay's close-range, spinning strike had already beaten Matt Jones, but Tribbett recovered just in time to keep the score level at one.

Ola Kamara nearly added to his tally five minutes later. The Norweigan managed to sneak in behind the Union's back line, and with Jones rushing out to close him down, Kamara had a golden opportunity to give his side the lead before halftime. His far-post attempt looked good initially, but it rolled out of play for a goal kick.

In the 58th minute, Vincent Nogueira gave the Union the lead off yet another deflected strike. After beating Hector Jimenez on the left side, Chris Pontius sent in a cross that bounced through the box untouched. It wasn't until after the ball had bounced clear of the 18' that Pontius's service would find a recipient: Nogueira. The Frenchman tore into the ball, which was destined for goal before it hit the outstretched leg of Waylon Francis. The defender's touch was enough to throw off Clark, again, and the Union took a 2-1 lead.

The Union went up a man in the 77th, when a club legend came in to help out his old team. In his triumphant return to Talen Energy Stadium, Conor Casey received a straight red card exactly three minutes after entering the game. To be fair to Conor, it was not a red, and everyone involved seemed to agree. That being said, this will cement Conor Casey's place in Union lore.

The home side's one-man advantage saw dividends in the 84th minute, when eternal sub Fabian Herbers (finally) scored his first MLS goal. He certainly couldn't have picked a better way to do it, as his top-corner curler is the early favorite for goal of the week.

That goal would prove vital to the Union, as they ended up conceding again in second-half stoppage time. Standing in the middle of the box, 19-year-old Cristian Martinez found himself without a marker. Justin Meram recognized this and put a ball on the young Panamanian's head. His header from 12 yards was enough to make the last few minutes of the game very entertaining, but the Union pulled it out in the end.

Notes:

  • Tranquillo Barnetta was feeling himself tonight. If the audacity of his passes and shots are any indication, the Swiss midfielder is very comfortable running the Union attack. While his key pass and completed cross totals - four each - were impressive, his moment of the match came in the 36th minute. After some good build-up play from Keegan Rosenberry and Sebastien Le Toux, Barnetta nearly capped off the move with a pretty chip. But Steve Clark got there just in time to deny him.
  • The River End, and later the entire stadium, endlessly harassed poor Steve Clark. Clark, if you didn't know, is the Crew's goalkeeper. Joe Tansey of SBI says that the animosity between the two parties dates back to last year, but I really don't get it. I love me a good "[Player's name] sucks" chant, but I'm not sure what Steve Clark did to earn this sort of treatment. Could it be his blatant rip-off of the most generic wrestling chant in existence? Maybe it's because his name is Steve Clark? These are both perfectly acceptable explanations, but if you can provide some more background, please do.
  • The Union are now undefeated in eight, which ties the club's all-time record. They're also one of two teams (Orlando) in the East who have yet to lose at home.