There’s nothing quite like a stoppage-time winner in this beautiful game of ours, is there?
After an absolute defensive slog of a match, which included a goal overturned after video review and a red card, our inconsistent hero Fafa Picault capitalized on a mistake from Sounders’ keeper Stefan Frei and put one past him in the 93rd minute.
In a game where the Union desperately needed at least a point (not to mention some other results going their way across the league, like the Columbus Crew match) after a miserable outing at home last Saturday night against the Montreal Impact, the boys in blue did what was seemingly impossible in Seattle: they won. For the first time since 2011, they took the plane home from Seattle as victors. Not an easy task considering that the Sounders had won nine games straight coming into Wednesday night.
Philadelphia was almost entirely on the defensive during the match, with the Sounders dominating possession. The first true highlight of the match occurred in the 65th, when Philly forward Cory Burke put one last Frei. The goal call was reversed moments later, though, after a video review correctly determined that Burke was in an offside position. The decision was controversial among viewers to say the least, but it was a close call.
Fast-forward now to the 89th minute, when center back Jack Elliot was shown a second yellow and sent off for a rough challenge.
Jay Simpson, who had come on for Cory Burke in the 88th minute, pressed hard from the moment he entered the game. That pressure quickly translated to the scoreboard. Simpson’s hassling of Stefan Frei forced the star ‘keeper into an uncharacteristic error. With Simpson breathing down his neck, Frei hit a weak pass behind Gustav Svensson. Fafa Picault, who was bounding down the left channel, picked up the ball and burst past the stranded defender. Picault slowed up, dribbled right toward the keeper as he often does and played a sweet little side-footed shot between the legs of Frei for his eighth goal of the season.
I have been very critical of Fafa Picault’s game all season. I don’t like his tendency to dribble the ball for 15-20 yards just to rip a weak shot from outside the box. I’m not a fan of his inconsistent passing.
That being said, you can never fault the man’s work ethic. He’s always moving, always pressing, always trying to get the ball up the field (for better or for worse sometimes.) Not to mention that this was his fourth goal on the road in a row this season, setting a Union record previously held by Jack McInerney and Chris Pontius.
Even during this game Picault’s game was frustrating me greatly. I didn’t think anyone on the team was impressing me at all. But does any of that really matter compared to the feeling of that 93rd-minute winner? Simpson pressed brilliantly, which led to a mistake, which led to a sweetly placed shot from Picault. I jumped off my couch and exclaimed, not concerned with my sleeping roommate just a wall away.
In a game where the Philadelphia Union needed these points, Fafa Picault delivered when it mattered most. With Wednesday’s win, the Union’s bolstered their spot above the red line. With the Columbus Crew’s loss to the Portland Timbers that same night, a playoff game in Chester might be here before we know it.