Peanut butter and jelly. Fish and chips. Cheese and pretty much anything.
The point? These ingredients complement each other to near perfection, just like Union forwards Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga.
It was a reunion of sorts last night for Le Toux and the rookie Mwanga, who didn't seem to be feeling the effects of an ankle injury that kept him out of action for the last three matches.
Against defending Major League Soccer champion Real Salt Lake and without forward Alejandro Moreno - not in the lineup because of an international callup for his native Venezuela in a match against Panama - the Union emerged with a 1-1 tie, fueled by an early Mwanga goal, in the eighth minute. Le Toux slipped the ball behind the Real defense, leaving Mwanga solo against Salt Lake goalkeeper Kyle Renish. The goal marked Mwanga's sixth of the season and increased LeToux' assist count to eight.
"It was good to have him back, you know, we work well together," Le Toux said. "He likes to score goals and I like to score goals and he has really improved. It was nice to see him play well off an injury. He is a big part of our offense and it was great to have him back tonight."
Real (10-4-6, 36 points) was without its leading goal scorer, Alvaro Saborio, also on international duty for the Costa Rican national team. Real starting keeper Nick Rimando watched from the bench along with star midfielder Kyle Beckerman. Forward Robbie Findley did not enter the match until the 63rd minute, fresh off representing the U.S. national team in its international friendly Tuesday against Brazil.
Infractions were the staple with a total of 24 fouls called. Referee David Gantar went into his pocket for a yellow card six times, twice finding fault with the Union (4-10-4, 16). Manager Peter Nowak was pleased with his team's grit, but lambasted the theatrics coming from the opposition.
"The physical part was good, if you come to our house you have to expect nothing is going to come for free," said Nowak. "I sound like a broken record but the question is still when are the officials going to step up and realize that they have to make the calls on situations where guys go down, wiggle around and when they bring out the stretcher these players pop back up and are miraculously healed? I don't know if it's because they are scared of calling the game in favor of one team or the other, but this is becoming a routine in a lot of our games, and it's getting old."
In net, Union goalie Chris Seitz was effective against his former team, having played in Salt Lake last season when Real won the MLS Cup. On this night, he accounted for four saves, but still left without a shutout when the quick feet of Real forward Fabian Espindola embarrassed the Union defense and Seitz, slotting home the near-post equalizer in the 17th minute.
Defensively, Union newcomer Juan Diego Gonzalez played a full 90 minutes but was relatively quiet aiding captain Danny Califf in manning the central defense.
"I have a lot of friends on Real, but I am with my new team now and tonight was about building that confidence we so desperately needed," Seitz said. "Tonight, against one of the best teams in the league, I felt we controlled the game and there is no reason why we can't continue to do that for the rest of the season starting with Colordado [on Saturday]."
While a tie will suffice for now, a win would have brought the Union even with New England (5-9-3, 18 points) for sixth in the Eastern Conference. The team will get that chance on Saturday at PPL Park against Colorado (4 p.m. 6ABC). The Rapids are in the middle of the pack (7-5-6, 27 points) in the Western Conference race. In a game where a win would provide 19 vital points and vault the Union in the East - especially with a Revolution loss to Houston on Saturday - a much-needed spark of confidence assuredly was gained last night.
"Absolutely, especially coming off the lackluster and listless game we had against [FC Dallas], we came out with a lot of energy and confidence tonight against a good team," said Califf. "But we are a good team, too, and I think, once again, we showed that tonight."