Union edges D.C. United, 3-2, strengthens playoff bid
BERTUCCI IT'S A LOT LIKE horse racing. The excitement you get when your horse comes flying out of the gate, leading the charge followed by the trepidation that comes upon realization that all that gusto probably isn't going to last the duration.
IT'S A LOT LIKE horse racing.
The excitement you get when your horse comes flying out of the gate, leading the charge followed by the trepidation that comes upon realization that all that gusto probably isn't going to last the duration.
And so went last night's penultimate home match for the Union, who looked sharp early, fell late in the first half, pulled the second-half comeback shenanigans that has kept this club in the playoff hunt, and, courtesy of rookie midfielder Michael Farfan, escaped with a much-needed 3-2 win in front of 17,963 at PPL Park.
In fact, it was Farfan who redeemed himself following an error that allowed United to tie the match in the 30th minute when United's second-year stud Andy Najar sprinted two-thirds of the pitch, danced past Farfan and ripped his fifth goal of the season past Union goalie Zac MacMath. Interestingly, it wasn't Farfan's customary position. He generally plays above his brother Gabriel on the left side, but after a foul that caused injury to Gabriel in the 28th minute, Michael dropped back in the defensive fullback role, a place he isn't accustomed to, while Gabriel pushed into Mike's left midfield spot.
"I made a little run, played a little wall pass and had space in front of me, so I just took it and I took the shot," said Michael Farfan, who also provided insight on his defensive miscue that allowed for Najar's tally. "Obviously, you don't like to make mistakes like that in the back so I just try my hardest to help the team as much as I hurt the team."
In the first half, it appeared an intense week of practice, film analysis and careful lineup selection paid dividends for Union boss Peter Nowak, who found his club up 2-0 in the first 15 minutes following a pair of goals from Sebastien Le Toux who has been on a tear since his two-goal effort on Aug. 13 against Dallas. He's scored in six of the last eight matches including a pair last night, slotting both balls coolly past United keeper Bill Hamid.
LeToux' first came in the fourth minute, controlling a header in the box from forward Veljko Paunovic while the second was once again all Michael Farfan's doing, driving a long ball that Le Toux took in stride and finished for his team-leading 10th goal of the season. It was also Le Toux' third multigoal game this season.
"Le Toux is a handful," acknowledged United coach Ben Olsen. "He poses so many problems with the way he runs and holds the line. He causes problems for a lot of defenders and it showed tonight."
In the second half, a physical battle ensued that found Le Toux needing care from the training staff in the 71st minute following a vicious yellow-card tackle from United defender Brandon McDonald that looked to knock the daylights out of Le Toux, who needed momentary assistance from the Union training staff.
"There was no frustration in the locker room," said Nowak. "We had a lot of chances in the first half to be in the lead. The boys believed in the very beginning that they were going to win this game and the came out with intensity from the very beginning."
As for United, the loss was the first against the Union for Olsen, a Pennsylvania native who played his youth soccer for youth club FC Delco. Olsen was also a student of Nowak, who coached Olsen to an All-Star career in D.C. from 2004-06 and even briefly on the U.S. national team circuit around the same time. Olsen took over the manager's role last November after the dismissal of then-United boss Curt Onalfo.
The Union now sit second in a crowded Eastern Conference with a record of 10-7-13 (43 points), one point behind Sporting Kansas City with two games in hand. United fell to 9-9-11 (38 points).The top three teams in each conference earn an automatic bye in a playoff race that looks like will come down to the final matches of the season. On short rest, the club now heads West for a Sunday night showdown at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. against Chivas USA (8 p.m., The Comcast Network).