Union draw with NYCFC at Yankee Stadium
NEW YORK – The Union's back-to-back games with New York City FC have highlighted many of the contrasts between the two clubs. New York has big-spending owners in the Yankees and Manchester City, a true superstar in David Villa, and an urban identity forged by playing at Yankee Stadium.
But both in Chester on Saturday and in the Bronx last night, the Union proved they can run with their flashy northern neighbors.
A dramatic tying goal by C.J. Sapong in the 86th minute canceled out a pretty strike by Mehdi Ballouchy earlier in the second half, giving the Union a 1-1 tie before a crowd of 20,461.
"To score a late one, to stick with it, the guys showed a lot of fight," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "It was not the beautiful game that we'd all like, but at the same time, I thought we created chances and pushed, and got rewarded in the end."
The Union (1-3-3) had momentum early in the game. In just the second minute, New York goalkeeper Josh Saunders denied good looks from Andrew Wenger and Sébastien Le Toux. In the 13th, Aristeguieta cracked a first-time shot from about 23 yards just over the crossbar.
New York's first big chance came in the 23rd minute. Union goalkeeper John McCarthy – whose net was right around where Ben Francisco stood in the 2009 World Series – came way off his line to chase a loose ball, but City striker Adam Nemec beat him to it. Nemec got the ball around McCarthy, but Sheanon Williams cleared it off the goal line.
Nemec came even closer in the 27th minute, heading a corner kick just over McCarthy's net. Just seconds later, Mehdi Ballouchy stunningly shot over an empty net after Nemec set him up.
City (1-3-2) finally broke through in the 57th minute, as Ballouchy made up for his earlier miss in style. U.S. youth national team rising star Khiry Shelton sprung Ballouchy, who cut left on Ray Gaddis and curled a sterling strike past McCarthy.
Curtin promptly summoned attacking reinforcements. Maidana and Sapong entered moments after Ballouchy scored, and Pfeffer joined them in the 63rd minute.
Ten minutes later, Pfeffer almost got the equalizer. Sheanon Williams set him up for a quick shot from about 15 yards out, but Saunders made a diving save in traffic. Le Toux had a chance in the 81st minute with Saunders caught off his goal line, but put his shot wide.
It seemed like the Union were destined to not find their breakthrough. But with three minutes to go in regulation, Maidana floated in a high ball from almost the midfield line, Maurice Edu headed it down, and Sapong lashed home an unstopppable volley for his first goal of the season.
Ballouchy had a chance to win the game in the final seconds of stoppage time with a hit from long range, but McCarthy dove to his right to make a terrific save and preserve the draw.
When the game ended, boisterous section of traveling Sons of Ben perched along the roared their approval. The rest of Yankee Stadium was as flummoxed as Cliff Lee left it on that famous night four and a half years ago.
"We're slowly but surely finding our swag, if you will," Sapong said. "We're just going to keep building on that... we want to make sure that when the games count, we're at our fullest potential."