Union score in 90th minute to top Impact
CHESTER, Pa. – Following the one-goal loss to DC United on June 16, the young Union praised their rival’s ability to find a win despite being outplayed.
With an extra-time goal from captain Carlos Valdes on Wednesday, the Union showed that die-hard characteristic, turning a sure draw into a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact on Saturday night at PPL Park.
“The character and strength of these guys, they are amazing and I can’t say enough,” coach John Hackworth said. “Even the guys on the bench, they were saying we’re going to win this game. We’re gonna win this. I think that is something pretty special on this team right now.”
The win gives the Union a 4-1-0 record in their last five games and a three-game league winning streak – the first in the team’s three-year history.
Locked at one after the Impact tied the game with a goal in the 89th minute, the Union, stunned by the turn of events, pushed down the field. Set for a throw-in and determined not go down without swinging, Sheanon Williams forced a ball to Valdes in the box. Turning to his left, Valdes quickly snapped a low shot that trickled through Donovan Ricketts and in for goal, ripping two extra points from the Impact.
“My goal was a blessing from God,” said Valdes, whose only other goal was in a 3-0 win against the New England Revolution in 2011. “Nobody expects a goal in the last minutes but I’m very happy to put it in.”
Williams explained the goal from his angle.
“We got a throw-in up the field,” Williams said. “I remember last week I had a short one and messed it up. So this time, I decided to hoof it in the box. Carlos got a great bounce and put it in.”
Yet the game-winner wasn’t the first time the Union brushed their struggles aside to come out on top. After being stifled by Ricketts and the Impact for nearly the entire contest, in the 82nd minute, the Union received a beneficial bounce and turned it into a goal.
Driving the goal line with a purpose, Antoine Hoppenot, who came on in the 60th minute for Josue Martinez, was in the midst of being bumped out-of-bounds before he somehow managed to chip the ball into Ricketts and the crowding defenders. The ball found its way out to Lionard Pajoy and was easily pounded home for the 1-0 Union lead.
“When you’re in that position, I just try to hit it as hard as I can on the ground,” Hoppenot said. “It creates absolute chaos in the box and Lio did a great job of pouncing on it and put it in the back of the net.”
But it didn’t last.
Earning a corner in the 90th minute, the Impact’s Patrice Bernier lined up and launched a ball into the box that bounced off Keon Daniel and in for the own goal, to tie the game at 1-1. It was a heartbreaker for the Union, who worked so hard to gain the lead.
“It was tough, there was three of us there,” MacMath said. “The communication wasn’t there, it went off Keon’s head and into the goal.”
The disconnected Union offense failed to gain any first-half momentum despite the injection of fresh Martinez and Daniel for Pajoy and Michael Farfan. The Union lacked the final offensive-zone pass and seemed confused while working to break the Impact back line.
As a result, the Impact, who controlled the majority of play, nearly took the lead in the 35th minute when Marco Di Vaio was sprung on a bad-angle breakaway to the right of goalkeeper MacMath. Looking far side, Di Vaio fired off a shot that was stopped by diving MacMath. Two minutes later, Felipe headed an in-box cross that deflected off the Union crossbar and stayed out, keeping the game scoreless at half.
“He was huge because he kept us in the game,” Hackworth said of MacMath. “Di Vaio was really good for Montreal and Zac robbed him a couple times to keep it 0-0 and gave us a chance to get this result.
However, the longer that the Union held on, the more offensive momentum they earned. In the 55th minute, the Union received their best chance of the game to that point, when Williams centered a ball from the right flank that was headed by diving Jack McInerney. The deflection hit off an Impact defender and was miraculously saved by Ricketts.
“Full credit got to Jesse Marsch and Montreal, they were really good tonight,” Hackworth said. “We responded at halftime and controlled tempo a little more, knocked the ball around and made them work hard. It created some great chances for us.”E-mail Ryan Bright at email@example.com