“Colorado Ugly”

Mercy Payba - Philadelphia Union/mlsfemale
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, May 20: 2-1 Win

As a Philadelphia Union fan, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop and I expected it to be in the mid-week match against Houston Dynamo who was looking strong in the West. Instead, we extended out shutout streak in a solid 2-0 game with some strong defending to keep our early lead. My anxiety naturally turned to Colorado Rapids who was last on the table even though on paper, it should’ve been easy. If I’ve learned anything about the MLS, it is nothing will ever go the way you expect.

Jim Curtin doesn’t believe in rotation as far as we know but the lineup against Colorado brought two changes to the starting eleven. Fabian Herbers replaced Chris Pontius on the wing and Giliano Wijnaldum got his first MLS start as a left back.

Colorado started on the offensive and found a lax defense on the Union side fifteen minutes in with a goal by Caleb Calvert. The next thirty minutes were painstakingly slow as the Colorado Rapids tried everything in the book to keep their lead. Fabian Herbers had to be subbed off for injury early after making a good play with Ilsinho. Tim Howard should have been booked for time wasting but the referee mysteriously left his cards in his pocket to the ire of the home fans.

Pontius managed to get his head on a cross by Wijnaldum, but tilted it over the bar at the 35th minute for one of the only looks on goal for the Union. The dying minutes of the second half saw the first booking for Colorado’s Mohamed Saeid and CJ Sapong heading in a ball only to get it caught by Howard’s gloves.

It wasn’t a surprise that once Colorado saw the opportunity to build something like momentum, they would defend it with everything they had, including some overlooked fouls (mostly against Sapong.) The Rapids only had one win in the last five games. They were clearly desperate for points and not afraid of getting dirty.

A team effort between Pontius, Ilsinho, Fafa Picault to Sapong’s head saw the ball get bounced off a Colorado defender unluckily as soon as the second half started. The Union substituted Picault for Jay Simpson who gave Sapong more space on the wing while Simpson focused on the central attack. Colorado didn’t give up though, as they got a free kick just outside the box in the 63rd minute from Alejandro Bedoya’s foul or a very convincing dive from Kevin Doyle. Three minutes later, there was a golden opportunity for Philadelphia in the form of a handball by Kortne Ford.

 Sapong went up for the penalty and, needless to say, sent Tim Howard the other way. With that goal, the Union equalized and the tide seemed to be turning. They couldn’t stop there, not if Philadelphia wanted to show they weren’t going to be stopped by a shaky start. The last few weeks, if anything, had unleashed the threat Union could pose as a team that was no longer disjointed and disheartened. This team wasn’t the same one as the one in March. They had the confidence to stage a comeback…

And they did.

Before that, the game took a bizarre turn that was possibly influenced by a certain Justin Timberlake song. Both Colorado’s assistant Conor Casey and the first goal scorer Caleb Calvert were sent off in the 69th minute marker. Calvert was booked for time-wasting with a flop and then coming back on the field before the ref’s signal in around thirty seconds.

Casey was escorted away for arguing with the official. This episode didn’t stop Joshua Gatt from trying his luck with a tackle on Bedoya just as he shot the ball into the distance. The referee saw reason and issued a yellow, and the free kick that would lead to Philadelphia’s second goal. A left-footed beauty that curled just right by Haris Medunjanin from 20 yards out gave Union the victory.

With this result, Philadelphia Union set a new club record of four consecutive wins. Next week, they face Real Salt Lake after some rest. My prediction is a win as we creep closer to the competition for a spot in the playoffs.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @mercpay

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