Tag Archives: Alejandro Moreno

New York Red Bulls – 2, UNION -1 (Twice)

Twice within a short span of four days, the New York Red Bulls hosted and bested the expansion Philadelphia Union by the same scores of 2-1. Both games were held at New York’s Red Bull Arena, with the first being an official MLS regular season match and the 2nd representing a play-in to the U.S. Open Cup tournament.

In the first match, the Union 11 again came out fast, as has been their habit in these early games of the franchise’ history. They took the action to the Red Bull end, but couldn’t bury the ball in the net, and then as the pace became more even the two clubs battled into a 0-0 tie at half.

As has also been the case, they again found themselves behind by a goal on the road when New York scored on a header just five minutes into the 2nd half. The Union continued to plug away, and just moments later they got the equalizer in a familiar fashion. Alejandro Moreno broke free in the Bulls end, slid a pass along the ground towards the goal, and a streaking Sebastien LeToux (pictured) tapped it in for his 4th goal to tie the score at 1-1.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Union downfall also came along in familiar fashion. A handball in their own end resulted in a penalty kick for the Red Bull’s Juan Pablo Angel, who buried the shot to put New York on top 2-1. The Union were unable to get the equalizer, and thus dropped their 2nd straight road match thanks to a 2nd half penalty kick goal. The loss leaves the club with a 1-3-0 record in the early season.

Four days later, the Union headed back to New York for the Open Cup qualifier. The U.S. Open Cup tournament is the oldest soccer tournament in the States. It is open to any team that is affiliated with U.S. Soccer at the professional or amateur levels. Held annually since 1914, the Cup began to include pro teams such as those from MLS in 1995.

The tournament organizers matched Philadelphia and New York in this play-in match, part of a process that would lead to a final 16 teams who would ultimately compete in the official U.S. Open Cup tournament. The winner of this qualifier match would move on to face the New England Revolution of MLS, and the winner of that match would advance into the actual tournament.

So back to Red Bull Arena it was for the Union and coach Peter Nowak. When asked whether he would treat this as an exhibition and play his bench or reserve players, or if he would use most of his regulars, Nowak replied: “Is there a trophy? Then we’ll play the best players!” Clearly, Nowak is desirous of beginning a winning tradition as quickly as possible.

Connor Ching put the Red Bulls on top in the early minutes of the match, knocking his own rebound past Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz for a 1-0 New York advantage. Then just minutes before halftime, Ching took a beautiful crossing pass and drilled a shot past Seitz to put the home club up by a 2-0 score.

For the 2nd half, Nowak inserted the club’s leading scorer, Sebastien LeToux, into the match. It would prove to be initially ingenius but ultimately devastasting. LeToux quickly got the Union back into the game when he took a crossing pass from Cristian Arrieta and slid it into the net to pull the Union within 2-1 in the 68th minute.

That was the initially genius part. The Union continued to press for the equalizer, but with about 8 minutes left to play, LeToux suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury and had to be carried off the pitch. Having already used up all their substitutions, the Union were forced to play short a man. Despite this disadvantage they continued to take the play to New York, but were ultimately unable to knot the score, falling by that 2-1 margin for the 2nd straight match to the Red Bulls.

The Union have shown a ton of ability in their early matches, and the youngest club in the MLS looks like the will be competitive in most of their matches. It will help them to get some more home matches as the MLS schedule moves along. However, they will need to find the leadership and intelligence to avoid the big mistakes at key late moments if they are to truly turn the record around in their first season.

Toronto FC – 2, UNION – 1

After going almost two weeks between their first-ever match on the road in Seattle to their first-ever home match back in Philly, the Union took the pitch for the 2nd time in 5 days at Toronto.

The Toronto FC (football club) have one of the most rabid and supportive fan bases in all of MLS, and so for the 2nd time in their young history, the Union 11 were going to be in extremely hostile conditions on the road in front of almost 22,000 Toronto partisans.

The Union came out strong and confident, riding the high of their weekend home victory over D.C. United, and were generally dominating play against Toronto in the early going.

But the momentum and the ultimate outcome of the game all changed suddenly and dramatically. In the 34th minute, Union defender and team captain Danny Califf was handed a red card and tossed from the game for delivering what appeared to be an intentional elbow to the head of Toronto forward Julian de Guzman.

With Califf tossed from the game, the Union would be forced to play the rest of the match shorthanded by a man. That was bad enough, but also on the ensuing free kick Toronto’s Dwayne De Rosario drilled a shot that overpowered Union goalie Chris Seitz, slipping through Seitz’ hands and into the net for a 1-0 Toronto lead.

Things appeared pretty bleak for the Union at that point in the match being covered nationally on ESPN2. They were trailing 1-0 on the road in an extremely hostile arena and had to play shorthanded. But hope reared it’s head again just before halftime.

That hope came in the form that it usually has for the Union so far in the early matches of this first season, with a rush from Le Toux, Moreno, and Torres.

An offensive attack led by forwards Sebastian Le Toux and Alejandro Moreno rushed forward into the Toronto third of the pitch, the ball was slipped over to Roger Torres along the wing, and Torres drove a bending cross towards the goal. Jordan Harvey came slashing in and punched the ball past Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei and the Union had a 1-1 tie.

In the 2nd half the Union rarely played as if down a man. They took much of the play to the Toronto end, not willing to yield the result to the hosts and continuing to press for their own victory. However, it was just a matter of time before being shorthanded resulted in Toronto opportunities. With less than 10 minutes to play, Union goalie Chris Seitz was called for a foul that yielded a penalty kick for Toronto. De Rosario drove the kick home for a 2-1 lead, and the undermanned Union were unable to gain the equalizer.

Despite the disheartening road loss, the Union have to take positives from this match. They played well overall, in fact they outplayed Toronto for most of the match, even when shorthanded. Were it not for Califf’s red card, the match may indeed have turned out much differently. The youngest team in MLS has proven that it has both heart and fire, but has also shown itself to be a bit undisciplined at times and has hurt itself with costly mistakes. These things can be expected with a mostly young expansion club, but with tough matches upcoming manager Peter Nowak needs to drill a little more discipline into his fiery young Union 11.

The Philadelphia Union are off and running in their first-ever season with a 1-2-0 record through the first three matches. Their next match will again be on the road, this time with a visit to the New York Red Bulls at 4pm next Saturday, April 24th. The match will be covered on local cable TV by the ABC Live Well network, available on Comcast and most other services.

Live Well will cover nine Union matches (including the next three), 6ABC will cover six matches, three matches will be covered nationally on ESPN2, and six will be covered by Fox Soccer Channel. As of right now, there are three matches whose local broadcasts are yet to be determined.

Stay tuned here at my http://www.mattveasey.com/ website for updates on all of the Union matches throughout the season.

Philadelphia Union make their MLS debut

There was a big local football event last night that was covered fully by ESPN2 for hours in prime time. No, I’m not talking about the Philadelphia Eagles and trade talk involving Donovan McNabb or their other quarterbacks or their upcoming draft. I’m talking about the game that the entire world outside of the United States knows as ‘football’, but that we here refer to as ‘soccer’.

A new era dawned for our sports-crazed town when the Philadelphia Union stepped on to the pitch at a jam-packed and rowdy Qwest Field in Seattle to take on the host Seattle Sounders in the Union’s first-ever official MLS regular season match in franchise history.

The sport of soccer has been the fastest-growing sport in America for two decades now. Youth programs have exploded across the country since the 1980’s. Yet still the game has generally floundered here at the pro level as it has attempted to emerge from the huge shadows cast by Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NHL, and the NBA. Those days may fast be coming to an end.

The youthful generation that grew up playing the sport is now reaching the age where the spending power of their pocketbooks and their interest in watching such events is opening up a legitimate place in the market for Major League Soccer to succeed and now even expand here in the States, including now finally returning the game to the Philly market.

Soccer’s professional history in Philadelphia has been mixed but ultimately futile in the past. On April 16th, 1967 the Philadelphia Spartans took to the field at Temple University and shutout the Toronto Falcons 2-0 in front of more than 14,000 fans in the inaugural game of the fledgling National Professional Soccer League. It would ultimately mark the only season in the team’s history.

At the end of that season, the NPSL merged with United Soccer Association to form the North American Soccer League (NASL), but Pennsylvania lost out completely when both the Philly and Pittsburgh teams from the NPSL were folded. NASL would last from 1968 all the way through 1984, and would see a return to Philly of pro soccer as well.

In 1973 the Philadelphia Atoms were born for their first season of play in NASL at the new Veteran’s Stadium. Led by one of the earliest big American stars, goalkeeper Bob Rigby, the Atoms won the East Division and then won the NASL championship in their first season of existence when they downed the Dallas Tornado 2-0 in the title match.

The first-year success of the Atoms did not last. The club played on for three more seasons, the final one at Franklin Field, and never again recorded a winning season. The franchise was finally placed in ‘receivership’ by NASL, and Philly would find itself completely without pro soccer for the 1977 season. Few seemed to know, and even fewer to care.

Then in 1978, NASL returned pro soccer to the city with the birth of the Philadelphia Fury. The Fury was owned by a rock star group that included Paul Simon, Peter Frampton and Rick Wakeman and would be an ‘indoor’ team playing at the Spectrum. Rigby played for the Fury, but the team itself failed to secure a winning record in any of it’s three seasons and drew just over 18,000 total fans in those years. The team was sold after the 1980 season and moved to Montreal before being dissolved after the 1983 season.

It was a long dry spell for pro soccer fans in Philadelphia at this point before finally in 1996 the indoor Philadelphia Kixx were born in the National Professional Soccer League. The club would go on to win two titles in the Major Indoor Soccer League in 2002 and 2007. The Kixx continue to compete in indoor professional soccer, playing to a mostly niche audience.

The wait for real, full-blown, world class outdoor-style professional football/soccer stretched for almost three decades until finally it was announced that Philadelphia had been awarded a franchise in Major League Soccer. MLS had begun in the early-90’s, and has proven to be the most successful and stable professional league in American history.

The Philadelphia Union name was selected by a combination of fan and ownership input, and a site was chosen on the banks of the Delaware River in Chester, PA for building a brand-new 18,500 fan capacity state-of-the art outdoor soccer stadium. That stadium, PPL Park, is near completion and should open this summer. The Union will play their first two home matches, including the April 10th opener vs. DC United, at Lincoln Financial Field in South Philly.

For last night’s franchise debut, the Union could not have been given a more formidable task. The opponents were the Seattle Sounders, one of the leading contenders for the Western Division and overall MLS titles in 2010. The Union took the field with the youngest roster in MLS, while the Sounders field a lineup of strong, skilled, experienced stars.

Seattle was an expansion franchise just a year ago, and proved to be the most highly successful such franchise in league history. Fans flocked to Qwest Field and made noise from start to finish. The team responded with a winning record before being shocked out of the playoffs. This year, Seattle and their fans are primed for a run at the MLS crown, and last night both the team and the fans were in roaring form.

Manager Peter Nowak’s young Union actually came out pretty strong, mostly setting the pace for the first 10 minutes. But a breakdown in their defensive zone in the 12th minute resulted in a fairly easy goal for the Sounders’ Brad Evans. The Union had yielded the first goal in team history and were down 1-0 on the road, and momentum for the rest of the first half shifted overtly to the Seattle side.

As the Sounders continued to apply pressure to the Union side and halftime approached, things went from bad to downright ugly. In the 41st minute, Union defender Toni Stahl’s rugged play dealt them a fatal blow. Already yellow-carded (warned) once for rough play, Stahl received his 2nd yellow and the accompanying automatic red-card (ejection), leaving the Union to play the rest of the match a man short.

This was a bit too much for the youthful expansion club. Less than two minutes after Stahl’s exit, Seattle star Fredy Montero banged in a shot from close range, and the host Sounders had a big 2-0 lead. The Union appeared on the ropes and were lucky to get to halftime trailing by that same margin.

Having to play an entire second half on the road in a steady rain against a more experienced opponent in front of a vocal crowd and already down 2-0, things looked bleak for the Philadelphia side. However, the team acquitted itself well for the most part. The shorthanded situation generally kept them from any real, quality scoring chances, but they were able to dodge some bullets and play securely enough that the same 2-0 halftime score would end up being the final.

The bright side for the Union on the field came from the performances of a number of players. Goalkeeper Chris Seitz was generally steady and showed that he can succeed if given a full opportunity as a starter protecting the Philly nets and leading the back end. Forwards Sebastien Le Toux and Alejandro Moreno looked good and each had bright moments on the offensive end. Tiny American teenager Jack McInerney showed steely-eyed determination, speed and skill in a late cameo appearance.

The Union were also forced to play the entirety of their inaugural game without Fred, the 30-year star Brazilian forward who is expected to be a huge part of their team. Fred was serving a 1-game suspension for an incident while playing at the end of last season for D.C. United, and will return to the Union lineup for their home opener on April 10th at the Linc against his former team.

So professional soccer is back in Philadelphia. The Union will play approximately once a week now through a 28-game season that will end in October. There will be a 2 1/2 week break in mid-June for the playing of the World Cup. The team may be young, but it has talent and showed under extremely adverse circumstances last night that it has heart as well. That characteristic is something which will serve it well in this always tough sports town.

I turned in to the MLS Cup championship last fall and watched a thrilling game as Real Salt Lake battled David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy to a 1-1 tie in regulation, then won 5-4 on penalty kicks. That game and the pending birth of the Union have me excited about and interested in pro soccer for the first time in my life. My wife and I will be attending the Union’s first-ever home opener, and I’ll be following them regularly.

It’s time, Philadelphia. This is a truly great sports town, and there is really no reason that we cannot devote a portion of our loyalty and attention to this extremely worth game. The franchise seems to have made a longterm commitment to our area, so we can safely put our affections into it’s hands. Go ahead, watch some games. Go to a game or two. Let down your guard, Philly, and embrace the new kids in town, the Philadelphia Union.