Union defense picked up as attack does heavy lifting vs. Chivas
CHESTER, Pa. — For once, it was the Philadelphia Union offense that bailed out the club’s defense.
Saturday against Chivas USA at PPL Park, the Union gave up multiple goals for just the third time this season but still walked away with a 3-2 win after erupting for three goals in the second half.
For members of the Union back line, who have been as consistent as they have been dominant this season, it was certainly nice to lean on a little bit of support from their teammates.
“You’re disappointed as a group to give up two goals, but the offense came through, which is awesome,” Union central defender Danny Califf said. “It really gives us a lot of confidence. We’ve been living a little bit on the defensive end, in regards to us as a team defending, and not relying on scoring a ton of goals. But for us to come out and put pressure on them and score goals, it was exciting to watch and a fun game to play in.”
Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón was especially hard on himself for his performance vs. Chivas. He noted the first goal surrendered – where Chivas strung together three headers after Mondragón batted away a corner kick – was a little unlucky but added that the second goal – where he left his line a little bit too late to challenge Justin Braun – made him “look a little bad.”
“I always blame myself for every goal,” said Philly’s 40-year-old ’keeper, who’s made 24 saves and owns a 0.88 goals-against average in his first MLS season.
“But that’s a good thing when you have a team that backs you up and steps up for you when you make a mistake,” Mondragón added. “This is a good time to make mistakes. When you win, everything is forgotten. The most important thing is we have three points.”
If the Union’s offense continues to churn out goals, more three-point nights will certainly be on horizon.
Much of the club’s success this year has stemmed from the leadership of Mondragón in net and the ever-steady play of Califf, Carlos Valdés, Sheanon Williams and Jordan Harvey, a back line that’s started together all but one game this season.
But the club has been offensively starved at times, scoring two goals or more in just three games this year.
Even with those offensive struggles, though, Philly sit atop the Eastern Conference table with a 7-4-5 overall record and Nowak is feeling about as upbeat as he has since the season began.
“It looks like we found a team,” Nowak said following Saturday’s game. “We found a group of guys who know that sometimes you have to dig deep. … I am just proud to be the manager of this team. I hope that the rest of the season will continue this way.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.