A man apart
Win or lose, Brian Carroll has always sat in his stall after a match the same way.
Quiet, immune to all the noise around him as his eyes are usually aimed towards the floor.
For Carroll, Sunday’s 3-1 win at home against Houston was a silent victory, an affirmation that the team he joined early last season still has the knack to make the win column, even with all the change, inconsistency and growing doubt that has transpired since his arrival.
On this perfect Autumn day, for much of the match, but specifically in the first half, Carroll was crisp in his role at defensive midfield allowing himself to break free of onrushing defenders and deliver a trio of deep long balls to attacking players. One specifically was Danny Cruz, who benefited from a pair of Carroll launchers, the latter he made dangerous with a subsequent cross into Houston’s 18-yard box.
Kudos to Carroll -- but don’t expect him to gloat.
“Today really was about doing anything that we can to get a win,” Carroll told philadelphiaunion.com. “Really it’s been so long that we all just wanted to do whatever we needed to. Guys were making good runs in good areas of the field to exploit so kudos to those guys for getting into position and making it easy to deliver.”
The win marked the Union’s first since July 29 and if you’re counting, that’s 57 days since the club celebrated a victory. An eight game winless streak was also snapped on the heels of a brace from midfielder-forward Freddy Adu, and rookie forward Josue Martinez’ first career MLS goal. The two paired to also score the first goals from an offensive player since the July 29 match against New England in addition to Philly's first three-goal match since July 8 when the Union hosted Toronto FC.
Furthermore, it marked the second time this season, Adu and Martinez were the catalysts in a Union win -- in almost similar fashion. In the Union’s U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal against Rochester, Adu scored a brace and Martinez capped the affair with a late goal in a 3-0 win.
“We really wanted to stress keeping the ball,” said Carroll of the Houston win. “[Houston] is a big, strong physical team we wanted to do anything in our power to offset that. So we needed guys that are good in tight spaces and able to find the ball in the feet and maybe keep the ball on the ground a bit more and I think with the pairing [of Adu and Martinez] we are able to find that a bit today.”
Though the win, staved off playoff elimination for one more day with the way this season has transpired it’s hard to envision a miracle in which the Union shock the masses and qualify for the playoffs. If that becomes the case, this will be the first time Carroll will miss the postseason. For a man that ranks second in career winning percentages among active all active MLS players, his stalwart career needs reflection
“I am here to help this club in anyway I can,” Carroll said. “I’ve had a great career and I am very happy here in Philly, the fans are great and they deserved a better season than the one we put forth this year. But I think you can’t argue the effort, these guys in this locker room have worked their tails off all season and I just think with such a young crew, we still need to evolve. You just have to keep telling yourself, it’s a learning curve and move on.”
It's probably what Carroll has had to tell himself in a season that has many deep in thought.
Odds and endlines
Adu left the field in the 52nd minute after scoring his second goal on a penalty kick. It was that shot according to Union boss John Hackworth that aggravated Adu’s hip flexor. “It actually look like he pulled his hip a little bit,” Hackworth said. “He was a little hobbled after…he said, ‘I’ll try [to stay on], but there was no way he could go…For the first time in six matches, the Union failed to hold the edge in possession. Houston won the battle 53-47 percent…On Houston’s lone goal from forward Oscar Boniek Garcia in the 44th minute, Hackworth said the defenders talked about it at the half and that there was some confusion in that collectively the original belief was that the initial pass from Will Bruin, credited with the assist, was actually a ball that came from an offsides position.
Contact Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com. Follow Kerith on Twitter @sprtswtr.