Over the next two weeks, philadelphiaunion.com will be counting down the top 10 moments of the Union’s inaugural season as part of our Top 10 in 2010 series. It wasn’t easy narrowing down a historic season filled with countless memories, but here’s our best attempt. Feel free to leave your reactions or personal memories in the comments section below.
The top five of our Top 10 in 2010 countdown begins with a thrilling comeback victory, the first road win in franchise history. The only missing component was a home crowd to celebrate the Union’s 3-2 victory over the Houston Dynamo on May 29, but it’s hard to argue since being on the road was the primary reason the result was historic.
After a 1-5-1 start to the season with all five losses coming on the road, Philadelphia were up against a Dynamo side sporting a 5-4-1 record and four consecutive trips to the playoffs since the franchise moved from California to Texas. Peter Nowak’s side needed their first road win for the points, to be sure, but perhaps even more so for confidence. They received a large dose of the latter in the 39th minute, thanks to a wonder-goal from Shea Salinas.
Immediately deemed a Goal of the Year candidate, Salinas’ effort was a stroke of brilliance, complete with sublime skill and the type of relentlessness that became a trademark of the Union over the course of the season. Running onto a pass from Stefani Miglioranzi at midfield, Salinas managed to control the bouncing ball at full speed, directing it to Alejandro Moreno in traffic. Continuing his run into Houston’s territory, Salinas fought off Bobby Boswell for position in the right corner, slipping behind the defender’s back and taking the ball with him in the process. Dribbling up the endline, Salinas expertly chipped an onrushing goalkeeper Pat Onstad with the outside of his right foot at a tough angle for a 1-0 lead. It was a golazo if there ever was one, and the Union were brimming with confidence as a result. It was, after all, the club’s first-ever lead away from Philadelphia in five plus matches.
In the end, Houston’s subsequent comeback was just another twist in the script, but at the time it was a devastating blow. Brian Ching and Eddie Robinson headed home well taken set pieces from Brad Davis within a span of eight minutes, and suddenly the Union were looking at an uphill climb to earn even a point.
The combination of Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga, Roger Torres and a little bit of luck ensured as much in the 69th minute when Le Toux equalized after deft touches from the two Union teenagers, but apparently the new kids on the block were unsatisfied with a 2-2 draw.
[inline_node:287949]Waiting until the dying moments of stoppage time, Le Toux and Moreno worked a give-and-go at the edge of Houston’s attacking third to send the Frenchman into space along the right touchline. Le Toux proceeded to find a streaking Mwanga in the area for a finish that was only easy because the rookie striker had put himself in perfect position.
Fans in Philadelphia erupted after the game-winner as Mwanga kissed the Union crest on his jersey before being mobbed by teammates. This win had it all. A stunning goal to open up Philadelphia’s account. The low point of losing the lead, which only made the win sweeter when it was all said and done. A well-worked equalizer, even if the finish itself won’t be included in the upper echelon of Le Toux’s 14 goals. A last-minute game-winner, the second straight stoppage time goal for Mwanga. The first road win in franchise history. The first comeback win in franchise history.
Add it all up and it isn't difficult to see why the moment cracks the top half of our list. Nowak would go on to say after the match that while he was excited about the win, his club is a work in progress. True words, but on this night they had sure come a long way.
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Top 10 in 2010: