In the weeks leading up to the season opener at Houston, the Philadelphia Union preached the importance of getting off to a fast start.
Danny Califf made sure it happened.
Califf scored his first goal in a Union uniform and lifted his club to a huge 1-0 victory over the Dynamo Saturday night at Robertson Stadium. Califf corralled a loose ball after Sebastien Le Toux hit the crossbar and scored in the fifth minute to help secure the all-important first goal.
That goal held up the rest of the way, giving Philadelphia three road points after the club finished the entire 2010 season with only seven.
What a start.
“For the whole team it was a great sequence,” Philadelphia manager Peter Nowak said. “We always wait for the first goal. Going into the first game, it’s always a question mark. Danny played a very good game today with Carlos Valdes in the middle. They got a couple of good blocks from shots. It’s great for him and great for the team, and we are excited to go back to Philadelphia and play our first home game.”
Before focusing on the home opener next Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps at PPL Park, the Union were focused on taking care of business on the road. Which they did.
“It was a fight from the outset,” Califf said. “I don’t think there was a whole lot of pretty play. The Dynamo did a great job of disrupting our offensive momentum, getting us to make it so we couldn’t possess the ball that much tonight. We matched their intensity and effort. Getting the early goal helped us out, and we were able to lock it down defensively and get some key blocks on some great shots, and that was the difference.”
Califf’s goal was in fact the difference on the scoreboard. The defense accomplished the rest with a stellar all around effort.
Faryd Mondragon's presence in net also can't be underestimated. The newly appointed captain posted a shutout in his debut with the Union.
“It’s always like a chess game,” Nowak said. “They had basically three shots on goal that weren’t very dangerous. The one shot (Dominic) Oduro missed was a big chance for them, but aside from that, our backline played very well, and Faryd showed leadership and played with confidence, which spread to the team and is great for the confidence of our young guys.”
That confidence was certainly evident during Philadelphia's season-opening victory on the road.
“I think we were very disciplined,” Nowak said. “We knew it was going to be a physical game. Maybe we didn’t create as many chances as we could, or should, but sometimes soccer shouldn’t be pretty. If you have a win like that, against a phenomenal, organized team, it says a lot about these guys in the locker room, the way they treat the game, and how they approach it.”
Three points in hand, the Union will return home to Philadelphia for the club's sold out home opener against Vancouver on Saturday.
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