CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union’s US Open Cup qualifying loss to D.C. United on Wednesday night was a bizarre match filled with drama, tension and intrigue.
Part of the drama – like Brian Carroll’s game-tying goal at the very end of overtime – pleased Union manager Peter Nowak to no end. Other parts – such as the subsequent celebration that got Nowak ejected – had the manager steamed even a day later during his weekly press conference from PPL Park.
The red card on Nowak was the second of the game for Philly. Carlos Valdés was sent off in the 86th minute after getting his second yellow of the contest, the last one for throwing the ball away following a collision.
“I’m the last guy that tries to influence the referees one way or another,” Nowak said. “I believe the whole situation with Carlos Valdés and myself was a situation of a referee trying to influence the game. He was in over his head. Words cannot describe how I felt about it.”
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Because of Valdés’ ejection, the Union played down a man throughout 30 minutes of overtime and were forced to tinker with their lineup positionally.
After surrendering a goal, Philly fought back to tie the game with a 118th-minute equalizer from Carroll. That led to a celebration that was too exuberant in the referee’s eyes, and Nowak paid the price.
Because of the ejections, both Nowak and Valdés will not be ineligible for the team’s first US Open Cup game next year.
“If the boys are fighting for their lives and they score a goal playing with 10 men and now the whole bench is celebrating, including me going onto the field, and I’m going to be sent off, then there’s something wrong with [the ref’s] feeling for the game,” Nowak said.
“There are three minutes left in the game and you’re not going to celebrate for 30 seconds? Give us 30 seconds of enjoyment. That’s why I’m saying that you need to have a feel for the game.”
The interesting part is Nowak has always been an advocate of proper “bench behavior,” and he reiterated that belief Thursday. The Union manager even said he’s talked to the league about having less people on the bench so as to avoid some antics from the sidelines.
This situation, he maintains, was different.
“I keep my bench in order,” Nowak said. “I don’t let my players scream or yell at the referee. … That second goal, it was a great feeling for all of us. And it’s a great sign moving forward.”
Despite being eliminated from Open Cup contention after falling in penalty kicks, Nowak doesn’t regret playing almost all of his regulars – only midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi sat out because he wasn’t feeling well – and believes his team will be fine, emotionally and physically, for Saturday’s key league game vs. the New York Red Bulls (7 pm ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes).
“The spirit is great,” Nowak said. “Even going 120 minutes, there were no cramps whatsoever, so we feel good. The mental spirit is the most important thing for me. The physical part is never an issue for this team.”