By: Todd Kurpel
While the match may not have played out the way the Philadelphia Union hoped, the team still walked away with the result they were looking for as they earned three more points by defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 on Saturday, March 26th. Carlos Ruiz scored the lone goal in the team’s home opener, which was also his first as a member of the Philadelphia Union.
Union Team Manager Peter Nowak inserted Forward Danny Mwanga into the starting lineup for the match against the Whitecaps. Perhaps Mwanga, who was used as a substitute in the team’s first match against Houston, was inserted into the starting lineup to try and help the Union jump to an early lead against the expansion team, who were playing their first MLS road game. It would seem that early Union goals, in front of a sold out crowd of 18,591 fans, would be too much for the Whitecaps to overcome. However, the Whitecaps showed that they were ready for the match, and were able to keep the match tied at zero heading into halftime.
While there were not any goals in the first half, there were plenty of fouls, as the two teams battled in a physical match that saw a lot of early cautions. Referee Yader Reyes did what he could to keep control of the game, but the physical play resulted in five first half yellow cards. The most significant early caution was received by Whitecaps forward Eric Hassli, when it appeared that he stuck out a leg to trip Danny Califf, after play had already been whistled dead. The yellow card turned out to be costly, as Hassli would receive a second yellow in the 57th minute on a hard challenge with Carlos Valdes, which resulted in the ejection.
With the advantage, the Union stepped up the offensive pressure, but were not able to score as Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon made a couple of key saves. The most impressive of the saves came in the 66th minute when he reacted to a Ruiz bicycle attempt and was able to send the ball over the crossbar.
The Union finally were able to take advantage of being a man up when Stefani Miglioranzi intercepted a Whitecaps clearance and was able to bounce a shot into the area in front of the Vancouver goal. The shot seemed to deflect off of the Union’s Jack McInerney and rolled over to Le Toux, who was to the right of the goal. Le Toux had the possibility for an attempt, but Cannon quickly cut off the angle. Le Toux instead found Ruiz in front of the goal, who was able to handle the pass and tap it in for the goal.
Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon faced a little early match pressure from the Whitecaps, but was mostly untested in his second consecutive shutout. The victory secured the Union’s first-ever winning streak. The Union will next play in Los Angeles on Saturday, April 2nd against the LA Galaxy, while the Whitecaps will return to Vancouver to host Sporting Kansas City, also on Saturday.