April 21, 2012
By Charles Cuttone
The Philadelphia Union may have been desperate to get their second straight win, and first of the year on the road, but their performance at Home Depot Center on Saturday night was nothing short of disgraceful.
Forget the fact that the Union took only four shots in the entire game, a malady that has plagued them all season. Forget about the fact that they couldn't connect passes or that they were outplayed by Chivas the entire game. The Union looked like a bunch of thugs that would make the Philadelphia Flyers’ Broad Street Bullies of the 1970s proud.
The Broad Street Bullies moniker is one that was stuck on the Union in their first season, when it seemed like they ended almost every other game with a man disadvantage. But they never during that inaugural campaign looked as undisciplined and reckless as they did on Saturday.
We've said on these pages numerous times this season, that the Union appeared to be reverting back to looking like an expansion side, rather than last year's playoff team, but Saturday's display was just ugly.
Three players, Lionel Pajoy, Gabriel Gomez and Sheanon Williams, took yellow cards, all for reckless fouls.
The Union then found themselves at a disadvantage in the 75th minute when Keon Daniel swung his back leg into Ryan Smith on a late challenge.
It got even worse ten minutes later, when Gabriel Farfan went into James Riley with two legs and was shown a straight red by referee Juan Guzman. After Chivas midfielder Blair Gavin pushed Farfan, something that he should have been carded for, both teams got into an altercation that cleared the benches and wound up with Nowak getting sent off.
MLS has been cracking down on rough play and rulebreaking this year, reviewing everything after the fact and issuing further suspensions beyond what was or was not called on the field. You can almost bet Nowak will miss more than next week's home game against the San Jose Earthquakes, and will also have a somewhat lighter wallet.
At no time should a manager or coach ever set foot on the field during the game, regardless of what happens. But then, Nowak's judgment has been questionable all year, starting with the decision to sell Sebastien LeToux to the Vancouver Whitecaps, then not breaking the news to LeToux himself. Some of the other player moves have been questionable as well, but unlike Saturday's melee, none of them bring the team or the game into disrepute.
Pele might have called soccer the beautiful game, but on Saturday night, it was nothing but ugly.