June 27, 2010
By Charles Cuttone
Union open PPL Park with a crowd-pleasing win
CHESTER, Pa---For professional athletes, motivation can come from a lot of places. For the Philadelphia Union, it seems to come from home soil, or the fans. Maybe both.
|Sebastien Le Toux’s goal and two assists helped the Union christen PPL Park with a 3-1 win over Seattle Sounders FC.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
That was the case Sunday, as the expansion team christened PPL Park with a thrilling 3-1 win over Seattle Sounders FC.
“If you are not motivated playing in front of these guys (the fans), then you have to change professions.” Said Union Manager Peter Nowak, managing to do something rarely seen in these parts, crack a smile after a game.
“It was a historic moment for all of us,” he said. “This place is awesome.”
The history at PPL Park started off on the wrong foot, with the Sounders taking a 1-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“There was a couple of moments in the first half when we made things difficult for ourselves,” said Nowak.
The most difficult came in the 44th minute. Fredy Montero caught the defense napping and sent a ball over the top. Pat Noonan ran through two defenders to get the ball and put it past goalkeeper Chris Seitz.
Still, that might have been the only down note in what was a festive occasion, on the field and in the stands.
“I was very pleased with everything. The first half was not perfect, but the second half was almost perfect.”
The Union’s equalizer came on a penalty kick eight minutes into the second half, after Alejandro Moreno was knocked down in the penalty area.
“I put myself in a position where I am uncomfortable for defenders,” Moreno said of drawing the foul that led to the penalty kick.
Sebastien LeToux scored the first Union goal in PPL Park history with a shot to the upper right corner.
“I know Kasey,” said LeToux of Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who was his teammate on the Sounders last year. “He knows my favorite side, so I waited until the last moment.”
Referee Baldomero Toledo almost gave the Sounders a gift six minutes later, awarding a penalty kick when the Union’s Cristian Arrietta got tangled up with Montero. Noonan took the shot, but Seitz went to his right and wrapped up the ball in his arms, sending the crowd of 18,755 into a frenzy.
“I tried to look at tendencies of other players,” said Seitz. “Some of it is luck. It felt good, but it was important for our team.”
The save seemed to fire up the Union, who then went wave after wave for the go-ahead goal. It finally came in the 79th minute, when LeToux made a run down the right side and sent a ball across the penalty area. Fred was waiting at the corner of the six yard box and poked it past Keller.
“He made that huge save and we came back to score that goal,” said defender Danny Califf of the lift the team got from the save, Seitz’s first of a pk since his freshman year in college, when he accomplished the feat in the NCAA Final.
Attacking into “The River End,” inhabited by the Sons of Ben, the Union didn’t stop with a go-ahead goal.
Six minutes later, it was LeToux again as the creator. He again made a deft run down the right flank and sent the ball across to Danny Mwanga. Mwanga’s initial shot was stopped by Keller, but before the veteran goalkeeper could recover to grab the loose ball, Mwanga controlled it and put the ball into the net.
The goal came as the result of some changes Nowak made in the lineup, having Le Toux play in a more retracted role, with Moreno and Mwanga up top.
“I found a bit of freedom,” Le Toux said of the change. “I like it because I can run at the ball. It is one of my strengths.”
Seattle Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, Leo Gonzalez, Jeff Parke, Tyrone Marshall, James Riley, Steve Zakuani (Nate Jaqua 72), Patrick Ianni, Peter Vagenas (Michael Seamon 66), Fredy Montero, Freddie Ljungberg, Pat Noonan (Roger Levesque 80).
Philadelphia Union: Chris Seitz, Shea Salinas, Jordan Harvey, Danny Califf, Cristian Arrieta, Stefani Miglioranzi, Roger Torres (Andrew Jacobson 63), Fred (Amobi Akugo 81), Sebastien Le Toux, Danny Mwanga (Nick Zimmerman 87), Alejandro Moreno.