Union Use Late Goal to Top Orlando City
CHESTER, Pa (973espn.com) - Tranquillo Barnetta's brilliantly placed free kick lifted the Philadelphia Union over Orlando City SC, 2-1, at Talen Energy Stadium on Friday night.
With the score deadlocked at one apiece in the 90th minute, Barnetta unleashed a curling free kick from outside the area that found the net just under the crossbar at the top right corner as Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who was brilliant for most of the night, looked on helplessly.
"Obviously Tranquillo came up with something special, but the team pushed hard in the second half," Union coach Jim Curtin said. "It wasn’t our best night of soccer, that’s a very good Orlando team, very dangerous, very tough...Two good teams I think going at it and on the home field I think we were able to push and get that second goal and I’m really with the three points. "
The win lifted the Union (3-2-0, 9 points) to the top of the Eastern Conference table, one point clear of previously unbeaten Orlando (2-1-2, 8 points), which was without suspended star Brek Shea as well as leading scorer Cyle Larin (hamstring).
The Union, which bounced back from a 1-0 setback to the Chicago Fire in wintry road conditions last Saturday, took a very early advantage when Orlando City defender Rafael Ramos failed to clear on the doorstep in the second minute and the Union's C.J. Sapong was there to clean things for his team-leading third goal of the season.
Orlando pressured quite a bit from there with five corner kicks to Philadelphia's none in the opening half and finally broke through just before intermission when Adrian Winter turned around Union rookie defender Keegan Rosenberry before slipping it past GK Andre Blake on the far side to even things in the 43rd minute. The marker was OCSC's first ever in the young franchise's three matches against the Union.
Chris Pontius had Philadelphia's best chances to add to their tally in the first 45-plus minutes, unleashing an attempt off in the box in the 38th minute that was brushed aside by Bendik and also putting a curling shot on the target in the 45th.
The Union dominated for most of the second half but were unable to cash in until Barnetta, a substitute for Sebastien Le Toux in the 63rd minute, netted his first marker.
"Ever since last year (Barnetta) always practiced free kicks after practice, so it’s good to see one actually pay off right now and he’s pretty good at striking the ball with both feet and so I have confidence in him," Blake said.
Orlando, which has never beaten the Union in MLS play (0-2-1), outshot Philadelphia 14-12 on the night but six of the Union's were on target to just three for OCSC. The Union also had the time of possession advantage on the night by a 52-48 margin.
Blake, who finished with two saves, one cross cleared and one punch away, recorded a clean sheet in Orlando's lone previous visit to the Delaware Riverfront, a 1-0 win in October of last year with the difference maker being a Le Toux penalty kick.
"This is 2016 and it’s a new unit, team, were moving forward," Blake said. "We are better, we are stronger and were looking to build on going forward. The guys all agree that we stick and push a little bit more so we can keep going and hopefully we can make a step to the next level."
-John McMullen covers the Philadelphia Union for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen.