Nowak upbeat after RFK draw, feels Union are in good spot
WASHINGTON — It took exactly half of the Philadelphia Union's second season for the club to eclipse their expansion year total of seven road points.
With a 2-2 draw against D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Saturday — the eighth positive result for the Union in the last nine matches — Philadelphia moved to 2-4-2 away from PPL Park and maintained their slim lead atop the Eastern Conference.
"It was a great effort," forward Carlos Ruiz said of the club's performance on FOX Soccer's postgame report. "When we're playing on a team who is fighting for the first position, every point away is good."
The Union came from behind twice in the match, first using a Perry Kitchen own-goal to cancel out Josh Wolff's 44th minute opening tally for D.C. United. Then Ruiz sealed the final 2-2 tie with his second goal in as many matches, erasing a brilliant second-half strike from reigning MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar.
Ruiz's fifth goal of the season ties the Guatemalan with Danny Mwanga for the club lead.
"It was a great collective play," Ruiz said. "It was a great run from Sheanon Williams and a great pass from Sébastien Le Toux. I think those were the crosses I was looking for all game in front of the goal. I had one with my head and the goalkeeper made a great save, but the [goal] with my foot was difficult for him. We tied the game and that is a good result at the end of the day for us."
Playing in their first of three consecutive road contests, the Union partially avenged a disheartening 2-0 loss to United in 2010, in the process spoiling the DC debut of star midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, who assisted on Wolff's goal.
Hundreds of Union fans traveled south to support their club.
The back-and-forth affair featured a pair of spectacular diving saves within a minute's time from DC goalkeeper Bill Hamid and his Philly counterpart Faryd Mondragón, as well as a goal line clearance from Union defender Danny Califf after Chris Pontius' effort deflected off Mondragón onto the inside of the far post.
"I think overall [the game] was pretty back-and-forth," Califf said. "I think we definitely had some chances and they had some chances to put the game away. But it feels good for us to go down twice and have the character to come back out and tie the game up. So, we feel good about that."
Philadelphia displayed their characteristic grittiness, fighting back to earn their second straight positive result in comeback fashion.
"I think the important thing is that on a night like tonight when we did not play well, we still got the point," manager Peter Nowak said. "We came back and tied the game in a very good fashion. The boys are still fighting, so this is a good sign. After half of the season right now it is good to be where we are right now."
The going won't get any easier for the Union, who are now faced with a cross-country trip to meet a tough San Jose Earthquakes side which has only one loss since the beginning of May.
"I think we have to keep strong," Ruiz said. "We know we play the next two games away. If we want to stay in the first position we have to play [on the road] as we play at home. We have a great team, great players. It's not going to be a big deal to play away against San Jose and New England."