CHESTER, Pa. – In a game ruled by fouls and cards, it was fitting that the only goal of Saturday’s Philadelphia Union-San Jose Earthquakes contest came on a penalty kick.
Despite playing a man down for the entire second half, the Philadelphia Union earned three hard-fought points with a 1-0 win in front of 18,279 home fans at PPL Park.
Sebastien Le Toux banged home a PK in the 76th minute for the game-winner. It was the first goal of the season for Le Toux, who got the free shot on San Jose goalie Jon Busch after Union midfielder Amobi Okugo dribbled into the box and attempted a cross that appeared to hit San Jose defender Jason Hernandez in the hand.
For the Union, the win – and that call – was sweet justice.
In the 41st minute, Union defender Jordan Harvey was issued a controversial straight red card for a confrontation with a sliding Chris Leitch.
The referee ruled that Harvey kicked Leitch while he was down, though replays showed Harvey may have been trying to get out of the way. The furious Union coaches implored the referees to watch the replay on the JumboTron, but to no avail.
The first half had a lot more nastiness to it, too.
Just after Okugo was shown a yellow card, Philly goalie Faryd Mondragón and San Jose defender Brandon McDonald were both issued yellows for getting into a small tussle in the 30th minute. McDonald appeared to take issue with a collision between Mondragón and San Jose midfielder Chris Wondolowski right at the goal line as both players dove for a loose ball.
Because they were a man down, the Union went with a more defensive lineup in the second half, replacing playmaking midfielder Roger Torres and striker Danny Mwanga with fullback Michael Farfan and defensive midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi. Farfan, making his first appearance in a league game, took Harvey’s spot on the field.
Both teams also shook up their lineups to start the game.
Union manager Peter Nowak inserted Torres and Mwanga into the starting lineup, while playing just one defensive midfielder – Okugo – for the first time this season in the hopes of injecting some offensive juice into a team that had scored just four goals through five games.
Earthquakes manager Frank Yallop made some more wholesale changes following his team's 2-1 loss to Chivas USA last week, starting Brad Ring, Steven Lenhart, Anthony Ampaipitakwong, Justin Morrow and Bobby Burling with Sam Cronin, Ramiro Corrales and Bobby Convey coming off the bench. (Convey, a Philly native, came on in the second half for Scott Sealy and quickly joined the yellow card party.)
The changes seemed to have a better effect for Nowak’s crew as Mwanga, Le Toux and striker Carlos Ruiz enjoyed some nice chemistry in the attacking third.
Even in the second half, while playing a man down, the Union did not fall back into a defensive shell, continuing to put heavy pressure on San Jose while finding a lot of space on the flanks.
In the 70th minute, Ruiz had a nifty drop-back pass for Le Toux, who was tackled in the box but did not draw a foul.
The Earthquakes did not have as many scoring opportunities as the hosts, but in the 74th minute, Lenhart, who scored twice at PPL Park last season, nearly got his head on the ball before Mondragón punched it away.
The struggling Earthquakes, who drop to 1-4-2 with the loss, have only two days off before playing at Portland in a U.S. Open Cup game on Tuesday.
Philly’s next game is also in Portland. The Union (4-1-1), now in first place in the Eastern Conference, take on the Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field on Friday night.
San Jose Earthquakes 0 @ Philadelphia Union 1
April 30, 2011 -- PPL Park
PHI -- Sebastien Le Toux 1 (penalty kick) 77
San Jose Earthquakes -- Jon Busch, Chris Leitch, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow, Bobby Burling, Brandon McDonald (Sam Cronin 64), Scott Sealy (Bobby Convey 58), Anthony Ampaipitakwong (Ryan Johnson 72), Chris Wondolowski, Brad Ring, Steven Lenhart.
Substitutes Not Used: Ramiro Corrales, Ike Opara, Khari Stephenson, Andrew Weber.
Philadelphia Union -- Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Jordan Harvey, Keon Daniel, Roger Torres (Michael Farfan 46), Amobi Okugo, Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz (Kyle Nakazawa 83), Danny Mwanga (Stefani Miglioranzi 46).
Substitutes Not Used: Justin Mapp, Jack McInerney, Ryan Richter, Zac MacMath.
PHI -- Amobi Okugo (caution; Reckless Foul) 27
PHI -- Faryd Mondragon (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 31
SJ -- Brandon McDonald (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 32
PHI -- Jordan Harvey (ejection; Violent Conduct) 41
SJ -- Bobby Convey (caution; Delaying a Restart) 60
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee's Assistants: -Craig Lowry; Eric Boria
4th Official: Chris Penso
Time of Game: 1:52