CHESTER, Pa. -- The Philadelphia Union coaching staff has been urging center back Richie Marquez to take more risks in the attack.
He followed that advice on Friday, and the risk turned into the ultimate reward.
With the Heineken Rivalry Week match between Philly and D.C. United slogging toward a scoreless draw, Marquez delivered a dramatic stoppage-time winner to lift the Union to a 1-0 victory at Talen Energy Stadium.
It was the first goal of his MLS career -- and it could not have come at a better time.
“I don’t get to score often,” Marquez said. “So now I know what a forward feels like. It feels good.”
Marquez -- the 44th overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft -- has been a defensive revelation for the Union since emerging as a starter early last season. But because of Marquez’s size and physical tools, Philly head coach Jim Curtin said that assistants Mike Sorber and B.J. Callaghan have been working with him to be more aggressive on the offensive end at times, especially following set pieces.
“We joked about it this week that a lot of times on corners, because he’s such a defense-minded guy, that initial ball comes in and he hits the ground and if it doesn’t go straight to one of our guys, he’s in retreat mode and he’s running back,” Curtin said. “Mike Sorber and B.J. Callaghan mentioned to him to take a little risk and stay up there every once in a while. If you’re not in the box, you’re not going to score.”
The game-winning goal Friday originated when Marcelo Sarvas was whistled for a 90th-minute foul on Fabian Herbers, leading to a Philly free kick that D.C. initially cleared. But Union center back Josh Yaro collected it and quickly played it down the wing to Sebastien Le Toux, who delivered a pinpoint cross to the back post that Marquez finished.
“The coaches were hawking at me that when you go up for corner kicks or free kicks, don’t leave the box right away,” Marquez said. “That’s my first mentality as a defender -- to go back and protect my goal. But I stayed alive for the play and the ball came in from Seba and I judged it and was able to get my foot on it.”
Both Marquez and Curtin said the shutout was even more exciting than the dramatic goal, especially since the team hadn’t kept a clean sheet in about a month. Curtin was especially happy with the center back pairing of Marquez and Yaro, which stayed organized and limited D.C. United to just two shots on target -- one of which goalkeeper Andre Blake made a stunning save on.
That both center backs played a big role in the game’s only goal was simply icing on the cake for the Union, who improved to 4-0-2 at home and vaulted into first place in the Eastern Conference with the win.
“I like not to notice my center backs for the most part,” Curtin said. “That means they’re doing their job. I think our center backs right now are playing at an incredibly high level.
"But yes, it’s good to see them rewarded because their names don’t show up a lot on the stat sheet.”