Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ruiz's golazo gives Union a wild win

Because of the constraints of print, I wasn't able to get everything into the story that I wanted to in the story I wrote for the Inquirer. So here's an expanded version.

Ruiz's golazo gives Union a wild win

If you pick up the Sunday Inquirer (which you should), you’ll see my original story on the Union’s 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire at PPL Park last night.

Because of the constraints of print, I wasn’t able to get everything into the story that I wanted to. So here’s an expanded version. There are video highlights and postgame audio interviews at the bottom of the post. There's also a video analysis piece from me that was shot by Philly.com's Sarah Kazadi.

And if it seems like I didn't go into all that much detail about Ruiz's goal, well... I didn't. It's hard enough to describe a strike like that in print, even harder to do so in a constrained space, and harder still when the game is ending right on deadline. Such is life.

But here's one way to look at the night. Carloz Ruiz has now scored three goals in 10 games. Ryan Howard is batting .236 this season. Both stars hit some pretty big shots on Saturday night.

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Game stats: Union 2, Fire 1
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Carlos Ruiz admits that he doesn’t read news coverage of the Union, or what the fans have to say about him online.

So the Union’s marquee forward hasn’t noticed the criticism of his performance for the Union so far this season - only two goals in nine games prior to last night.

Plenty of people will notice what Ruiz did Saturday night at PPL Park, though. The Guatemalan forward smashed a first-time volley from 35 yards past Delaware County native Jon Conway in the 75th minute to give the Union a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire in front of 18,372 fans.

"I thought to shoot on goal, because if I had stopped the ball, I would have thought twice," Ruiz said. "That’s the kind of goal where you never think - just shoot and we’ll see what happens." 

It was the first time this season that the Union (5-3-2, 17 points) scored two goals in a game, and the result put the Union back in first place in the Eastern Conference.

"It was a good step forward," Union manager Peter Nowak said. "We’re not going to take the foot off the pedal right now."

After 60 minutes of relatively little action, the last half hour of the game provided plenty of entertainment. All three goals came in a 12-minute span late in the second half.

In the 63rd minute, rookie midfielder Michael Farfan got the Union on the scoreboard with a long-range strike of his own.

After Roger Torres was fouled deep into the Fire’s half of the field on the left flank, Kyle Nakazawa played the free kick back across midfield. Farfan ran forward and shot the ball from almost 30 yards out. With a wall of defenders blocking his view, Conway was frozen, and could only watch as the ball rolled to his right and into the net.

Farfan did not have long to celebrate, though. In the 67th minute, Chicago’s Gonzalo Segares played a cross from the left side that went almost the full width of the field to Dominic Oduro. Oduro beat Farfan off the dribble as he ran into the 18-yard box, and tied the score with a low shot past Faryd Mondragon from a very acute angle.

After scoring the decisive goal, Ruiz was substituted out in the 81st minute for defender Gabriel Farfan. The Guatemalan forward received a loud ovation, with a few “Chooch!” chants sprinkled in from the Sons of Ben supporters club.

Nowak had to make his first substitution of the night in the game’s opening moments. In just the first minute of play, midfielder Amobi Okugo slipped and injured his left ankle trying to kick the ball upfield. Okugo tried briefly to stay in the game, but gave up the fight and was replaced by Kyle Nakazawa in the fifth minute.

The team later announced that Okugo suffered a high ankle sprain.

The first 15 minutes of the game produced only one shot on goal by either team: a speculative, first-touch attempt by Carlos Ruiz from the left side of the 18-yard box that sailed well over Fire goalkeeper Jon Conway’s net.

Ruiz produced Conway’s first save of the night in the 37th minute, creating space for himself at the edge of the 18-yard box and shooting low to the Delaware County native’s left. Conway punched the ball aside, and the rebound was cleaned up by Fire defender Yamith Cuesta.

Although the game opened up over the course of the first half, it remained chippy. Danny Califf was given a yellow card after getting tangled up with Chicago’s Corben Bone in the 42nd minute, and Kyle Nakazawa was whistled a minute later for a shove on Marco Pappa. Pappa took the ensuing free kick, and shot it just over the crossbar.

Referee Hilario Grajeda ended up giving out six yellow cards in the game, four to Chicago and two to Philadelphia.

After a scoreless first half, Sebastien Le Toux nearly got the Union on the board in the 58th minute, trapping a ball in front of Conway and drawing the Chicago goalkeeper off the goal line. Le Toux was able to spin the ball around Conway, but it hit the post and stayed out of the net.

With just over 30 minutes left to go in the game, both coaches made attacking substitutions. Nowak brought on Roger Torres for Jordan Harvey, and Chicago’s Carlos de los Cobos brought on Gaston Puerari and Logan Pause for Baggio Husidic and Corben Bone.

As has been the case many times this season, the introduction of Torres proved a major factor in the game. His speed and creativity led to the free kick that livened up a gridlocked game, and the floodgates opened for a thoroughly entertaining final half hour of play.

Torres has become a fan favorite at PPL Park. The Sons of Ben chanted his name as he entered the game, and again as he left the field after the final whistle.

The 19-year-old Colombian admitted that he never would have dreamed of such a reception when he first came to Philadelphia.

"I appreciate everything [the fans] do for me," Torres said. "I try to do everything I can do for those guys, and for the team." 



Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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