CHESTER, Pa. -- Well, that victory on Saturday was a long time coming, which made the postgame fireworks that illuminated the night sky to mark this season's home finale seem that much brighter.
We Union fans always want the team to win, but it the feeling becomes especially palpable against regional rivals like the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United (it's kind of hard to count the New England Revolution; I'm on the fence about that one.)
So, Saturday's 2-1 win over the Red Bulls at a sold-out PPL Park here (18,578 packed the place out on the same night as a Phillies home playoff game) provided a little extra joy for the Philly faithful. We hadn't beaten one of our two geographic enemies since a 3-2 win over D.C. United at Lincoln Financial Field in April.
And this win was well-deserved by manager Peter Nowak's men, despite a few hairy moments in the second half. Brazilian midfielder Fred put the Union up 1-0 in the eighth minute with a strange sort of goal. Sebastien Le Toux took a corner, which found the head of Alejandro Moreno. He directed it toward the goal, where it ricocheted off Danny Califf.
The ball fell to Fred nearly on the goal line, and his wheeling-type of shot arrowed into the net. The Union had the bit between their teeth at this point, as the Red Bulls (who were missing star striker Thierry Henry due to injury) looked sluggish. Mexican midfielder Rafa Marquez, their other star signing, had some nice touches in midfield but had little impact on the game.
Union defender Michael Orozco Fiscal made it 2-0 in the 28th minute when he slotted home a cross-field pass from Le Toux, who gathered the rebound from a long-range shot by teammate Stefani Miglioranzi. Orozco Fiscal is a dangerous attacking defender, and I think if Nowak freed him up even more to go forward he could score many more goals.
True to form ... at home, anyway ... the Union (now 8-14-7 with one away game at the Columbus Crew remaining) gave the initiative away to their opponent after establishing a stellar, break-neck pace in the first half in front of a crowd that was even more vocal than usual.
The Red Bulls' Danleigh Borman scored with a bullet of a shot in the 48th minute that left Union goalkeeper Brad Knighton rooted to his line. The goal was the result of a great run and pass by Mehdi Ballouchy, a great midseason acquisition by New York. He's the kind of lively, final-third-of-the-pitch the Union could use another one or two of.
But after that goal, the Union defense stiffened. I think Saturday's game was one of the best of the season by Philly's club captain, Danny Califf. He kept Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel quiet all night, and Califf's sheer physical presence seemed to will the Union to victory. You could tell he and his teammates wanted this one badly.
And when Fred, chipping in on the defensive end, cleared a ball of the line that seemed to have Knighton beaten late in stoppage time, the Union faithful were delirious. The final whistle unleashed a torrent of noise from the fans, which only got louder during the blast of fireworks. A win over New York? Well, that had us all singing all the way to our cars ... and long into the night.