After spending most of his Major League Soccer debut quietly lurking on Portland’s left flank, Argentine import Gastón Fernández delivered a 94th minute goal at Providence Park on Saturday, a score that salvaged a 1-1 result against the new-look Philadelphia Union. With a strong performance from the newly returned Maurice Edu complementing successful debuts from Cristian Maidana and Vincent Nogeuira, the Union were able to carry a one-goal lead deep into stoppage time before Fernández equalized seconds before Ioannis Stavridis’ final whistle.
Up to that point, it appeared as if John Hackworth’s team would pull off the weekend’s biggest upset, with a Philadelphia team expected to compete at the edge of the Eastern Conference playoff race set to hand Timbers head coach Caleb Porter his second regular season loss at home. But while Will Johnson took a quick corner four minutes into stoppage time, Fernández was left unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box, with Brian Carroll’s misplay of a near post ball providing an inadvertent assist for “La Gata.”
The error cost the Union two points, but it couldn’t overshadow what was an unexpectedly strong performance. Setting up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Philadelphia leveraged Edu’s presence to offset Portland’s strength in the middle. Though the Timbers still held 59 percent of the match’s possession, the Union forced their play to the flanks, with the home side unable to generate enough quality chances when they cut back into the penalty area. Although Diego Valeri had multiple chances to put Portland in front, the Timbers finished the night with only two shots on target.
The Union, in contrast, generated six, with Jack McInerney’s close range finish of a second half corner providing the one ball that beat Donovan Ricketts. Even on that play, Edu played the key part, rising above the defense to head the ball down as McInerney stood in front of the Portland keeper.
Add in a strong night from Amobi Okugo at the back, and the Union flashed a foundation that should challenge for a playoff spot, provided they can maintain this level. Though Philadelphia had touted the importance of their offseason acquisitions, the influence of players like Edu and Maidana finally became evident against the Timbers. On a day when four other Eastern Conference teams fell to Western Conference opponents, the Union manage to get a point in Portland.
Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.
The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).
Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.
Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.
On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).
Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.
The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.
“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.
“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”
Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.