CHESTER, Pa. -- With a second-half flurry and some help from referee Jose Carlos Rivero, Haris Medunjanin and the Union overcame a one-goal deficit to take down the Colorado Rapids, 2-1, Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.
The victory pushes the Union's win streak to a club record four games.
“Confidence is a heck of a thing,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “If you could bottle it up and sell it, you could make a heck of a lot of money. You see a group now that previously when we gave up a goal, we might lay down. We might panic. I don’t think we handled it perfectly, but we did push the game in the second half.”
Playing their third match in eight days, the now 4-4-4 Union weren’t at their best Saturday against a Rapids team who are sitting dead last in MLS at 2-1-8.
“Not all wins are going to be pretty,” Union attacker Chris Pontius said. “The first half definitely wasn’t us at all, we weren’t connecting passes, we were a little late with everything and played right into their hands.”
But trailing for the first time in four matches after a Caleb Calvert fast-break goal in the 15th minute, the hosts persisted and began to climb back into the game in the second half.
“I want to speak about the first 45 minutes. It was not us. It was very bad,” Medunjanin said. “We need to know that we can’t play arrogant and think we can easily beat every team. If we don’t fight for every yard, we are nothing.”
From the right side of Rapids territory, Ilsinho fired a cross into the box that was pounced on by Jay Simpson, who entered for Fafa Picault just three minutes earlier. The forward’s shot hit Kortne Ford, who fell and practically hugged the ball, earning the in-box handball call and penalty kick.
“We spoke with each other at halftime and we knew we had to stick with each other,” Medunjanin said. “We knew if we scored the first goal, we were going to win this game.”
C.J. Sapong lined up at the spot and launched a high shot that found that first goal to tie the game at one. It was Sapong’s eighth of the season.
“The guy clearly made a hand ball and we got the PK,” Sapong said. “I tried to keep it on goal and it went in. It gave us a little bit of life.”
Then things got crazy.
Embellishing an injury in an attempt to waste time, Calvert received a yellow card for dissent and was forced off the field as the trainer was called out. A confused Calvert then reentered the game without permission and received a second yellow and red-card ejection. In protest, former Union striker Conor Casey, now an assistant coach with the Rapids, was ejected in the 70th minute.
“Nothing’s going our way right now,” Rapids’ Eric Miller said. “So I think we’re pretty used to calls like that.”
Up a man, the Union rolled. Alejandro Bedoya suffered a foul just outside the box, allowing Medunjanin to lace the free kick over the Rapids’ defensive wall and inside the right post for the 2-1 Union lead.
“I know I can shoot from there and when I hit the ball, I knew it was going to go in,” Medunjanin said. “We don’t have star players. We need to fight with each other and take the three points with each other, even the bench and everybody out of the squad.”
Having played Wednesday, the Union shifted their roster to stay fresh. Most notable was the absence of Fabinho, who was replaced in favor of Giliano Wijnaldum, who made his MLS debut. Fabian Herbers also made the start for Pontius on the right side of the midfield but was forced out in the 26th because of a hip injury.
“It was an opportunity for him,” Curtin said of Herbers. “Unfortunately, he could be out for some time.”