CHESTER, Pa. — Richie Marquez picked a perfect time for his first career goal.
In the 90th minute, with the match on the line, Sebastien Le Toux’s right-footed cross sailed over the head of C.J. Sapong and to the feet of center back Marquez, who smoothly buried the volley to give the Union a 1-0 win over D.C. United on Friday night at Talen Energy Stadium.
“My first mentality as a defender is to go back and protect my goal,” the 23-year-old said. “I was staying alive for the play and the ball came in from Seba. I just judged it and was able to get my foot on it.”
But while Marquez played hero, he couldn’t have done it without the heroic second half of Andre Blake, who made two saves for his third shutout of the season.
“It’s a great feeling,” Blake said. “I haven’t had a shutout in a while so to get this one tonight, hat’s off to the guys. It wasn’t our best soccer but we stuck to it. If we’re going to be a champion, we definitely have to win games like these.”
In the 63rd minute, Blake made one of his best saves of the season, when a play into the Union box was one-hit with an acrobatic shot by Alvaro Saborio.
With superhuman speed, the keeper was able to extend his left arm and keep the ball out.
“It was a reaction save,” Blake said. “As I said before, I’m in net to make the saves and do everything I can to keep my team in the game.”
The win continues the Union’s home dominance, pushing their home record to 4-0-2 and overall record to an impressive 5-3-3, keeping the club atop the Eastern Conference standings. D.C. United continued their inconsistency at 3-5-4.
“There’s a belief within the group,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “I think it’s clear. Even when it’s not our best night, we can win a 1-0 game and roll up our sleeves and fight. I think it’s a testament to the group. The belief in the group is strong.”
The two evenly-matched clubs weren’t shy in trading equal pressure early on, but neither side could find the urgency needed in the final third. But as the first half pushed on, it was the Union that began to take control.
Led by the active play by Fabinho, who had the Union’s only shot on goal of the half in the 37th minute, the Union went into the break with 54.9 percent of the possession with three corners to United’s one. The score, however, remained 0-0.
“I’m disappointed that we weren't man enough to see out the game despite that call,” United manager Ben Olsen said. “It’s a game that could probably go either way. We’re disappointed, but it is what it is.”
The Union pressure wavered in the second half, but could be chalked up to the fact that the club was missing Vincent Nogueira, who suffered an oblique strain in practice on Thursday. Filling that spot was Warren Creavalle, who played beside Brian Carroll.
“Vince is a key to our team, so it hurts,” Union forward Chris Pontius said. “But we have quality guys who have played significant minutes stepping in. For the whole team, it wasn’t the prettiest of games and D.C. did a good job making it that way for us.”