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Sunday, June 26, 2011
CHIVAS USA: Not sunny in Philadelphia

By Scott French

Chivas USA was just to tonic the struggling Philadelphia Union needed: The burgeoning Eastern Conference power claimed its first victory in a month Saturday, rallying from a first-half deficit in a 3-1 decision in Chester, Pa.

Danny Mwanga's superb finish in the 82nd minute, just five minutes after Justin Braun pulled Chivas even, lifted the Union, who dominated the action and might have scored a half-dozen goals or more if not for the woodwork, two saves on the goal line and a high defensive line that led to nine offside calls.

Michael Umaņa's first MLS goal, the third header in a sequence after Philly goalkeeper Fayed Mondragon punched away a corner kick, provided a 28th-minute lead, but the Goats struggled to keep the ball and -- recurring theme here -- created few chances.

Veljko Paunovic and Carlos Ruiz scored goals for Philadelphia, which would have poured in more if not for Dan Kennedy in the nets, clearances off the goal line by Paulo Nagamura and Andy Boyens, and a deflected Ruiz shot that caromed off the top of the left post.

A quick look at Chivas' loss:

BEST PLAYER: The Union just signed well-traveled Serbian midfielder Paunovic, who had been retired since December 2008 -- a short trial with the New York Red Bulls aside. His third MLS appearance was one to remember. He scored a fine goal to end Philly's 294-minute goalless stretch, made an even better pass to set up Ruiz's goal for a short-lived lead, and was at the heart of the Union's engaging attack until he departed in the 72nd minute.

Ruiz, too, was very good, scoring one goal, hitting a post, netting another when offside and continually stretching the Chivas backline with his runs. Best for Chivas: Nagamura, looking like his old self.

BEST GOAL: Mwanga's winner was sweet. He took a feed from Sebastien Le Toux about 26 yards out, right above the semicircle, turned with it and sliced it into the lower-left corner. Kudos, too, to Jorge Flores' ball behind the backline and Braun's one-touch finish for Chivas' second goal.

BIGGEST STRUGGLE: Chivas can't hold onto a lead. Or, at least, not enough of them. They were ahead on Umaņa's header about a half-hour in, fell behind in the second half, caught up on Braun's fine finish and almost immediately conceded the winner. That's six times in six games the Goats have surrendered an advantage.

WORTH NOTING: Umaņa departed at halftime with an undisclosed injury. ... Braun's goal was his first since a May 15 hat trick at New York. ... Pennsylvanian Zarek Valentin, playing in front of about 200 friends and family, was back at right back for the Goats, with Michael Lahoud going to the bench. … Chivas has just one win in seven games. Philly (7-4-5) won for the first time this month to Philadelphia (7-4-5) won its first game this month and is back atop the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of New York.

FINAL JUDGMENT: “The biggest area of improvement for us is we’ve got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said. “We’ve done it game in and game out. We’re giving up way too many leads and either tying or losing games that I think we should win.”

NEXT: Saturday vs. Chicago at Home Depot Center, 7 p.m. (Galavision and Prime Ticket)
PPL Park (Chester, Pa.)
Philadelphia Union 3, Chivas USA 2
C -- Michael Umaņa (Ben Zemanski) 28
P -- Veljko Paunovic (Justin Mapp) 48
P -- Carlos Ruiz (Veljko Paunovic) 69
C -- Justin Braun (Jorge Flores) 77
P -- Danny Mwanga (Sebastien Le Toux) 82

Philadelphia Union: Faryd Mondragon; Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Jordan Harvey (Danny Mwanga, 46); Sebastien Le Toux, Veljko Paunovic (Kyle Nakazawa, 72), Brian Carroll, Justin Mapp; Carlos Ruiz, Jack McInerney (Keon Daniel, 46).

Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; Zarek Valentin, Michael Umaņa (Andy Boyens, 46), Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic; Ben Zemanski (Blair Gavin, 76), Paulo Nagamura, Nick LaBrocca, Jorge Flores; Justin Braun, Marcos Mondaini (Chris Cortez, 71). Unused subs: Victor Estupiņan, Michael Lahoud, Zach Thornton, Mariano Trujillo.

Yellow card: Valdes 64.

Referee: Jair Marrufo. Att.: 18,139.