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MLS Features: Union dig deep for crucial victory

This was a match the Philadelphia Union simply had to have.

Coming off a bitterly disappointing three game stretch which included two squandered leads that resulted in draws, and a lackluster 1-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo back on July 6, a home match against Western Conference bottom- dweller Chivas USA on Friday seemed to be exactly what the Union needed to break their slump.

But this also was a match that had "trap game" written all over it.

Played in a driving rain at PPL Park, the elements played a role in the opening strike, which came from the Goats in the 14th minute as Union defender Amobi Okugo slipped on the wet turf.

The fall allowed Chivas' Jorge Villafana to collect the loose ball and send it over to a wide-open Jose Correa, who rolled it into an empty net.

The Union created several chances over the remainder of the first half while dealing with the rain and big puddles scattered throughout the pitch, but were unable to find an equalizer and went into the break down a goal to one of the league's worst teams.

Under the circumstances, last year's Philadelphia squad would likely have packed it in and tried to salvage a point. But this year's team, which possesses a nice mix of youth and veteran leadership, realized how important three points was on this occasion.

And whatever team manager John Hackworth said at halftime worked wonders.

In the second half, the Union carried the play and were rewarded with the tying goal just before the hour mark as Sebastien Le Toux whipped a ball into the box which deflected off Conor Casey and Brian Carroll before hitting the back of the net.

Twelve minutes from time, the Union were the beneficiaries of some questionable refereeing as Jorge Gonzalez called a back-pass on Chivas, giving Philadelphia an indirect free kick from inside the penalty area.

Michael Farfan buried the shot and Casey added a third goal in the 89th minute to seal the result for the Union.

"I have always said that I really like this team. I like our character. I like the way we prepare. I like the way we don't give up at all," Hackworth said in his postgame press conference. "I like our resilience when we come off a poor performance. So tonight we started well and then we gave up a silly goal, part of that is the field, and then we just kept plugging away.

At halftime we talked about the fact that we just needed to execute a little better. The game plan was good and we thought we would get one back and if we get one back we could force the game and fortunately that is what the guys did. Full credit to them."

The result temporarily put the club into second place in the Eastern Conference, but more importantly showed that Hackworth's side was capable of bouncing back from a string of poor results and winning at home.

Additionally, Philadelphia has been without leading scorer Jack McInerney, who is away on international duty with the United States at the Gold Cup. Questions lingered about how the team would fill the young striker's shoes offensively, but the Union haven't missed a beat.

Without McInerney on the field, Hackworth has relied on Casey for superb hold- up play with his back to goal and excellent service on the wings from Le Toux. The combination has made the Union the highest scoring team in the league with 32 goals scored in 20 matches, and that figure will surely increase once McInerney returns at the end of July.

The Union also received a key contribution from a new face as summer signing Fabinho entered the game in the 78th minute for Danny Cruz and immediately made his presence felt.

The naturally left-footed player took Cruz's place on the left side of midfield and provided an excellent cross on Casey's goal in the 89th minute.

Fabinho's arrival in Philadelphia fills a need the Union have had since trading left back Jordan Harvey in 2011 -- a naturally left-footed defender -- and he looked well worth the price on Friday night.

Following this weekend's round of matches, the Union find themselves in fourth place and in the thick of the playoff race in a crowded Eastern Conference. And while a loss on Friday certainly wouldn't have destroyed their playoff chances, a come-from-behind effort in horrific conditions shows the Union have the mettle and veteran leadership necessary to handle the adversity they will surely face later in the season, as they chase a playoff spot.

The Union proved to themselves and to their fans that they are able to dig deep and come away with a critical result when the situation arises.