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Canadian prospect Matt Greer impresses with Philadelphia Union academy

Matt Greer: Born in the United States, but his parents and family are from Manitoba.

Matt Greer: Born in the United States, but his parents and family are from Manitoba.

WAYNE, PA. — You wonder if Pele started out this way. Or perhaps other greats playing the Beautiful Game,” Maradona, Beckham and now Messi.

That’s not to suggest that Matt Greer, the 17-year-old midfielder born in the U.S.A. but with Canadian citizenship as well due to his parents, is ticketed for the same kind of soccer immortality. If showing skills at a young age — then diligently training under the watchful tutelage of men who know what it takes to make it — is the trick to having a successful career, he’s on the right track.

“I think there are two to three kids on our team that have a real chance to play at the next level,” said Peter Fuller, head coach of the Philadelphia Union’s Academy 18-year-old team where Greer plays. “He’s one of them.

“One of the reasons I like Matt is that he’s real different than most others you’d see play. He’s willing to try things. He’s great at beating people off the dribble and he has a knack for scoring goals out of midfield.

“First off, he has an innate ability you either have or don’t have. The other thing is he’s not afraid of making a mistake or afraid of failure.

“That’s allowed him to do things other kids can do but won’t even bother to try.”
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TFC’s spoiler effort spoiled by Kleberson’s last-gasp free-kick goal

Kleberson

Kleberson

No team likes playing the role of spoiler. After all, it’s the ultimate admission of “We know we’re not good enough. So we want you to be as miserable as we are.”

But, for Toronto FC, buried near the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference standings and already mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, this is all it has left at this point: Knock off a team that still has post-season hopes alive perhaps ruin its season.

That was the task at hand for TFC here Saturday night on the outskirts of Philadelphia, where the host Union needs every point it can get to secure one of the five coveted playoff spots. With less than a full hand of games remaining on the schedule, Philadelphia found itself on the outside looking in when the night began.

Not anymore, after former Brazilian World Cup midfielder Kleberson bent a free kick around the wall and past a screened Joe Bendik in the fifth minute of extra time, giving the Union a dramatic 1-0 win. That vaults Philadelphia over both Chicago and New England into fifth place in the sardine-tight packed standings with 45 points.

Chicago (43) and New England (42) are right behind. Montreal (46) and Houston (47) are just ahead.

Until Kleberson struck, though, it appeared as if Toronto’s patience was going to pay off in no worse than a tie, with a chance to pull off the upset if Philadelphia desperation led to a counterattack at the other end and a TFC goal.

“We knew they’d come with numbers because it was a must-win for them,” said TFC coach Ryan Nelsen, who kept the locker room closed nearly a half hour afterwards before coming out to meet with reporters. “We knew there was going to be a lot of space for us to play in. It turned out as we hoped. We had a two-on-one and three-on-one, but couldn’t capitalize.”
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Impact played cautiously in Philadelphia, but that was the game plan going in

Troy Perkins

Troy Perkins

The good news for the Montreal Impact is it salvaged an 0-0 draw here with the Philadelphia Union, despite being outplayed most of the night and managing just four shots on goal. The bad news — part of which Impact star Marco Di Vaio and his teammates witnessed on the big screen in the locker room when D.C. United failed to convert a penalty kick — was the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win pulls them even in the Eastern Conference standings with Montreal at 42 points. Later in the night both of them were joined by Sporting Kansas City, which won in Colorado.

Of course, the Impact still has those potentially crucial two games in hand over New York and some of the other clubs chasing them, though the players would rather not think that far ahead,

“I think when you start worrying about where you’re at you make it a lot more difficult for yourself,” said Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who made four saves — a couple of them from point blank range — to preserve that valuable point on the road. “You put pressure on yourself and forget about playing.

“We just need to keep our concentration and focus on what we’re trying to accomplish.”

What the Impact is trying to accomplish in just its second season in the MLS would indeed be special. But with still nine games to the finish line the players are reluctant to look at the big picture.
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Le Toux “disappointed in myself” after scoreless Philly homecoming

Sebastien Le Toux

The man in the gaudy orange shoes didn’t quite get what he came for here Saturday on the frigid pitch in suburban Philadelphia. Then, again Sebastien Le Toux and the Vancouver Whitecaps didn’t leave town empty-footed, either.
 
After playing the Philadelphia Union to a 0-0 draw, the good news is the Whitecaps still haven’t allowed a goal in their four games.  The bad news is they’re still searching for someone to put one in the back of the net.
 
That could’ve been Le Toux, who was welcomed back warmly by those same boisterous Union fans who cheered him on the previous two seasons, before Philadelphia’s two-time leading goal scorer was unceremoniously shipped to Canada.  But his chance for a glorious homecoming slipped away late in the game when he was fired over the crossbar with Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath at his mercy.
 
“I had two big chances where I should’ve scored,” admitted Le Toux, after the  2-0-2 Whitecaps held off the 0-3-1 Union’s second half surge to  salvage a valuable point on the road.  “I’m very disappointed in myself, because my team needed me.
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10-man Whitecaps lose on controversial Ruiz goal

Joe Cannon: Thought the Carlos Ruiz goal should not have stood.

The Vancouver Whitecaps gave it their best shot to maintain their perfect season here yesterday against the Philadelphia Union and their boisterous Sons of Ben fan club —which cheers its heroes and jeers the opposition nonstop the entire game.  They really did.

But in the end the Caps simply couldn’t overcome a red card to striker Eric Hassli — his second yellow-card infraction of the day — forcing them to play a man down the final 35 minutes.  The Union applied consistent pressure from there, finally converting an opportunity goal from Carlos Ruiz in the 79th minute to squeeze out a 1-0 win that might’ve been a different story otherwise.

“Obviously playing a man down for a long time is tough,’’ said Whitecaps’ coach Teitur Thordarson, whose club had slightly the better of play until forced to play short-footed. “Until then I thought we played quite well and had some chances.
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