Disappointing. That sums up Saturday's Philadelphia Union result versus Real Salt Lake. Going into the game I would have said that a 1-1 draw would be a descent result, but that changed once the Union started to dominate play early in the match.
There has been a lot of talk about the poor officiating in this match and how it cost the Union a win. I've been involved in soccer for about 30 years, and I don't ever remember a referee that I liked or thought got most of the calls right, but the referee and his assistants weren't the reason why the Union didn't come away with all 3 points. Philadelphia lacked the cutting edge and didn't put the game out of reach when they had the chance. The Union must learn from this match because no matter how much you impose your will on the game, if you have just a 1 goal lead your opponent is just 1 shot away from drawing level.
Real Salt Lake came into the match on the back of a loss to the Crew in Columbus on Wednesday night. You could tell that they were playing on short rest as the team was playing sloppy from the very start of the match. Philadelphia put relentless pressure on RSL for the entire first 45 minutes. Most of the 18,728 fans at PPL Park thought that Sebastien LeToux had scored his first goal from open play this season when Keon Daniel ran down a ball played in by Jordan Harvey and found a charging LeToux with his cross who neatly placed the ball into the back of the net. Unfortunately, Daniel was ruled offside. A few minutes later Daniel scored his first career goal when he headed home a cross by Michael Farfan. After that goal the Union kept up the pressure but could not capitalize on any of their chances.
Both teams came out for the 2nd half in different mindsets. RSL started to take the game to the Union. Their passing was sharper and their possession was more meaningful. For the first few minutes the Union looked like their heads were still in the locker room. That didn't last long and the Union started pressuring RSL again. Then in the 53rd minute, RSL scored against the run of play. With Philadelphia pressing forward Jean Alexandre took out Farfan to win the ball in the center circle. Alexandre played the ball forward to Fabian Espindola who slightly beat defender Carlos Valdes when he cut the ball inside then shot the ball low into the far corner beating a diving Faryd Mondragon. That capped off the scoring for the afternoon despite the Union making offensive substitutions in an effort to get the deserved 3 points. Philadelphia did see a few more chance but it was nothing like the opportunities they blew in the 1st half.
The Union are now tied on points with RBNY for 1st place in the East. Philadelphia makes the long trip to Vancouver to play the Whitecaps at Empire Field on Saturday night. This will be their 2nd meeting this year, with the Union winning 1-0 at PPL Park in their home opener.
(image courtesy of Getty Images)