For the Philadelphia Union, the fact that a 1-1 draw vs. a strong team like Real Salt Lake is considered disappointing can only be a plus for this second-year team.
That’s because in year two, the team is far better than a season ago, thus the bar has been raised. Whether it’s the coaching staff, players, or Union supporters, all now have high expectations of this team.
Those high expectations were surely reached in what I considered Philadelphia’s best first half performance of the season on Saturday. I recognize that Philly led at Toronto 3-0 at halftime, and only had a 1-0 halftime lead this past weekend, but one should not compare Toronto to Real Salt Lake in terms of quality of opponent.
The Union moved the ball well in the first 45 minutes, but because of shots off the goalpost and crossbar, a very controversial offside call, and the great goalkeeping of Nick Rimando, the blue and gold could only muster one goal. A second goal in the first half, or even at the start of the second, might have been enough on this day, but again, we are talking about Real Salt Lake.
At the start of 2011, RSL was a team considered easily to be in the top three among the 18 MLS teams. An injury to Javi Morales, and the loss of three players to the CONCACAF Gold Cup, has slowed the attack down for sure. Their biggest loss, though, was in the two leg CONCACAF Champions League final. Needing only a win, 0-0 draw or 1-1 draw in the second leg at home, RSL suffered a 1-0 loss to Monterrey. Since that devastating loss, the 2009 MLS Cup champions are only 2-3-3.
Still, they brought to PPL Park the league’s top defensive team, led by Rimando. Also, as advertised, the central defense tandem of Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave was tough to beat, especially in the air.
At the end of the day, Philadelphia had 12 shots, included six that were on target, plus eight corner kicks. If they continue to generate numbers like that, more goals will come. As long as they don’t have to play RSL every week.
So the Union’s draw now puts their unbeaten streak at four games, while extending their home unbeaten streak to seven in 2011 (eight if you go back to last season).
Up next, a Saturday game in Vancouver where the Whitecaps haven’t won since their first game of the season.
It’s a team to be concerned about, though, especially if you watched their 2-2 draw this past Saturday at Seattle.
I’ll have more on that matchup later this week.