Sometimes a loss will stay with a team for a little while, but in this case, the Philadelphia Union simply can’t afford that.
They must put away Saturday’s inefficient offensive performance in order to gear up for two big home games this week vs. Sporting Kansas City and Chivas USA.
It would have been tough to pick up three points on Saturday with the way the Union offense moved, as the team managed eight shots, but only had one on target. Allowing a goalkeeper to make just one save is the equivalent of giving him the night off. Joe Cannon picked up the shutout for Vancouver, while barely breaking a sweat.
The forward pairing of Sebastien Le Toux and newcomer Veljko Paunovic didn’t really work. To be fair to Paunovic, he’s learning the league, his teammates, and in his first game also had to deal with a very bad turf field.
The offense did look a little better when Danny Mwanga entered the field of play.
Manager Peter Nowak will have some decisions to make this week with what will end up being three games (including Vancouver) over an eight-day stretch, with a west coast trip involved. How much and where does he play Paunovic in the next two?
Does Mwanga get another start? Or, does Nowak slot in Carlos Ruiz, who will be back from his CONCACAF Gold Cup duties with Guatemala.
Whatever decisions Nowak makes, he clearly expects more from an offense that is forcing the defense to play almost perfect soccer. This defense knows that if they give up a single goal, they might not take away even a single point, despite a good effort. Sometimes when you have that kind of pressure on you, it makes it tougher to play.
On the plus side for Philadelphia, you had to admire the work rate of many players, including both central defenders Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes. While Eric Hassli did have a chance or two, for the most part the Union duo nullified his impact on the game. Hassli has to be among the toughest forwards in this league to mark.
On Wednesday, Sporting Kansas City will bring a five-game unbeaten streak into PPL Park. Head Coach Peter Vermes may not have a deep squad, yet the other day he had sure starters Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamara coming off the bench. Don’t be surprised if one or both return to the starting lineup on Wednesday.
Sporting also feature Designated Player Omar Bravo, who has missed a good part of the season with two different injuries. Like the Union, their defense has played a part in their recent stretch, allowing just three goals in their last six games played.
On Saturday, Chivas USA Head Coach Robin Fraser will bring his team to PPL Park, hoping to forget about this past weekend’s loss to FC Dallas. While Chivas USA don't have a winning record, you can see the improvement of this team since Fraser took the reigns during the offseason. Ex-Union forward Alejandro Moreno is one of their key players, though he has missed some time because of international call-ups with Venezuela.
My good friend Glenn Davis will fill in for me for both games this week as I head to Houston and Los Angeles for the semifinals and final of the Gold Cup, both on FOX Soccer.
Now a point behind the New York Red Bulls, the Union have a good opportunity this week to cash in on home games and get back into first place in the Eastern Conference.