Greg Carroccio

Union remain confident despite lengthy winless run

CHESTER, Pa. – Danny Califf wore the captain’s armband during the Union’s scoreless draw against the Portland Timbers on Saturday.

Part of the responsibility of donning that armband is providing leadership – especially when things don’t always go your way.

The Union were in strong form for much of the night, but after missing several scoring chances had to settle for a single point against the expansion Timbers before a sellout crowd of 18,504 at PPL Park. The tie extended the Union’s winless streak to eight (0-3-5) with their last victory coming July 17 at New England.

With the result, the Union (8-7-12) jumped into sole possession of third place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind both Sporting Kansas City and the Columbus Crew.

The Union realize they have had missed opportunities over the last seven weeks, but they remain optimistic with seven games left in the regular season.

“Absolutely, we’re confident,” said Califf, who continues to serve as captain while All-Star goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon recovers from a broken finger. “You know what, if we shoot a ball here or there two inches lower instead of off a crossbar, then we have three points and a whole different outlook. I thought tonight we did just about everything right, played just about every facet of the game right.

“We didn’t get that little bit of luck that every team needs.”

How do you battle through a tough stretch?

“Just got to play,” Califf said matter-of-factly. “At some point, somebody’s shot is going to go in. I think the players on this club are very confident. There’s always pressure on everyone, but all of us, including the young players, are big boys and handling it well. It’s just a matter of something going our way and putting it in the back of net early and taking it from there.”

Sebastien Le Toux had an excellent scoring chance in the 28th minute but sent it wide.

Kyle Nakazawa banged a shot off the crossbar in the 88th minute.

A couple inches here or there and the Union would've come away with their first win in nearly two months.

“I know we’re going to be fine,” said veteran forward Veljko Paunovic. “We completed a very tough week with three tough matches. We could have gotten three points tonight and I wish we had because the crowd here was amazing. I know the guys in this locker room are very confident. We’ll get ready for Columbus and try to go get the three points. We will work very hard to come back for these great fans and put on a great performance.”

The Union outplayed the visitors, but instead of three coveted points, they had to settle for one. Still, they refuse to get down on themselves.

“We’re going to score goals,” said defender Sheanon Williams. “We all know it. We have to take it one game at a time and take what’s in front of us. We won’t look back. We control our own destiny, but the only match we’re concerned with now is Columbus.”

The secret to breaking through for three points? 

“We almost need a ball to bounce off four players and trickle into the net,” Califf said with a smile. “We’ll get it. I think we’re a confident group from one end to another in here. The players all want to win and we will work like crazy to get it done.”