Union Frustrated About Defensive Lapses

Club looking to be sharper on defense side of the ball


Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio/Sideline Photos

If there’s been one theme in the Philadelphia Union’s
inaugural season, it’s been outplaying the result, usually due to a costly
lapse or two on the defensive side of the ball.

That dynamic was at work yet again Thursday in the club’s
2-1 loss against the Eastern Conference leading Columbus Crew at PPL Park.

Philadelphia came out and dominated possession for much
of the first half, only to go down 1-0 after Steven Lenhart headed home a
Guillermo Barros Schelotto free kick in the 43th minute.

“It was a cheap goal,” said central defender and captain
Danny Califf. “Nobody touched it, it just went in.  We weren’t close enough to him (Lenhart) to have cleared it
and it was certainly a preventable goal and we seem to have given up a few of

Despite the goal, the Union went into the locker room
with momentum in their favor after Sebastien Le Toux equalized with a penalty
kick in first half stoppage time for his ninth tally of the season. The momentum
wouldn’t last long, however, as Lenhart netted his second goal of the match in
the 51
st minute, finishing again with his head.

“The second one I had my arm on Lenhart and I pushed him
so I kind of knew where he was,” said Califf. “The ball got served and I had
done a quick turn to see where he was. He made a great run and snuck right in
on me and dove in so I didn’t have a chance to even slide because I would have
kicked him in the face. 

“So it was a tough one, it was a good ball and a really
good run. I should have done better with it. I had an arm on him at the
beginning of the play and I certainly take that one… I should have been able to
prevent that goal. That’s my job. I should have done better.”

In truth, the Union’s backline has been much improved of
late, surrendering a respectable eight goals in their last six league matches,
right around the league average for goals allowed.

What’s frustrating, though, is that the goals
have almost always come against the run of play, and usually when the
opposing team has been generated fewer opportunities to put the ball in the

“We need to be sharper in
defense as a unit,” said veteran midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi, who left
Thursday’s match in the first half with a tweaked groin. “We have been
dominating games and then allowing limited chances to the other team and it
seems that however many they get they put in.

“I think we just need to be
sharper on the defensive end to cut those out. We need to be focused when we’re
dominating the game so heavily that when things come back to our defensive end
that were on our toes and clearing things up.”

While it’s clear that
Philadelphia has work to do in order to begin earning results on a consistent
basis, there is plenty to be said for a first-year club spending so much time
on the ball and dictating the tempo more often than not. When attainable and
deserved points are squandered time and time again, however, the satisfaction
of playing well begins to wear off.

“Definitely, because we work
so hard and we know we are a good team but only as good as the table shows,”
added Miglioranzi. “But we do have a lot of heart and courage and we do have a
lot of games left to prove that.”

The club won’t have to wait
long to atone for their loss, with only two days rest before a Sunday showdown
with red-hot FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park. Real Salt Lake will come to PPL Park the
following Wednesday, continuing a tough stretch of matches against the elite
teams in MLS.

Despite the disappointment
over Thursday’s loss and a 1-1 draw with New England last weekend, the Union
are still confident that their quality will translate to the standings.

I think we’re
a team that prides itself on being tough to play at home and these past couple
of results have stung a little bit,” said goalkeeper Chris Seitz. “With that
being said, we get another game Sunday in Dallas, which is going to be a tough
place to play, but I think we can go in there and definitely get three points.”