Play-by-Play Plus: How the most entertaining game of year nearly ended in chaos

Play-by-play man JP Dellacamera's latest on all things Union

PBPP: Okugo scuffle

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

 

Saturday's match at PPL Park featured a little bit of everything…

Along with the four goals scored, we also saw a game that included 32 shots, 11 corner kicks, three yellow cards and three red cards with the game ending three players short.

The game also ended with an obvious handball in the box that was not called. Have to assume the handball was not seen by referee Jorge Gonzalez and his crew, otherwise how could it not be called. Unlike some plays where you could say a call could have gone either way, multiple replays clearly showed Leo Gonzalez (with his hand in an unnatural raised position) handling the ball in the closing seconds.

Imagine the added drama in the closing minutes had that been called properly as a penalty kick. Most likely Sebastien Le Toux (7-for-7 for the Union on penalty kicks) would have stepped up with a chance to defeat his ex-team with most likely the last kick of the game.

Instead of a full three points, the Union picks up just one – an agonizingly frustrating one at that.

Not lost in all of this was their spirited play, especially after giving up a goal to Eddie Johnson in the 10th minute. Giving up that goal seemed to inspire the club, to a point where they enjoyed a 22-10 edge in shots, plus 55.7 percent ball possession.

It was a day when Union manager John Hackworth surprised us by making no changes from a starting 11 that had lost the previous week to New England, 2-0 in what Hackworth deemed “probably our worst performance of the year.”

Other notes on the plus side: the play of Danny Cruz who scored twice in less than a minute. You know you always get a workhorse effort from the feisty winger, but to get two goals, especially like the ones he scored were an added bonus. On his second goal, the stadium seemed to shake. Led by the Sons of Ben, who were closest to it, it was the loudest I personally could remember after a Union goal – in two years.

The play of defender Raymon Gaddis also stood out. The second year pro started the day at left back, but finished it at right back. On our telecast, he was named the defensive player of the game. Cruz naturally was the match’s best offensive player.

For the Union, change will be the operative word on Saturday for their next game against the Chicago Fire. A hamstring injury to central defender Jeff Parke and a red card to right back Sheanon Williams will force the team to change a lineup that had remained the same for three straight weeks.

Chris Albright, Gabe Farfan and the so far not used Bakary Soumare are available to fill in on the backline on Saturday.  Soumare hasn’t suited up since announcing a desire to be traded.  The assumption is that he will start – one that would be against his former club in his former home stadium.

Idle this past weekend was the Fire, which is off to a very slow start after a year in which it returned to the MLS Cup playoffs.

Sporting a 2-5-1 record good for seven points, they have struggled on both sides of the ball. Averaging just 0.75 goals per game won't win you much, but even if the offense was good, they are still allowing 1.75 goals per game. The loss of injured central defender Arne Friedrich (yet to play) has hampered their defensive shape and efforts. The team will be without suspended midfielder Jeff Larentowicz who picked up a red card in their last game against Montreal.

Saturday's game can be seen nationally on the NBC Sports Network at 1:30 p.m. eastern time.