Match recap: Late Timbers tally steals three points from Union in season opener

"Plenty to build off" in strong Union season opening performance

 

Its night’s like Saturday's when the end result has nothing to do with the final score.

In this season opener against Portland for the Philadelphia Union, all eyes were on what the end result would be of key offseason acquisitions to bolster a core looking to hit the ground running in MLS 2014.

The Union did just that in a driving rain at Providence Park and returned to the East Coast with a point for their hard work courtesy of a 1-1 draw against the Timbers. The Union (0-0-1, one point) nearly earned its second ever win in a season opener but Portland (0-0-1, one point) newcomer Gaston Fernandez headed home a corner kick in stoppage time to preserve a point for the Timbers. In all, the Union improved its record in season openers to 1-3-1 all-time.

In the case of the Union, forward Jack McInerney picked up right where he left off in 2013 opening the account in the 65th minute by finishing off a corner kick from Cristian Maidana. The ball actually caught the glancing header of midfielder Maurice Edu first but McInerney guided it past Portland keeper Donovan Ricketts.

The goal marked the 25th of McInerney's professional career and was his 16th goal for the Union away from PPL Park.

“We’ve come in with a different formation and a bunch of new players and I think tonight we held our own,” McInerney said postgame. “We played well and as the season goes along I think we are only going to get better. [Going away with only a point] is disappointing, but if you would have told us that we would’ve drawn 1-1, I think we would’ve taken it. I think we just have to put this behind us but giving up late goals is something that is going to have to change if we want to make it into the the playoffs."

The creativity of the Union’s new look midfield created numerous chances specifically for McInerney, who played the role of target forward. McInerney had the biggest chance of the first half after a perfectly weighted ball from newcomer Cristian Maidana played McInerney into space in the corner. McInerney’s run into the box allowed for a cute nice chip to be placed past Ricketts but the ball was cleared away from danger by Portland’s Norberto Paparatto.

Edu played the role of holding midfielder to perfection, distributing from the back and dropping deep to clear dangerous balls inside the box. Edu was an imposing presence as well on attack as he was the catalyst on a near goal in the 20th minute, when his run and cross into the danger zone took a deflection that found Maidana. Maidana produced a quick turn and a shot that forced a save from Ricketts.

“I thought it was a good performance by our team, I thought we started the game particularly well,” said Union manager John Hackworth. “We played some really good soccer, we were organized, tough to break down…to get the lead and to give one up in injury time is a tough way to lose out on a couple points, but Portland is a really good team and for us there is just a lot to build off of [a performance like we had tonight.]

Though coming home points in hand was the goal, the disappointment of losing out on three will stick with the team on a long flight back to Philadelphia. The beauty is that the club will stay in town all week to prepare for the home opener against Eastern Conference foe the New England Revolution (4 p.m., purchase tickets). The Revolution will be coming to PPL Park following a 4-0 loss at the hands of Houston in their season opener.

What did you think of the Union’s performance vs. Portland? Leave a comment below.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com