The Philadelphia Union learned quickly Thursday night they have a long way to go to match the expansion success of Seattle Sounders FC.
Goals from Fredy Montero and Brad Evans gave Seattle a 2-0 lead at halftime as last year’s expansion darlings beat the Union handily in the first match of the 2010 Major League Soccer season at Qwest Field.
Union defender Toni Stahl suffered a red card in the 40th minute after his second hard foul on Montero, leaving coach Peter Nowak with only 10 players at his disposal and not much chance to threaten in the rain-soaked second half.
It was Seattle who scored first, thanks to the season’s first goal from Evans. Montero fed an overlapping Steve Zakuani, whose cutting cross found Evans on a strong run from the midfield. The midfielder passed the ball into the net from about eight yards away before celebrating in front of a frenzied and hearty Seattle crowd.
Part of Nowak’s strategy could have been to rough up Seattle’s stars, as Montero and Freddie Ljungberg both took violent yellow cards from Philadelphia’s center backs. If that was the strategy, it backfired when Stahl earned his second yellow on a late challenge from behind on Montero and was ejected just before the break.
Montero got his revenge on the scoreboard a few minutes later, heading a shot at the far post off a shot from Osvaldo Alonso that trickled through the Union defense.
Sébastien Le Toux was Philadelphia’s most dangerous attacker on a night of few chances. Suiting up with Seattle in 2009, he never really had a chance to play his preferred position of striker, but looked active and comfortable in the spot for Philly.
After keeping his lineup a secret for the entirety of the preseason, Nowak came out in a 4-4-2 formation littered with young players. It included some surprises, like veterans Shavar Thomas and Stefani Miglioranzi starting on the bench in favor of Stahl and No. 1 draft pick Danny Mwanga, respectively.
At the break, Nowak inserted Miglioranzi for Mwanga. But with 10 men, Philadelphia struggled to pry possession away from Seattle, who for the most part was content to hold possession.
Newly signed Michael Fucito got his first action for Seattle, while rookies Amobi Okugo and 17-year-old Jack McInerney both saw time in the second half.