The similarities were all there: playing away at one of the league’s most intimidating venues, having a man sent off in the first half, going down a goal following the ejection.
Nearly everything that happened in the first 40 minutes of the Philadelphia Union’s third match mirrored that of their first match, a 2-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders last month.
Except one thing: The Union played better. Much better.
Watch: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
“I thought we came out and really had good control of the game,” said Union assistant coach John Hackworth following the match. “It’s a tough environment, tough atmosphere to play in, but we created some really good chances in that 30 minutes.”
That “30 minutes” was the time before Danny Califf was red-carded for rashly lunging out at Julian De Guzman as the Toronto midfielder tried to slip around him to get to a loose pass. Despite going down a man, though, Hackworth—who manned the sidelines for the second straight week, while Union head coach Peter Nowak watched from the booth as a sign of respect for the recently killed president of Poland—feels they had the run of play and that they deserved something from the game.
“We controlled the ball, especially when we put it on the ground,” Hackworth said. “They were trying to put us under pressure but when we were able to play out it was good. Very frustrating to walk out of this game with no points.”
The loss comes in the wake of a great 3-2 win for the team against D.C. United in its home opener last Saturday. Thoroughly dominating that match, Philly carried rhythm and interplay it discovered through to this game.
However, two errors from goalkeeper Chris Seitz, whose fumbled save and misguided tackle led to Toronto’s two goals, undermined its progress. Hackworth sees such setbacks as part of the learning process.
“I firmly believe that our team can learn from our mistakes,” Hackworth said. “I think we have a young team that needs to be in these kinds of environments. We’ve played in two unbelievable away games and one at home where the crowd was loud and boisterous where there were things happening on the field you always can’t control. But as long as we continue to build on what we’ve done so far I think we’ll be a team that, as we progress through the season, we’ll be OK.”
Despite a second match in a row marked by a goal-conceding gaffe, Seitz is working to remain positive.
“We’re all sticking together, it’s a long season,” said Seitz of what’s ahead for the Union. “We talked about how about last Thursday’s we’re not going to take our height too high and we’re not going to take our lows too to low. We’ll take a lot out of this game and move on to our next game.”
That next game comes against East Coast rival New York at Red Bull Arena a week from Saturday. It should be a “loud and boisterous” environment similar to the two they’ve faced on their other travels. The Union will be hoping that’s where the similarities end.