CHESTER, Pa. – In what has become a recurring theme for the Philadelphia Union, the team played well in a losing effort.
Against the Los Angeles Galaxy last Thursday, the Union fought their way to a 1-0 loss. Except this time the result wasn’t as bad as it looked. A loss is a loss, true, but there was more to this one.
Think about the opposition. The Galaxy are a team in the thick of the playoff hunt and gunning for the Supporters’ Shield. A team with the most goals scored in the entire league. A team that boasts the trio of Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and David Beckham to go along with an already talented lineup.
The Union were the obvious underdog. But, to the shock of the casual observer, Peter Nowak’s boys hung tough for almost the entire 90 minutes. It was Philadelphia’s game to lose.
Frustrating Donovan and Beckham throughout, the superstars saw little of the ball thanks to a stingy defensive performance by the likes of Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf & Co. The only blemish came when Michael Orozco Fiscal lost Buddle on a corner kick, which the Golden Boot leader duly headed home. Were it not for that one mistake, the Union might have gotten all three points.
But it wasn’t just the defense. Philadelphia pushed the Galaxy and had the possession arrow firmly slanted in their direction as the match wore on. Saving the day on two occasions for Bruce Arena’s team was the other Donovan, as Donovan Ricketts’ clutch stops late in the contest saved his team’s blushes in a match that, on paper, shouldn’t have been as close as it was.
Of all the Union’s disappointing results this season where they weren’t able to muster that extra bit of finishing they needed or had mistakes kill them, this match helped to ease those pains. It was a complete effort in defeat against arguably the best team in MLS, and a result that any Union fan should be proud of.
Union Player of the Week: Sheanon Williams
The young fullback was excellent against LA, blanketing Donovan for most of the match. It’s remarkable to see last year’s MVP kept off the ball like he was against the Union, and even more remarkable because Williams has been in the league just about two months. The former Harrisburg City Islander has started well in MLS, and stabilizing the Union’s right back position has surely taken some pressure off the rest of the back line.
Little-Noticed Observation of the Week
Whenever the circus comes to town, the people show up. Case in point: Thursday’s match against the Galaxy. A record crowed was at PPL park to see the likes of Donovan and Beckham do their thing, with the latter drawing the ire and admiration of nearly 19,000 screaming fans.
It’s always interesting when an athlete as polarizing as Becks comes to the City of Brotherly Love. Philly fans are sometimes ruthless, and can boo the bejeezus out of the player, but the myriad camera flashes are a testament to the appreciation they can show as well.
Nowak-ism of the Week
The wily Polish manager again chose to thrust his core of young guys into the fire against the Galaxy, and they didn’t let him down. The likes of Williams, Andrew Jacobson, Kyle Nakazawa and Danny Mwanga really caused problems for LA.
“It’s awesome,” goalkeeper Brad Knighton said. “Peter has brought in the right type of guys for a team he wants to build around in the future. It’s our expansion year and we wanted to start it off well. That didn’t happen, but we have a very good core of young guys that are going to be here for a while.”
MLS would do well to look out; there might be a powerhouse in the making in Chester.