It was tough enough for the Philadelphia Union that they were playing without suspended midfielder Freddy Adu and injured starting goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Then things got even trickier when Gabriel Gómez and Carlos Valdés had to leave with second-half injuries Saturday night against FC Dallas.
But despite many key absences — and a couple of players making their team or league debuts — the undermanned Union managed to snap a three-game losing streak with a gutsy 1-1 tie against a Dallas squad that was also depleted.
Afterwards, Union manager Peter Nowak credited his bench players for being ready to fill a few much-needed voids in the lineup.
Full Highlights: DAL 1, PHI 1
“We have 28 guys that need to be held accountable,” he said. “Never stop working because maybe one day you’re going to be called upon — it’s good to have this kind of group mentality.”
The most notable player to heed those words was goalkeeper Chase Harrison, who made his first-ever appearance in a league match. Filling in for MacMath (concussion symptoms), Harrison responded with a performance Nowak called “courageous” as the 28-year-old ’keeper made a pair of tough saves, aggressively batted away set pieces and fought through a lot of pain after hitting his head against the goalpost and later rolling his ankle.
“As you can see right now, he took some hits — some hits on the head and some hits on the ankle,” Nowak said. “So listen, you always keep everyone fresh and everyone on their toes because you never know what is going to happen.”
In addition to Harrison’s MLS debut, Michael Lahoud made his first appearance for the Union after coming over in the Thursday trade that sent Danny Califf to Chivas USA. Lahoud started and played 55 minutes in the midfield.
Already adjusting from the Califf deal and an injury to left back Gabriel Farfan, the Union’s backline had to do even more shuffling when Porfirio López replaced Valdés, who got bloodied up in a 78th-minute collision.
About 20 minutes before that, Gómez came off the field for Amobi Okugo after colliding with Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, just after scoring Philly’s only goal.
“I think that’s just something we’ve dealt with all year,” Union center back Sheanon Williams said. “We’ve always had someone injured or have had a red card situation, so guys have been filling in all year. Everybody knows they have to be ready to play and step up when the team needs him.”
Despite the second-half injuries, the Union looked much better after the break than they did in the first half, creating far more dangerous chances to earn just their eighth point of the season.
Nowak believes that will continue, no matter who’s out there on the field.
“We’re not going to slow down,” the Union manager said. “We’re going to play like that for the remainder of the season.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.