John Hackworth had every reason to focus his postgame thoughts on the tough call that set up the game-winning goal for the Houston Dynamo in Saturday’s bitter 2-1 setback at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Instead of pointing the finger at the referees, however, the Union’s interim manager chose to turn his attention to his own team’s shortcomings, lamenting the fact that Philly missed what he called a couple of “sitters” when the game was tied at 1-1 early in the second half.
“They have to be finished,” Hackworth said. “Those are the critical moments of the game. We have to finish both of those chances. Then we lost a little bit of steam midway through the second half.”
After a poor first half that saw the visitors fall behind 1-0 and generate few, if any, scoring opportunities, the Union certainly came out firing as soon as the second half began.
HIGHLIGHTS: HOU 2, PHI 1
Shortly after Keon Daniel scored his first goal of the season on an impressive left-footed turn-and-fire in the 46th minute, the Union kept their foot on the gas pedal. In the 48th minute, Jorge Perlaza – who was making his first start with Philly – made a cutting pass to Michael Farfan, whose close-range shot was saved by Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall.
Seconds later, after keeping the ball in play, Sheanon Williams fed a cross across the box that Lionard Pajoy appeared to pass instead of lining up a shot on an open net. The ball ended up being cleared away and the Union missed a golden opportunity to pull ahead.
“Once again, I think we’re disappointed,” said Hackworth, who is now 1-2-0 in league games since taking over as head coach, despite the team looking better and the good vibes surrounding his promotion. “We thought we deserved to get a point out of that. We didn’t particularly play our best but we came out in the second half, got the equalizer and we really should have put the game at least 2-1.”
As is bound to happen, the Union (3-9-2) paid dearly for not taking a lead when they had the chance. In the 81st minute, Houston sub Brian Ching drew a foul in the penalty area when he tried to play a cross between Union defenders Carlos Valdes and Gabriel Farfan. It looked like Ching – who banged home the ensuing penalty kick to put Houston up for good – was knocked down by Farfan on the play, but the contact also didn’t appear to be too drastic.
Though disappointed, Hackworth remained relatively diplomatic about the referee’s decision afterwards.
“It was a tough call but we need to go look at the replay a couple of times to see if it was really a PK,” the Union’s interim manager said. “Either way, we had two guys in the box vs. one. We have to be smarter about that and defend it better. Then I think we walk out of here with a point.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.