JACKSONVILLE – There isn’t too much stock in winning or losing preseason matches right now, but with the way the Union brought it to Montreal Friday night, it would have been nice to make the two-hour trek back to base camp in North Orlando with a “W.”
Despite what was possibly the club’s best preseason match thus far this season, the Union had to settle for a scoreless draw in its third preseason match against Montreal.
On a crisp clear night from EverBank Field, home of the NFL’s Jaguars, the Union were the one making an impact on a Montreal team that looked threatening at times, but sluggish and not ready for a Union onslaught from a first team that played 75 minutes – before a wholesale switch was made at every position.
What was most impressive on this night was the Union actually controlled the pace of the match and was able to find passing lanes, working the ball from the flanks with both fullbacks and its wing midfielders.
Defensively, the starting backline of Parke-Soumare in central defense, the grit of Sheanon Williams on the right and the deft speed of Raymon Gaddis at left back allowed for a two headed attack as both pushed high up the field from the flanks.
It was a game that if not for the prowess of Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush this game could have ended a bit more favorably for the Union.
Well…that, and an inability to finish off chances.
Perhaps the only gripe in this one was that too many shots found the stands behind the goal or off a deflected boot of a Montreal player which kept the game open for either side for the duration.
“According to what we are trying to do, I think tonight we did see a very good 75 minutes of work," said Union manager John Hackworth. "The intensity that we wanted was there, the effort was good and the guys put out what we wanted over 75 minutes and that's slowly building up so that we'll be ready for 90...I thought we had some good restart opportunities where we were just barely off. Look, I'd rather build up and save thsoe for the real season if that's the way the ball is going to fall, so I'm not worried about it at this point."
Doesn’t mean this isn’t a chance to convey the number of missed opportunities.
Like the one in the 29th minute when a Danny Cruz cross looking for Sheanon Williams deflected right to the boot of Jack McInerney who had the ball saved nearly off the line by Montreal (and former Reading United defender) Zarek Valentin.
Or a ball played in to the feet of Gabriel Farfan from McInerney in the 40th minute that sailed high on the shot from distance.
Or the biggest chance of the night which arrived in the 69th off a counter attack when Williams dummied a ball through that found Michael Farfan just inside the box. Farfan found the feet of an onrushing Sebastien Le Toux. And if not for a sprawling foot save from Bush, the Union would’ve grabbed the lead – and ostensibly, the win.
“I think the bigger picture is March 2 and so everything we are doing right now is preparing them for March 2,” Union assistant Rob Vartughian said prior to the match. “So all we said to them [before the start of the match] was the things that we have been working on, let’s see them translate; let’s try to pull off the things we have been working on in training.”
It was a good night all around, as well over 5,000 fans flocked to the Union’s inaugural match in Jacksonville and the first in a three-year agreement and partnership with the city to raise the awareness of soccer in the community.
The Union is back at it Saturday afternoon, with a match against Toronto FC (3 p.m., www.philadelphiaunion.com/live ). Expect a much different lineup from Friday night as this match will serve as another evaluation tool as just 15 days remain before Sporting Kansas City opens the 2013 MLS campaign for the Union at PPL Park.
Philadelphia Union vs. Montreal Impact
Friday, Feb. 15-7:30 p.m.
EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
MTL: Bush (caution) 15’
PHI: Soumare (caution) 42’
PHI: Le Toux (caution) 66’
Zac MacMath (Konopka, 75), Ray Gaddis (Kassel*, 75), Jeff Parke (Albright, 75), Bakary Soumare (Jordan, 75’), Sheanon Williams (Anding, 75), Brian Carroll (Lahoud, 75), Gabriel Farfan (Fernandes, 75’), Danny Cruz (Daniel, 75’), Michael Farfan (Torres, 75’), Sebastien Le Toux (Casey, 75), Jack McInerney (Hoppenot, 75)
GK-Evan Bush, Maxim Tissot, Wandrille Lefèvre, Karl W. Ouimette, Zarek Valentin, Blake Smith (Dennis Iapichino 59'), Calum Mallace, Fernando Monge (Collen Warner 46'), Andrés Romero (Mircea Ilcu 59'), Andrew Wenger (Eber* 71'), Sanny Nyassi
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com