Back to back battles against Cascadia clubs.
The Union head to British Columbia this week for a showdown with a quality Vancouver team that currently sits in fourth in MLS' Western Conference.
It will be just the fourth all-time meeting between two of Major League Soccer’s newest clubs. Philadelphia holds a 1-1-1 record against Vancouver and will play at the recently renovated BC Place for the first time in franchise history this week.
Similar to the Portland series, there just haven’t been a lot of goals scored in this one. The first two matches played out to 1-0 scorelines. Last year’s matchup ended in a nil-nil draw at PPL Park.
1. March 26, 2011: Philadelphia 1, Vancouver 0 (PPL Park)
Goals: Ruiz 77’
The second game of the 2011 season confirmed early suspicions: the Union had a pretty inpenetreable good defense.
Philadelphia was coming off a 1-0 shutout in Houston to open the season while the ‘Caps had put four goals past Toronto FC in their MLS debut.
They scored zero at PPL Park.
It was a pretty physical affair, exemplified by Eric Hassli’s late trip on Danny Califf in the 25th minute. The Union center back got revenge just six minutes later, cleaning out Hassli with a fairly “Califf-esque” challenge from behind. Teammate Stefani Miglioranzi was, unfortunately, also taken out by Califf in the challenge.
The tides turned with Hassli’s 57th minute red card. Already on a yellow from that earlier foul, the Frenchman picked up a second yellow after catching Carlos Valdes late on a follow-through challenge. The Union would play with a man advantage for the final 33 minutes.
The breakthrough finally came in the 77th with Carlos Ruiz tallying his first Union goal. A scuffed shot from Miglioranzi took a deflection, falling to a wide open Le Toux at the far post. Le Toux was able to square for an onside Ruiz, who tapped in from point blank range.
2. June 18, 2011: Vancouver 1, Philadelphia 0 (Empire Field)
Goals: Rochat 12’
The debut trip to Vancouver has to be chalked up as a big disappointment. Vancouver had gone 0-5-8 since the earlier match at PPL Park and had not won a single game since the season opener about three months prior. Philadelphia was unbeaten in four straight and coming off back to back draws against Colorado and Real Salt Lake.
You’ve got to give Vancouver credit for a sweet goal in this one. Alain Rochat’s game-winner traveled about 25 yards, blasted with the outside of his left foot perfectly inside the far post. It really was a beauty, and it was the perfect way to reward Davide Chiumiento for the darting run that opened up the space for the shot.
Still, Philadelphia did have a chance to steal a point at the end of this game. A frenetic sequence inside the box resulted in Le Toux pushing a left footed shot just wide in the 81st minute. Vancouver earned the three points though, winning just their second game of the year.
3. March 31, 2012: Philadelphia 0, Vancouver 0 (PPL Park)
The pregame tensions were just as severe as the ramifications of a possible loss in this game.
Could you imagine the storylines?
“Snubbed Le Toux Gets Revenge Against Former Team”
That might have been the headline if the Union had lost a fourth straight game to open the 2012 season.
Peter Nowak deployed a sort of 4-1-4-1 shape, with rookie Chandler Hoffman starting his first MLS game on the left side of the midfield.
(Note: The formation graphic on the video is incorrect.)
Ironically enough, the best early chance fell to Le Toux. Played in by Atiba Harris, the ex-Union man was denied only by a hard-charging effort from Zac MacMath. Philadelphia’s goalkeeper sprinted off his line and quashed the chance with a crunching slide tackle just outside the box.
Philadelphia’s ideal chance came in the 47th minute, but Valdes hit Keon Daniel’s corner kick into the ground before it tamely struck the post.
The opportunity arrived again for Le Toux to score against his former team, but he shanked his effort high and wide after being sent through by Chiumiento in the 82nd minute.
Was it pretty? No. But it could have been a whole lot worse. The 2012 Union earned its first point of the season with a scoreless draw.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at email@example.com