It’s coming together.
The new look Union midfield that is and the creativity that was apparent in the club’s second of four matches in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
In Saturday’s match against Columbus, the trio of Brian Carroll, Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira were a dominant presence in creating numerous chances on Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark. As a whole, the Union didn’t allow very many chances in this one, but still came up on the latter end of a 1-0 score line after the Crew was awarded a late penalty kick in the 87th minute that midfielder Federico Higuain converted from the spot.
However, the final score didn’t reflect the chances created from a new look side that continues to form into a cohesive unit. Also, defensively, the Union kept the Crew at bay with a strong presence from Aaron Wheeler at center back alongside Amobi Okugo.
It took some time to settle into this one, but that was in part to the nearly hour long weather delay that threw things off. However once settled, it was the midfield spearheaded by Nogueira, controlled by Carroll and exacted by Edu and Cristian Maidana that forged the attack.
“Every game we are gradually getting better in terms of our movements both on and off the ball,” said Edu, referring to the budding relationship forming in the center of the park. “Our interchangeability is good and you can see that we create chances as well. But this is what preseason is for, it’s not about results but about getting on the right page and getting our fitness up because it’s not about now, but about being mentally and physically prepared for that first game of the season.”
It was the Union that nearly went ahead twice but a pair of chances on goal from Jack McInerney was gobbled up by Clark, who needed to make five saves in this one. The better of the two chances was the latter when a quick Union counterattack found Maidana running at goal. McInerney made a smart overlapping run for Maidana to lay off a pass, but his shot – looking to get the ball under Clark’s arm was saved.
“We still have other areas that we are lacking in right now that are a concern,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “The midfield has been good, but now it’s just about pushing our guys and getting them all mentally and physically prepared to play a higher level than we have been in the past. That right now [as a technical staff] is our challenge.”
The Union will get another crack at MLS competition on Wednesday when the team returns to action against Toronto FC at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be streamed live on philadelphiaunion.com/live.
Columbus Crew 1, Philadelphia Union 0
Saturday, Feb. 22, 1:00 p.m. (1:45 start due to rain delay)
Disney Wide World of Sports, Orlando, Fla.
CLB: Higuain (penalty) 87’
CLB: Anor (caution) 32’
PHI: Wheeler (caution) 86’
CLB: Finley (caution) 89’
UNION STARTING 11
Blake (Holt 69’), Fabinho (Gaddis 59’), Wheeler, Okugo, Williams, Carroll (Quinn 77’), Edu (Bone 77’), Nogueira (Fernandes 40’), Maidana (Daniel 69’), Pfeffer (Cruz 46’), McInerney (Le Toux 77’)
COLUMBUS STARTING 11
Clark, Parkhurst, Waylon, Barson (Williams 62’), Gonzalez (Wahl 61’), Tchani, Anor (Finlay 76’), Jimenez (Oduro 61’), Higuain, Arrieta (Finley 61’), Trapp