The final stats say two shots on goal for the Union.
That’s debatable depending on your stance, but know that the two the officials at Opta counted where what ultimately forged a 2-2 draw for the Union against Real Salt Lake on a beautiful day for soccer at PPL Park.
Against the defending MLS Western Conference champions, goals from newcomer Andrew Wenger and a 90th minute thriller secured the Union (1-1-4, seven points) a point at home. Both goals arrived in a second half in which Union manager John Hackworth decided to throw an offensive arsenal at Salt Lake, highlighted by creative play from his club’s midfield corps.
It was Wenger who struck first in the 55th minute, bringing down a great ball across the box from Vincent Nogueira with his chest and hit a low driver past Real Salt Lake (2-0-4, 10 points) goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. Wenger, who arrived in a trade with Montreal earlier in the week nullified a goal in the sixth minute from RSL’s Luke Mulholland, who took advantage of a rebound that arrived from a Zac MacMath penalty kick save. MacMath denied RSL forward Alvaro Saborio’s PK attempt, but Mulholland buried the rebound.
“We played some good soccer throughout the game,” Union manager John Hackworth said postgame. “We possessed the ball, went side to side and made them do a lot of work. Eventually that wore them down a little bit. The hard part for us was I don’t think we were really strong with our execution.”
In the 85th minute, surefooted RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman slotted the go-ahead past MacMath after Javier Morales put a ball back into the danger zone of the 18-yard-box from the end line. It looked as if the Union were going to come up short until Edu’s second goal in as many weeks right at the edge of stoppage time. After a perfect ball came in from a corner kick restart from second half substitute Cristian Maidana, Edu got big and snapped a header into the far post.
“I think we’ve shown that we are capable of being a good team in this league,” Edu said postgame. “We’ve shown we can play. We can beat the best teams. We’ve also shown that we have to be able to play 90 minutes. We had a lapse today where we dropped off a little bit and they got a goal. We showed a lot of heart and character to get back in the game and now we’ve got to go that extra step. We’ve put ourselves in good positions to win games and now we’ve got to go out and actually do it.”
The draw is the Union’s third in as many matches, but this one was a plus given red hot Real remains one of only two unbeaten teams in Major League Soccer. While earning points is always the end goal, the hope for three will come against one of the club’s biggest rivals this week in New York.
A short turnaround awaits the Union as a trip to Red Bull Arena arrives Wednesday night (7:30 p.m., WACP TV-4). Then it’s another Eastern Conference foe when Houston come calling on Saturday, April 19 (4 p.m., purchase tickets).
“Coming back against a team like Salt Lake is a big boost for us as they are one of the best in the league for sure,” said MacMath. “But I think we are overall disappointed as we probably were the better team out there, and we deserved the three points.” to know that we are able to play at that level and that I was able to keep us in the game when it was a bit against us… that gives the team and the defense a boost and hopefully we can continue to do better and win games now.”
“It’s frustrating for me that we didn’t put as many of those good moments together with some execution in front of goal,” said Hackworth. “But I don’t ever question the character of our team. I know our guys; I know what they are like.”
What did you think of Saturday’s match? Leave your comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org