And so goes the week that was for the Philadelphia Union.
In the finale of a three-game, eight day stretch against Houston, a back and forth affair resulted in a scoreless draw at PPL Park.
A positive result, sure as the Union improve to 1-2-5 (eight points) on the season, but a welcomed rest will find this team hitting the training ground hard in preparation for a trip to play Montreal next Saturday (4 p.m,, The Comcast Network).
Points are points – but this club wants a win.
In this one, the Union shook off a lackluster first half to take the attack to Houston (2-3-1, seven points) in the second stanza. The final stat sheet portrayed 10 chances on Houston’s net, many of which arrived after the club went up a man in the 82nd minute. Houston defender Kofi Sarkodie picked up his second yellow of the match after a delay of game infraction. It marked the third time in five matches, the Union has been a man up as games against Montreal and New York put the Union in pole position as well.
“I said, ‘Look this is not what we do. This is not the way we play,’” Union manager John Hackworth said referencing the spark the demanded in the second half. “The main thing was we were going to go out and press them. We should’ve pressed them from the start, but were not going to give our opponent time and space in our own building. That’s not who we are. And you saw that right away in the second half. As frustrated as I was at halftime, after the second half, I think especially with so many guys mentally and physically fatigued, there were positives, stuff we can build on.”
In a six minute overtime period, the Union had the edge in possession, tempo and dangerous balls into the box at Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall. The biggest chance came from forward Andrew Wenger who stepped into a deflected ball into the area from Sheanon Williams. Wenger got solid power on the shot, but launched it clear of the goal. In the 84th minute, a trademark Sheanon Williams throw-in was flicked on at the near post by fellow defender Aaron Wheeler. Three players were at the back post where the ball landed, but a scrum of Union and Houston players saw another great chance go for naught.
What was apparent was another creative exhibition in the midfield and dangerous flank play from both Williams on the right and Ray Gaddis, who had another strong performance at left back, keeping customary Union terrorizer Ricardo Clark under wraps. Clark was the culprit on both losses to Houston last season – but in this game he found his day come to an end in the 89th minute.
Vincent Nogueira dazzled yet again acting as catalyst with smart runs both on and off the ball and in a return to the midfield corps, captain Brian Carroll was considerably more active in a midfield role, many times doubling as a defender.
“We got together as a group and talked about [our individual defensive performances before this match],” said Gaddis. “Last year we were a solid defensive team and we wanted to get back to the basics and that is what we did today.”
A pair of much needed rest days arrives for the Union before resuming training Tuesday in preparation against an Impact team that stole a point in Philadelphia. This match will also be a first look at Wenger against his former team and a possible look at former Union original Jack McInerney. Again, that one is next Saturday at 4 p.m. on The Comcast Network.
A must watch for sure.
“We want to win, it’s not just about ‘being competitive,’ we want to win games,” said Williams. “When you don’t win games it’s not ideal, ties are the most frustrating…it’s not like we are losing games or getting blown over you know. Maybe not today, but for the most part we are outplaying teams, but we have one win in eight games; we are getting deep into the season and we can’t keep saying that…we have to keep working.”
What’s your reaction in aftermath of this three-game stretch? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org