Gritty performance from Union lock valuable road point against Columbus Crew


On another day, it might have been three points and a win.

But the Union will settle for one point and a draw, earning the franchise’s first-ever positive result at Columbus Crew Stadium.

Jack McInerney put the visitors on top in the first half, calmly finishing a Danny Cruz setup after the Union attack was able to slice through the Columbus backline. It was McInerney’s third goal in five games this season.

Philadelphia could have extended the lead, but squandered chances ultimately soured the result after Dominic Oduro’s second half strike allowed Columbus to share the points.

“It’s one of those crazy games. I thought we were a much better team in the first half and should have had multiple goals,” manager John Hackworth told reporters after the game. “We just kept on missing opportunities. In the second half they were really good and the tide turned on us and it was frustrating to give one up. I thought we were going to steal one there at the end because we had a couple of really good looks, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

“Content with a point, but I wouldn’t say happy,” added Cruz. “We wanted to win. We were 20 minutes away from 3 points. It was a good finish, so credit to Dominic (on the equalizer). I think our forwards did a really good job of holding the ball, which was important. That final touch was a little bit off, but there were a lot of chances, a lot of good opportunities.”

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The Union outshot Columbus 15-to-10. Philadelphia put five shots on target while the home side could only muster three on frame.

Amobi Okugo headed wide on the fourth minute, before Cruz blasted over the bar from short range. Conor Casey had a chance to double the Union lead, but misfired from just inside the 18 yard box.

In the final 15 minutes, both teams hit the crossbar, with Andy Gruenebaum getting the slightest of touches on Antoine Hoppenot’s 20-yard-strike.

It was end-to-end action, with Crew coach Robert Warzycha pulling midfielder Agustin Viana for striker Jairo Arrieta in the second half.

“I think (Columbus), going to three up front, and stepping up a lot higher put on a lot more pressure, and for whatever reason we just couldn’t find the game,” Hackworth said. “They were definitely putting everything forward to try and get back into it. I think it’s a credit to them in the second half, and I thought we dealt with it for a large part of that second half as well, but obviously not good enough.”

“We knew the task at hand, coming in here and not having won before, but the boys fought hard,” said center back Okugo. “We got a good early goal, and we could have got more. They put a lot of pressure on us in the second half. We learned a lot last week, with (Thierry) Henry scoring that late goal. When it got towards the 80th minute, the whole backline, including Brian Carroll, just tried to hold firm, and we came away with a result.”

Philadelphia was 0-3-0 all-time in Ohio coming into Saturday’s matchup.

The club now has 4 total points from 3 road games in 2013. The Union remain in 5th place in the Eastern Conference ahead of rivals New York Red Bulls and D.C. United.

“From all of the games I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them obviously, I think (Columbus) is one of the best teams in the league right now,” Hackworth said. “So to come into Columbus, in this stadium where we’ve never gotten a point, to get our first point, and do it against one of the best teams in the league, you’ve got to walk away thinking it’s a result.” 

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