The Union way of soccer has always been establishing a rhythm, trying to maintain possession and controlling the pace of play.
Against Toronto FC on Saturday – and through virtually no fault of their own, mind you – the Union found that to be a near impossible feat.
Over 20 fouls, eight which were yellow card cautions, one ejection and numerous stoppages of play for injuries saw this match end in a 1-1 draw at PPL Park, in a game in which a consistent flow was not on the menu.
Oh, and factor in Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik who was nearly impenetrable, making nine total saves – six in the second half.
“Our thought going into this is that we needed to dictate the possession, the tempo and the rhythm of the game and the stat sheet says we did,” said Union manager John Hackworth after the match. “But in reality, it was such a weird game you couldn’t get any rhythm going in it. It was very frustrating.”
Credit the Union for pouring on the heat in the waning minutes, as a constant wave of attack on Bendik finally paid off in second half stoppage time when a mishit shot attempt from Conor Casey rolled to the feet of fellow striker Jack McInerney, who scored his fourth of the season with a well-placed ball back post.
McInerney’s goal nullified one from Toronto forward Robert Earnshaw, who ran in behind a confused Union defense and slotted home past Zac MacMath.
“They played the ball over the top and I think [our defense] thought they were offsides,” admitted Union keeper Zac MacMath. Before the goal from Earnshaw, a stingy Union back backline made MacMath need to only make just one total save from a shot on goal. “It’s becoming way too much of a theme where we aren’t giving up many shots, but teams are still scoring goals and that’s frustrating for me personally. Now it’s something we need to reflect on and try to figure out [how to correct it].”
However, the Union can’t hang their heads low on this one instead only nod in frustration at the continued stoppage of play at the expense of slowing the match down. A tactic that on this day saw Toronto escape with a road point and the Union wonder how much different of a game might it this one in front of 17,182 in attendance have been if they were truly allowed to run.
“I think we do a good job of getting a point and working real hard,” said midfielder Danny Cruz. “Keep in mind we had a goal called back [a disallowed McInerney goal attempt in the 88th minute] that could have made it two, but credit to our guys to battling back and getting a late one and a point. By no means are we happy about this, but I think there are good things to take from it as well.”
VIEW: FULL MATCH STATISTICS
Whatever positives the Union choose to take from this affair will funnel right into preparation for a huge Eastern Conference clash against rivals D.C. United next Sunday (5 p.m., ESPN2) at RFK Stadium. It’s a match that soon after this one against Toronto ended, many of the players already had on their mind.
“It’s a huge game and I think it comes at the right time because we’ve been playing well on the road,” said Cruz. “We played well against Colorado, we hit a bump against New York and we played very well against Columbus. It’s a game we are already talking about and we are already looking forward to next Sunday.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org