The Philadelphia Union walked off the pitch with a hard-earned point following a 1-1 draw against Toronto FC on Saturday at PPL Park.
It was a point the club probably would have missed out on last season.
While the players realize they have a lot of areas to improve upon, this was clearly a step forward from last season.
So they’ll take the point and get ready for another tough match, Sunday night at DC United.
“A lot of us were talking in here,” midfielder Danny Cruz said. “I think if this was last year, we lose the game. I think we’re showing even when it’s a little bit rough, we’re coming out with a result. Ultimately, we came up with a plan and it could have been worse. In the end there, we could have gotten three. It was definitely a weird game. Haven’t seen anything like that from another team for a really long time. Happy to get a point. It takes a lot of will.”
There were no high-fives and handshakes. But this was a major sign of maturity from a side which has improved steadily in 2013.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’re not all in here with all smiles,” Cruz said. “We know at home you want to win your games. We get a result on the road last week and come back and get a point at home. We probably should have won and now we have a big game next week and we go back to work trying to get three points on the road.”
For much of the game, it seemed as if Toronto FC might come away with three points.
The Union kept scrapping and battling and found a way to pull even when Jack McInerney scored in stoppage time.
If this same situation occurred last season, the result just might have gone the other way.
Not this season.
“I do think last year we probably would have lost that game,” defender Sheanon Williams told philadelphiaunion.com. “We lost a lot of close games. And it’s a long season, so we’ll take the point. We’ll see them two more times and we’ll play a lot better than that. This is a different team this season and we’ll take it and go on from this point.”
McInerney’s fourth goal of the season sent the crowd of 17,182 into a frenzy. Antoine Hoppenot nearly won the game later in stoppage time.
Still, the Union got a result when it seemed like they wouldn’t. That’s progress.
“We came away with one point and it was kind of weird because it seemed like we weren’t going to get any and then all of a sudden, we nearly had three,” McInerney said. “It was kind of a crazy game, but we leave with a point and get ready for a couple of tough road games. I think this team has come together early in the season. We might not have gotten a result at all last season, so we take a positive from that. It’s a point and you move on and go on the road trying to get more points against tough teams.”
The Union simply continued to play through the litany of fouls and yellow cards. In the end, they earned a crucial point.
When the points are counted up at the end of the season, this one will count just as much as any later in the season.
“I thought we were going to lose it this year, but we fought back and continued to stick to the game plan,” said center back Amobi Okugo. “We had chances. Their goalie made some good saves. It’s good. It shows our perseverance and shows we’ve come a long way since last year.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org