It’s one of those games that will go in the annals of Philadelphia Union lore as intense, crazy and unforgettable.
Fortunately for the crowd that braved a wild night, "disappointing" won’t be one of those words.
The Union used a strong second half performance to ensure a point Saturday night against the Portland Timbers, as a physical affair ended with a scoreless draw at PPL Park.
Of course, it took 53 minutes for the second half to reconvene as a weather system that featured heavy rains and fierce lightning strikes descended upon Chester's waterfront. But once the storm subsided, a Union (8-6-7, 31 points) corps emerged that pushed the match to Portland, as they created numerous chances and forced Portland (8-2-10, 34 points) keeper Donovan Ricketts to make big stops to keep the Timbers level.
But it wasn’t what was said during intermission that brought about the renewed vigor, but what just about everyone in the locker room did while they waited for the heavy rains to pass.
“Guys were laying down sleeping with their legs up on [the chair in their stall],” said defender Brian Carroll. “We all had our feet up on the chair watching some other games around the league; you know just kicking back and relaxing. It was all about staying focused but I think we all realized that we needed to chill out a little bit.”
One player that looked comfortable tonight was goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who earned his sixth shutout of the season. MacMath was solid in the back making four big saves, perhaps his biggest a point blank stop on Timbers forward Diego Valeri from just inside six-yard-box in the 66th minute.
“This was one of his best matches of the year,” Carroll said emphatically about his goalkeeper’s performance. “He was really strong back there, he was communicative, decisive and he came up with a lot of really huge plays for us. Hard fought game from everyone, but personally I thought this was one of Zac’s best.”
For MacMath his calm demeanor postgame conveyed that it was all in a night’s work.
“I had the same mentality I do every game,” said MacMath. “You go out there and try to get your team a shutout and keep them in it and thankfully I was able to do that tonight. It was a good tie for us against a good team; Portland has been playing really well this year and they are a tough team and they proved it tonight. But I thought we took the game to them in the second half and unfortunately we weren’t able to put one away tonight.”
VIEW: FULL MATCH STATISTICS
With the tie, Portland remains one of three teams the Union has yet to defeat (Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas) in its four-year MLS existence (0-2-2 all-time against the Timbers). What it is however is a positive result the Union can take into its next match, when it makes a West Coast Canadian jaunt to Vancouver next Saturday (7 p.m., The Comcast Network).
It was a game that ended with fireworks – literally – on the banks of the Delaware River on a night in which the Union honored the men and women of America’s Armed Forces.
Fitting that “hard fought” is the only way to describe this one.
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org