Last night the Philadelphia Union faced defending Major League Soccer Cup Champion Real Salt Lake and came through in a 1 – 1 draw. The Union came up big following a 3 – 1 loss in Dallas this past weekend. Obviously pumped and ready to face the reigning champ, rookie of the year, Danny Mwanga scored the Union’s first and only goal of the night early in the first half.
Sebastian Le Toux received the ball off a throw in and sneaky blind flick, placed the ball just inside Real Salt Lake’s 18 yard line, right into the path of Mwanga, who was breaking through two RSL defenders. A beautiful strike, Mwanga places the ball to the low, near post making this his sixth goal of the season. A short while later Mwanga broke free to the RSL goal line and made a strong pass back to the top of the box to Kyle Nakazawa, sporting a trendy white headband to cover a gash to the head he took last game. Nakazawa placed a hard shot into the arms of the RSL goalie, Kyle Reynish.
[adinserter block=”2″]But just as Union fans start to believe that the offense has finally figured out how it works, Real Salt Lake answers back less than 10 minutes later with a goal from Fabian Espindola after beating out Danny Califf with some fancy footwork and scored near post on Chris Seitz. Califf is a great captain and a great defender but there was no reason he should have gotten beat on this ball. Sorry, Califf, you know I would make you my boyfriend in a minute but your feet were moving too slow, too early in the game. The mistakes started with one of the Union’s newest recruits Columbian, Juan Diego Gonzalez who flubbed what should have been a clear out of the defense, instead pops it up in the air, only to land at Espindola’s feet. Really let’s be honest, it’s been a theme among the Union that individual mistakes have cost them big and this was no exception.
I like Seitz, I really do, but no MLS goalie should be getting beat near post from the top of the six yard line. I’m having flashbacks from the beginning of the season, you know, the dreaded punt that got blocked and the too short pass back, all resulting in goals for the other team. Although my confidence in Seitz is still slowly being restored, it seems that to the team, it was never broken. Ever since the friendly against the Celtics, the Union has really focused on maintaining possession and controlling the ball in the center of the field. After an exciting 20 minutes in the first half it was obvious that possession was the Union’s main concern, building a strong support starting with Chris Seitz, to move forward with an explosive offense.
And it worked; shots came from Amigo Okugo, Le Toux and Roger Torres who came in strong on a substitution for Justin Mapp after being out on injury. But the Union just couldn’t find the back of the net again and Mwanga, probably should have been substituted for Jack McInerney at about the 80th minute, as Mwanga was pretty ineffective the last portion of the game and besides, Union Manager Peter Nowak seems to enjoy putting “Jack Mack” in with only minutes to spare. This baffles me because the 17 year old has more than proven his worth on the pitch. The kid is a worker and not afraid to challenge those big defenders. As compared to Mwanga who stood around in the RSL box on Union corner kicks. But I’m not picking on Mwanga today, as he played with a lot of heart last night and well, he did score the Union’s only goal.
[adinserter block=”1″]Le Toux, as always, had a great game last night, with a couple of breakaways, and he was doing a nice job of frustrating the RSL defense with his ridiculous speed. The guy works hard all the time and continues to improve and encourage the younger players like 19 year old Mwanga and “Jack Mack”. But frustrating seems to be the key word from last night’s game, with a lot of stoppages made by the referee from RSL players being on the ground and maybe more than the norm for “injuries”.
It was obvious last night that the Union, really wanted those critical 3 points to pull them out of the bottom of the bracket, and that they were really trying to redeem themselves from Sunday’s loss to FC Dallas. The Union will try again on Saturday, on their home turf in PPL Park against the Colorado Rapids at 4pm.
Stacy Barker lives in Philly suburbs with her husband and two dogs. She is a licensed soccer coach and continues to play soccer with the Tri County Women’s Soccer league. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or you can follow her on Twitter @stacyk1129 and if none of that suites you, then find me at PPL Park on game day in The River End and buy me a beer!
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