MLS Recap: Struggles Continue as Union Draw Rapids

Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin (left) and former Union striker Conor Casey, now head coach of Colorado Rapids, exchange pleasantries prior to a 2017 match. - Photo Credit: www.phillysoccerpage.net

Chester, PA — Flash flood warnings, heavy rain and lightning strikes resulted in a one-hour delay, which featured a decent rain delay playlist and a game of “Connect Four” between the teams’ social media accounts. Eventually, a game of soccer broke out at Talen Energy Stadium Wednesday night, but with 99% humidity in the air, it wasn’t a pretty one.

The Philadelphia Union (2nd in East, 7-4-4, 25 pts.) entered the Wednesday night matchup on a bit of a down-swing from the last few matches.

After an impressive 2-1 victory at Toronto FC two weeks ago, the Union returned home and put in a terrific offensive effort against a tough Seattle Sounders side, but could not find the back of the net as the teams battled out to a 0-0 draw. In the draw, Seattle were without a number of key pieces to their lineup, and viewed the point away from home as a positive one, while Philadelphia saw the scoreless draw as a good performance that deserved better.

However, the problems continued this past Saturday, as the Union had trouble converting chances in front of their own home crowd again, and the visiting Portland Timbers were able to add their names to a short list of teams this season to score multiple goals against the Union, winning 3-1.

This mid-week matchup would be a favorable one for Union head coach Jim Curtin and the boys in blue, as Philadelphia came up against a struggling Colorado Rapids team sitting dead last in the Western Conference (2-9-3, 9 pts.), with only two wins on the season and a -12 goal differential.

To add to Colorado’s woes, the Rapids were forced to start veteran goalkeeper Clint Irwin with the former USMNT shot-stopper, Tim Howard, out with a hamstring injury. It was Irwin’s first start of the season.

Philadelphia were keen to test Irwin early and often, generating three scoring chances in the opening six minutes of play, but without a shot on target. In the 22nd minute, center back Jack Elliott’s leaping header would be the Union’s first shot on target, and not a minute later, right back Ray Gaddis would again threaten to open the scoring with a blistering volley from about 30 yards out that just missed the top right corner of goal.

The Union would continue to pile on the pressure for the next few minutes, and winger Sergio Santos would eventually open the scoring in the 26th, breaking through the Rapids defense after collecting a stretched out toe-poke pass from midfielder Jamiro Monteiro (see below).

(Video courtesy of @PhilaUnion on Twitter)

The first half would come to an end with no serious threat coming from Colorado, who gave Union goalkeeper Andre Blake little to be worried about aside from a few calmly extinguished opportunities from corners. Statistically, however, the teams were pretty even in most categories, with the Union only really dominating in shots from inside the box, 8-4, and out-chancing the Rapids 10-7.

In the early minutes of the second half, the Rapids would have a long-range chance from Nicolas Mezquida ring off the post to Blake’s right before the teams began exchanging a series of fouls, slowing the game down in an already lazy atmosphere due to the weather conditions.

Philadelphia’s Mexican international, Marco Fabian, would return from injury in place of Ilsinho in the 67th minute, and the Union offense would start generating chances almost immediately after, with Fabian playing a well-placed through ball to Fafa Picault (who replaced the goal-scorer Santos in the 60th minute) on the left wing side, which would start a spell of quick chances for the Union.

However, the attack would be short-lived and the Union would surrender the lead, as Colorado’s Jonathan Lewis would even the score at one-a-piece in the 72nd minute. Lewis had just come off the bench not ten minutes earlier, and made the most of a beautiful first-time volley past Blake at the near post (see below).

(Video courtesy of @ColoradoRapids on Twitter)

With the score still knotted at 1-1, a final substitution in the 83rd minute would see Jim Curtin go for the victory, substituting off left back Kai Wagner for the 18-year old homegrown attacker, Brenden Aaronson.

The final few minutes would see the home side tilt the field in their favor, and a 93rd minute ball lofted into the box would see Union striker Kacper Przybylko get past the defenders for a desperate toe-poke volley, but it sailed over the bar. The chance would be the last of the game.

It was a hard-earned point for the visitors, and another chance at home squandered by the Union, who have now gone winless in three straight (0-1-2) and have managed only two goals in that stretch, after scoring eight times in the previous two matches (6-1 vs. New England, 2-1 vs. Toronto). Philadelphia finished the game out-shooting Colorado 26-15 in attempts, with only seven shots on target.

“Not our sharpest night. A real disappointing result for a lot of reasons. Again, another night where we create a lot of chances and have opportunities in the box. You let teams hang around, and make a silly mistake off a throw-in and we get punished,” Curtin said after the game.

Captain Alejandro Bedoya was a bit more direct.

“I said it last game:  You [are not] going to win [expletive] if you can’t finish,” the veteran said.

Bedoya continued, “I’m pissed as hell right now. You try to stay positive. You always have your slumps and your streaks. All teams go through that. We should have saved some of those [six goals against New England] for these [last few] games.”

 

“I said it last game:  You [are not] going to win [expletive] if you can’t finish”

 

With the point earned, the Union were able to remain in second place, and did not lose ground on the race for first as D.C. United (7-4-5, 26 points, +5 Goal Diff.) drew their own mid-week match 3-3 with Chicago. Philadelphia also have the advantage of one game in-hand on D.C. However, both third-place Montreal (24 points) and fourth-place Atlanta (23 points) gained ground on the Union with victories Wednesday night.

Next up for Philadelphia will be a visit to Minnesota United on June 2nd before coming back home to host rival New York Red Bulls the following Saturday, June 8th.

 

Final Notes and Thoughts:

  • During the rain delay, CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”, Pitbull and Marc Anthony’s “Let it Rain Over Me,” and of course, Prince’ “Purple Rain” were played throughout the stadium. The playlist was capped off with ACDC’s “Thunderstruck,” which brought back some fond memories of… well… drinking nights I don’t really remember…
  • Rarely do opponents receive applause from the home crowd, but Rapids’ right back Keegan Rosenberry and head coach Conor Casey received applause during the lineup announcements. Rosenberry, now 25 years old, was a homegrown player since 2014 (Reading United), making 80 appearances with the Union since his debut in 2016 until the end of last season. Casey spent three seasons in Philadelphia, scoring 21 goals in 70 total appearances between 2013-2015.
  • Bedoya, his midfield partner Haris Medunjanin, and defenders Gaddis and Elliot are the iron-men for the Union this season, having now started all 15 games.
Ed Palumbo
About Ed Palumbo 12 Articles
Ed is a 2010 graduate of Temple University with a degree in Sport and Recreation Management. A New Yorker at heart, he now resides in Philadelphia and supports the NY Giants, NY Mets, NJ Devils, West Ham United, and the Philadelphia Union. A former hockey coach and amateur scout, Ed is also the founder of the Prospective Hockey Central mobile app, connecting scouts and players in the recruiting process.

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