The Union’s record-breaking stretch of home games without a loss came to a disappointing end Saturday evening. In a match that saw the Union not only lead in possession, but more than double their opponent’s shot count and complete nearly 350 passes in the attacking third, the bounces just didn’t go their way.
Philadelphia controlled early and created a few solid chances, none more beautiful than the build up to the opening goal from Roland Alberg in the 14th minute. Sebastien Le Toux picks off a lazy pass from the Vancouver defense and centers it to Tranquillo Barnetta who calmly dribbles around his defender. Barnetta pushes the ball out to Ilsinho who holds it up on the right side and initiates a beautiful series of one-touch passes through the defense from Ilsinho to Barnetta to Alberg through to Herbers. Herbers rifles a decent shot from about 15 yards out that ricochets off the post, redirects off Le Toux’s chest to the feet of Alberg, who slots it for his 7th goal in the last 4 games. The sequence showed just how talented our influx of midfielders truly is and what they are capable of doing, granted not against a great defense.
Unfortunately, the Union couldn’t get much else going for them on the night. The union faithful and Sons of Ben wouldn’t have reason to DOOP again until the 94th minute. In the meantime, defensive miscues, lapses in judgment, and errant touches would allow the Union’s opponents to notch 3 goals for the third consecutive game.
Vancouver’s first goal came in the 19th minute on a corner kick, and for as great as he has been this season, Andre Blake has to assume most of the responsibility for this one. Blake comes out to get the cross and is unable to hang on to it. Instead the ball bounces off of his hands directly to the head of ex-Union, now Whitecap, Andrew Jacobson for an easy header.
Vancouver would score 1 more before halftime in the 41st minute. A poor turnover from Barnetta turned into a fastbreak counter from the Whitecaps. Kekuta Manneh made Josh Yaro look silly and Marquez couldn’t quite cover for him in time before Manneh slotted one off the post and past Blake.
With the Union pushing up in attack and even switching formations leaving 3 in defense, the Whitecaps scored once more. In the 84th minute on a counter attack, Christian Bolanos found some space and his shot deflected off Keegan Rosenberry into the back of the net.
Down 2 goals with just 6 minutes plus stoppage time remaining, the Union of old would have all but quit.
One of the positives to take away from this game is that the team didn’t give up. Richie Marquez had a chance handed to him on a silver platter but reminded us all why he is a defender. Restrepo came in and provided a spark up top, creating a few decent chances. Heck, Leo Fernandes even did something good. I never thought I’d ever say that. In the 94th minute, Le Toux sends a corner kick into the box and Fernandes beats his defender to head it at goal. The ball hits off of the post across the goalmouth to the foot of Pontius who buries it for his 5th goal on the season.
PLAYER RATINGS (1-10):
His work rate is impressive and it is nice to have a player who can create in small space. He works back to help the midfield well and is getting better at holding up the ball up top. Still needs to improve his first touch and finishing.
His foot skills are tremendous. His fitness is improving, albeit slowly. He worked back more in defense this game and played chase more than I have seen from him thus far. He is great at helping to create chances but he needs to start contributing. He needs to put one in the net and start racking up assists. Less fancy, more finish.
Seems to frequently be in the right spot at the right time and his confidence is soaring right now, ripping shots from everywhere and finding the back of the net repeatedly. I would LOVE to see what he and Sapong could do up top together in a 2-forward set. Needs to work back in support of the midfield and defense a bit more and I wonder if fitness is still an issue… I’m not sure I even noticed him on the field for the last 15 minutes or so.
Le Toux: 4
I love Le Toux, but it just feels like he would be much better served as a substitute at this point in his career. His touch abandoned him at times and he looked gassed by the 60th minute. His ability to work back on defense is admirable and he did help out on Alberg’s first goal, earning an assist.
Tranquillo continues to be a leader and creator on the pitch, even from a different position than he is used to. His vision and leadership are tremendous and aside from his really poor turnover that led to Vancouver’s 2nd goal, he had a solid game. Barnetta just needs to figure out his new role and understand when he can take risks and when he needs to think more defensively and be conservative.
Carroll is really having himself a solid season. Brian made several great plays defensively and his passing out of the back helped open up the Union’s attack. His fitness is commendable, considering the many years of wear on his wheels.
Fabinho had a pretty Faby-lous game. He made some impressive tackles to break up counters and was rarely, if ever, beat coming down his side of the field. I hope we are done with the “rotating left-back experiment”. Fabinho is a big upgrade over Gaddis.
Marquez has been steady all season and turned in another solid defensive effort. He struggled to stay with his man on the corner that Vancouver scored on, but beyond that made very few mistakes defensively. Offensively, he should have found his way on to the statsheet with at least 1 goal. Richie shanked a golden opportunity right in front of the net and had a few opportunities off of set pieces to find the twine as well. His effort and consistency is certainly comforting in our backline.
Rookies are going to have growing pains, and Manneh’s goal for the Whitecaps tonight was certainly not a great effort on Yaro’s part. His decision making skills will certainly improve but he needs to be more confident in his abilities. He still looks a little hesitant on the ball and doesn’t appear to always see the pitch as well. There is no doubt that he will improve upon his performance and against teams with speed, he needs to be on the pitch. His speed is critical for the union defense right now.
Keegan has been very impressive thus far in his rookie campaign. His confidence is clearly high and he is pressing forward and creating chances more and more every game. His long throws are a great asset, one that we haven’t really had since we lost Sheanon Williams. He did lose his mark for a second on Vancouver’s 3rd goal, but did recover well before the unfortunate deflection.
Tough night for Jamaican Jesus. Dre has to either catch that corner or punch it clear out, but instead bobbles it to the Whitecaps for their first goal. He couldn’t have done much on the other 2 goals, one deflected and one off the post. Blake did have another highlight reel diving save that we have grown accustomed to, but had a rough outing otherwise. He needs to regain his pre-Copa confidence and swagger.
Jim Curtin (Substitutions): 6
Pontius for Ilsinho (65’) – 9
Restrepo for Herbers (75’) – 6
Fernandes for Fabinho (81’) – 3
I have 4 main takeaways from Saturday’s tough loss.
- This team needs CJ Sapong back in a big way. His ability to hold the ball in the attacking third, win headers, and create chances is far superior to that of Herbers right now. I thought we might see him back for this game, but unfortunately he wasn’t even on the bench. Let’s hope he’s back in time for our match in Houston.
- Alberg, Barnetta, and Ilsinho on the pitch at the same time is fun to watch. These guys can create and see the pitch better than any trio I can remember in Union history. Earnie Stewart deserves a ton of credit for the Union being where they are right now, and I’m excited to watch this team get better and better.
- It might be time to worry about our defense a little bit. 11 goals allowed in their last 4 mls matches is not comforting. If this trend continues, our time at the top of the table will be short-lived. I’m optimistic that this is just a funk and we will snap out of it, but yikes.
- I’m not sure whether these guys are scared to shoot or if they are trying to make every attacking sequence a highlight reel series of passes leading to a goal, but it seems like nobody on the team (except Alberg recently) wants to finish. I want to see a few of these guys get greedy. There were too many times where we got in close and made too many touches before putting one on frame, or worse, having it defended, stolen, and cleared.