A couple weeks since their last fixture, the Philadelphia Union were well rested for their match against Minnesota United FC. With back-to-back games versus expansion teams, the Union were again facing a opponent they have never squared off against.
Jim Curtin’s lineup saw a few changes, partly due to the suspensions of both Alejandro Bedoya and Josh Yaro. The Union needed a sense of urgency from the opening whistle if they wanted to start climbing back into the playoff conversation. And that’s the tone they set five minutes into the game.
Fafa Picault gathered the ball and used his speed to beat his man down the right side of the field. As he started to cut it in towards the box, he played a driven ball on the ground between the Minnesota backline and goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. With the Minnesota defense caught ball watching, C.J. Sapong had it coming right to him as he was making his run to the back post. Sliding towards it, Sapong got his left foot on the ball and tallied his 13th goal of the season.
Each team continued to share opportunities in the first half, including a golden chance for Chris Pontius off a long throw in that he would like to have back. But in the 40th minute, the home side found their equalizer.
After a scramble for the Union to try and clear the ball, Francisco Calvo collected it at the top of the box and immediately went at the Union defense. He danced around a few Union players in the penalty area and got a point blank shot off. Luckily it was right at Andre Blake, who made the initial save. But as Blake was unable to hold on and gather the ball, it continued to bounce around in front of the Union’s goal. A couple of missed clearances later, the newly-acquired Ethan Finlay pounced on the ball and put it into the empty net.
The second half saw Minnesota United FC as the team more likely to score with a majority of the dangerous chances in their favor. And it all seemed doomed for the Union when the referee blow his whistle and pointed to the spot.
In the 67th minute, Minnesota’s corner looked as if Oguchi Onyewu struck the ball with his hand. The referee initially saw it this way, made the call for a penalty, and presented Onyewu with his second yellow card of the game. But after looking at the replay, the referee called a foul on Minnesota instead since Onyewu was pushed in the back as he went up for the ball.
Obviously at this point in the season and where they currently are in the standings, one point won’t help the Union much. It is games against teams also lower in the standings, regardless of them being on the road, where you need to grab all three points.
Next up for the Union will be a nationally-televised game on ESPN against one of their rivals, the New York Red Bulls. The game will be next Sunday at 1 PM.
(photos: philadelphiaunion.com / @PhilaUnion)