Looking for their first win of the season, the Union opened up their season in front of a sellout crowd at PPL Park in Chester, PA. However, a Union team that dominated the majority of the game in time of possession, chances on goal, and aggression came up short in a tough, 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids.
Ultimately for Philadelphia (0-2-0), this game was more frustrating then anything. They completely dominated what looked to be a promising first half. In response to last game, the Union changed a few things. First, they moved into a more traditional 4-4-2. With this, Coach Peter Nowak subtracted two key players from the lineup: Freddy Adu and shockingly Captain Danny Calif who is the only player who has been with the Union since the club’s opening day.
This second move is inexplicable from a recently sketchy Nowak. When confronted with questions on why Calif didn’t play, he replied by saying Calif recently took a shot to the knee. When Calif was asked about the seriousness of this knee injury he stated he did not know he had a knee injury. Chris Albright, who started in Calif’s position, is strictly an outside back, and rarely ever plays in the middle.
The frustration began in the first minute, when a beautiful ball was played over the heads of Colorado defenders to an oncoming Danny Mwanga eager to prove he deserves his recently acquired starting spot. After his first touch on the ball, Rapids defender Drew Moor slid into him, missing the ball and sweeping Mwanga’s feet out from under him just a few feet outside the box. The referee decided to wave this call off to the dismay of Union fans, which replay showed should have been a foul and at least a yellow card.
The rest of the first half was filled with missed opportunities. There were great shots by the Union, and overall domination. The Union possessed the ball significantly more then Colorado. Although the Rapids had a few chances testing Zac MacMath, nothing was unmanageable. However, the Union tested Colorado goalie Matt Pickens on a few different occasions, some which were luckily blocked by the Rapids’ back line.
When the second half began, again the home side was looking good, but Colorado’s Omar Cummings beat a Union defender and played a cross into the box where an exited MacMath jumped the ball too quickly as it slipped through his hands and onto the foot of Rapids midfielder Jamie Castrillon; he tapped in the loose ball. Again, the 19K Philadelphia fans looked down at another goalkeeping mistake from MacMath.
But the drama continued when Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, who played for FC Delco, got his second yellow card of the game giving the Union and extra man advantage.
But the away team surged on and got their second goal on a poor defending mistake by Albright, who was starting over Danny Calif. He missed the ball on a slide tackle near the sideline giving the Rapids a two-on-one. Again Zac MacMath got a piece of the shot with his leg, but ultimately could not be blamed for this defensive lapse.
Seeing these conditions, Nowak subbed in Roger Torres who has been subbed into 28 of his 49 Union games. This, like usual paid, off as a good decision when just a few minutes after he crossed a ball to Lionard Pajoy who headed it past Pickens. This put Pajoy in a group with only three other Union players to score a goal on their home debuts.
The rest of this game was fraught with chances, but none of which the Union could capitalize on. It was the early chances that killed Philadelphia. The first half was filled with fantastic opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net, but none of which were finished. This was definitely not the start the Union was hoping for. Although this is not yet panic mode, look for some changes in lineup, formation, and even personal in the coming games so the Union can find the rhythm this young team has been looking to establish.