Chester, PA- In front of 16,079 in attendance at Talen Energy Stadium, the Philadelphia Union continued their three game homestand against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday and came away with only one point after conceding a late goal. Philadelphia continued its struggles in terms of taking advantage of playing a man up and even let San Jose dictate the pace in the last 15 minutes of the match.
Sense of occasion
Before the match, Philadelphia honored Major League Soccer ironman Brian Carroll on the occasion of his 350th appearance in the league. The team played a video consisting of former teammates such as Frankie Hedjuk and Ben Olson showing appreciation for his service in MLS.
The first half was firmly dominated by Philadelphia. The Union’s strategy looked to be to exploit the right flank, where fullback Shaun Francis and midfielder Simon Dawkins resided. Tranquillo Barnetta and Sebastien Le Toux were able to consistently bring the ball down the flank with little pressure and cross it into dangerous locations.
Not to be outdone, the Philadelphia backline continued their solid display this season in the first half. Centerback Richie Marquez controlled the middle of the field by stifling leading Major League Soccer goalscorer Chris Wondolowski. Rookie Keegan Rosenberry did well to control his flank as he collected five interceptions solely in the first half.
Union open the scoring
Despite putting on an offensive display down the right flank in the first half, Philadelphia could not find the opening goal of the game early on. However, in the 30th minute, the Union struck first off a Barnetta corner kick. The Swiss International curled a perfect ball that dipped around the six-yard box and found a streaking Chris Pontius, who headed it to the back post for the 1-0 lead. Pontius has been an excellent signing so far for the Union as he has four goals in just eight games this season.
When referee Ricardo Salazar blew the whistle for halftime, Philadelphia were firmly in control of the match. The Union controlled the possession with 54.2% and created many more dangerous chances than their San Jose counterparts.
For most of the second half, the narrative continued as the Union played through the right flank and managed to put dangerous crosses into the box.
Kinnear changes the narrative
San Jose Head Coach Dominic Kinnear saw his team falling behind and made his first sub only ten minutes into the second half, when he brought in Shea Salinas for Innocent.
"I thought his [Salinas] work by being able to come inside and run at them opened up the game a little bit and it made us more dangerous," Kinnear said at his post-game press conference.
Kinnear was forced to change San Jose’s tactics changed, in the 59th minute, when midfielder Anibal Godoy was shown his second yellow card of the game and thus sent off. Philadelphia would try to push, now up a man, for the second goal that would ice the game.
Off the resulting free kick, Barnetta delivered another curled, which found Pontius’ head. Pontius managed to knock it to the far post where CJ Sapong was positioned to direct it in, but he was unable to put it on frame.
Despite being control for the first 75 minutes of the game, the Union’s inability to close out games when necessary reared its ugly head once again.
San Jose would continue to press hard in those last 15 minutes and would finally get their equalizer with only a few minutes to spare. In the 83rd minute, Quakes midfielder Simon Dawkins received a mishit clearance on top of the box. Dawkins then dribbled around three Union defenders to create space and fired a laser past a diving Andre Blake for the 1-1 tie.
"We were a little careless with the ball, I think for about, from the 45 to about almost to the 76th minute we were under control, we were creating chances, we were pushing the tempo," Philadelphia Head Coach Jim Curtin said at his post-game press conference. "…For whatever reason a couple of bounces started going their way, they pressed a little better and started picking the balls off, and we were unable to get back to keeping the ball and killing the game off."
The Union tried to push in those last minutes by bringing on two offensive substitutes in forward Fabian Herbers and midfielder Leo Fernandes. However, it would be all for naught as the referee blew the whistle for full time with the score tied at 1-1.
For San Jose, the tie was a good result considering the team played down a man for an extended period of time. For Philadelphia, it is a disappointing result considering the team was unable to create a shot on net in the second half, even playing up a man, as well as the Blue and Gold dominating much of the first half.
One of the main sticking points for Union fans after the game was the usage of the three substitutes. Curtin opted to only use his last two subs after San Jose scored the tying goal. Fans were concerned that Curtin did not opt to bring in a defensive-minded player such as Carroll to help kill off the game.
Philadelphia will look to get back on track on May 11th, when Los Angeles Galaxy comes to town for the last game in the Union’s homestand. Looking to build on an impressive start to the season, San Jose will return to the west coast for their match in Seattle against the Sounders on May 7th.