Sunday, July 21, 2013

Union and Timbers fight through weather, battle to 0-0 draw

Chester, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union (8-6-7) and Portland Timbers played to a 0-0 draw before a sold out crowd of 18, 740 at PPL Park.

Despite a delay to second-half play due to inclement weather in the area, goalkeeper Zac MacMath recorded four saves to earn a shutout on the night.

“Would we have liked to come away with 3 points? Sure,” said Coach Rob Vartughian, who was filling in as team manager for a suspended John Hackworth. “But at the end of the day, a guy makes a world-class save on Conor’s ball, that’s just how it goes. In terms of where we are from a confidence standpoint, I think everybody feels pretty good about what we’re doing.”

It took 53 minutes for the second half to reconvene as a weather system that featured heavy rains and fierce lightning strikes. But once it did, a Union corps emerged that seemed more threatening and pushed the match to Portland, creating numerous chances and forcing Portland (8-2-10, 34 points) keeper Donovan Ricketts to make big stops to keep the Timbers level. The Union’s best chance came in the 71st minute, as a volley from Union forward Conor Casey was denied by Ricketts to keep the score level.

But it wasn’t what was said during intermission that brought about the renewed vigor, but what just about everyone in the locker room did while they waited for the heavy rains to subside.

“Guys were laying down sleeping with their legs up on [the chair in their stall],” said defender Brian Carroll. “We all had our feet up on the chair watching some other games around the league; you know, just kicking back and relaxing. It was all about staying focused but I think we all realized that we needed to chill out a little bit.”

One player that looked comfortable was MacMath, who earned his sixth shutout of the season. MacMath was solid in the back making four big saves, perhaps his biggest a point blank stop on Timbers forward Diego Valeri from just inside six-yard-box in the 66th minute.

“This was one of his best matches of the year,” Carroll said emphatically about his goalkeeper’s performance. “He was really strong back there, he was communicative, decisive and he came up with a lot of really huge plays for us. Hard fought game from everyone, but personally I thought this was one of Zac’s best.”

For MacMath his calm demeanor postgame conveyed that it was all in a night’s work.

“I had the same mentality I do every game,” said MacMath. “You go out there and try to get your team a shutout and keep them in it and thankfully I was able to do that tonight. It was a good tie for us against a good team; Portland has been playing really well this year and they are a tough team and they proved it tonight. But I thought we took the game to them in the second half and unfortunately we weren’t able to put one away tonight.”

The Union will next travel west to face the Vancouver Whitecaps next Saturday (7 p.m. ET, The Comcast Network).

BOX SCORE                                                                      

Philadelphia Union 0, Portland Timbers 0

July20, 7:30 p.m. ET

PPL Park, Chester, Pa.


PHI – Casey 43’ (caution)

PHI – Fernandes 76’ (caution)


MacMath, Gaddis, Parke, Okugo, Williams, Carroll, Farfan (Fernandes 68’), Cruz (Fabinho 79’), Le Toux, McInerney (Hoppenot 82’), Casey.

Unused substitutions: Konopka, Wheeler, Kassel, Kleberson.


Ricketts, Jean-Baptiste, Jewsbury, Kah, Harrington, Johnson, Nagbe (Alhassan 90’+3), Chara (Zemanski 45’), Valeri, Piquionne, Johnson (Valencia 79’).

Unused substitutions: Miller, Zizzo, Kocic, Danso.

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