Monday, March 10, 2014

Union open season with road draw in Portland

Portland, Ore.  – The Philadelphia Union (0-0-1) opened the 2014 MLS season with a road draw, 1-1,  against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park Saturday night behind a second-half goal from Jack McInerney.

The Union nearly earned its second ever season-opening win, but Portland newcomer Gaston Fernandez headed home a corner kick in stoppage time to preserve a point for the Timbers. In all, the Union improved its record in season openers to 1-3-1 all-time.

McInerney picked up right where he left off in 2013, opening the account in the 65th minute finishing off a corner kick from Cristian Maidana. The ball was flicked on a header from midfielder Maurice Edu, but McInerney guided it past Portland keeper Donovan Ricketts. The goal marked McInerney’s 25th of his professional career and his 16th goal for the Union away from PPL Park.

“We’ve come in with a different formation and a bunch of new players and I think tonight we held our own,” McInerney said postgame. “We played well and as the season goes along I think we are only going to get better. [Going away with only a point] is disappointing, but if you would have told us that we would’ve drawn 1-1, I think we would’ve taken it. I think we just have to put this behind us but giving up late goals is something that is going to have to change if we want to make it into the playoffs.”

The creativity of the Union’s new look midfield created numerous chances, specifically for McInerney, who played the role of target forward well. McInerney had the biggest chance of the first half after a perfectly weighted ball from newcomer Maidana played him into space in the corner. McInerney’s ran into the box and placed a nice chip over Ricketts, but the ball was cleared away from danger by Portland’s Norberto Paparatto.

Edu played the role of holding midfielder, distributing from the back and dropping deep to clear dangerous balls inside the box. Edu was an imposing presence as well on attack as he was the catalyst on a near goal in the 20th minute, when his run and cross into the danger zone took a deflection that found Maidana. Maidana produced a quick turn and a shot that forced a save from Ricketts.

“I thought it was a good performance by our team, I thought we started the game particularly well,” said Union manager John Hackworth. “We played some really good soccer, we were organized, tough to break down…to get the lead and to give one up in injury time is a tough way to lose out on a couple points, but Portland is a really good team and for us there is just a lot to build off of [a performance like we had tonight.]”

The Union return home to face Eastern Conference foe New England Revolution (4 p.m., Comcast SportsNet) on Saturday. The Revolution will be coming to PPL Park following a 4-0 loss at the hands of Houston in their season opener.

BOX SCORE

Philadelphia Union 1, Portland Timbers 1

Saturday, March 8; 10:30 p.m. ET

Providence Park        

Portland, Ore.

SCORING SUMMARY

PHI: McInerney 65’ (Edu, Maidana)

POR: Fernandez 90’+4

DISCIPLINARY SUMMARY

PHI: Fabinho 15’ (yellow)

PHI: McInerney 59’ (yellow)

PHI: Gaddis 75’ (yellow)

POR: Chara 88’ (yellow)

UNION STARTING 11

MacMath, Fabinho, Okugo, Berry, Gaddis, Carroll, Edu, Nogueira, Maidana (Hoppenot 80’), McInerney (Wheeler 87’), Le Toux (Cruz 70’).

TIMBERS STARTING 11

Ricketts, Jewsbury (Zakuani 85’), Paparatto, Kah (Danso 34’), Harrington, Johnson, Chara, Valeri, Nagbe, Fernandez, Urruti (Alhassan 73’).

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