Saturday, March 07, 2015

Union start season with scoreless draw

By John McMullen
jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com

Chester, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - Two things have hurt the Philadelphia Union over the years, the failure to finish and the lack of a top-tier goalkeeper.

It remains to be seen if Frenchman Reis M'bolhi is the answer between the pipes for the Union but Philadelphia's MLS team is still having trouble finding the back of the net, playing the Colorado Rapids to a scoreless draw in the season opener at a chilly PPL Park Saturday.

The Union had far more scoring opportunities than the Rapids but settled for just one point despite playing the final 28 minutes with a man advantage. Meanwhile, M'bolhi, who made his Union debut in late last year, was barely tested.

“I’m happy with the group in terms of defense,” Union team manager Jim Curtin said. “I thought we were solid. We didn’t give up many chances. We created enough chances to get three points today.” 

The Union had every opportunity to put this one away especially after Colorado defender Bobby Burling was sent off with his second yellow card after taking down Sebastien Le Toux in the 68th minute.

Philadelphia almost cashed in during minute No. 79 when Andrew Wenger chipped the ball to Le Toux, whose header went wide left. Perhaps the best chance came in the 85th minute, however, when Conor Casey, a late second half substitution, put a header on net that Rapids 'keeper Clint Irwin, who
recorded four saves en route to his clean sheet, shooed away.

And that was the story of the match. Irwin faced 16 shots while M'bolhi saw just two and none which actually saw the net.

“The process is what you saw out there tonight,” Wenger said. “It’s just playing and realizing what they’re trying to do and learning from it, building on it and talking through it afterwards. We saw some things guy wanted to try to do tonight and how they’re moving and we’ll slowly adapt and learn.”

The Union dominated the first half, amassing six shots compared to the Rapids' one. Wenger nearly put Philadelphia on top in the 22nd minute when a Colorado clearance attempt failed and the Lancaster native blasted one off the crossbar.

Le Toux, the Union's all-time leading scorer, also found himself in the middle of a few scoring opportunities. In the 32nd minute C.J. Sapong cut the ball to Le Toux, who found Fernando Aristeguieta at the near post but the ball trickled harmlessly out of play.

Five minutes later Le Toux hits a free kick onto the head of Aristeguieta but Irwin was there for the save. Meanwhile, in the waning seconds before intermission, Le Toux broke through and forced Irwin to make a diving save.

Early in the second half Cristian Maidana, a sub for Sapong, fired a low ball inches past the far post.

The Union are 1-3-4 all-time against the Rapids and haven't won a season opener since 2011, the last time the club made the postseason.

Philadelphia started all three of its major  offseason acquisitions with Sapong and Aristeguieta up front and Steven Vitoria at center back.

“The positives are though that we kept a clean sheet at home which is something that we’ve stressed all pre-season, Curtin said. “We need to have zeros at home. The goals will come as the group moves forward."
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