Despite dominating large portions of Saturday night’s Eastern Conference showdown with the Montreal Impact, the Philadelphia Union could not convert their chances and settled for a 0-0 draw.
Philadelphia entered the game coming off a performance a week ago in which they surrendered 5 goals, while Montreal scored 5 against Houston the day before. The Union’s makeshift defense, minus the suspended Amobi Okugo, figured to be on display.
Instead, the Impact chose to sit back and employed typical, if dour, road tactics.
In the end, the Union remained the aggressor, but the combination of Troy Perkins’ gloves and some less than sharp finishing saw the match end goalless.
“In my opinion, we had the better chances,” said defender Sheanon Williams, who played a solid game at center back in place of Okugo. “We could have snuck that one away with them, but we’ve got to take what we can and move forward. We’ve got another game on Sunday – a long road trip – and something that we need to get points out of.”
Okugo’s suspension forced a back line shuffle, with Williams sliding in to partner with Jeff Parke and Ray Gaddis returning from injury to feature on his preferred right side. Otherwise, John Hackworth made one other change, with Jack McInerney returning to the starting lineup in place of Michael Farfan.
Montreal got the match going with early pressure but quickly retreated, finding their shape largely within their defensive half. Eager to avoid allowing Philadelphia to counter, the Impact sat as many as 10 players behind the ball as they attempted to deprive McInerney and Conor Casey the space they needed to operate.
The Union’s attacking twosome nearly made the Impact pay in the 13th minute when Casey jumped with Hassoun Camara, forcing a partial clearance that fell to McInerney. Shooting through his defender’s legs, McInerney was unable to fool Troy Perkins who smothered comfortably.
Sebastien Le Toux had the Union’s next look at goal after combining with Keon Daniel in the 20th minute. But after using a subtle touch to create his own shot, Le Toux rolled a harmless effort into Perkins arms.
Montreal nearly stole a goal in the 24th minute, but the Union were rescued by the offsides flag. When Justin Mapp caught Fabinho in possession, the Union left back clanked a heavy pass off of Brian Carroll, allowing Mapp to race away with the loose ball. Finding space at the top of the box, Zac MacMath spilled Mapp’s shot into the path of Marco Di Vaio, but the Italian had strayed beyond the final defender and the play was blown dead.
The Impact continued to look for their chances on the counter, but the Union’s scrambling defense was too quick for visitors, with Williams and Gaddis combining well to snuff out a partial chance from Felipe Martins and Mapp.
When he managed to get forward, Fabinho’s deliveries threatened to open up the Impact’s defense. In the 31st minute, Perkins dealt poorly with a softly flighted cross, but the Union could not make anything of the chance, with Danny Cruz losing his footing at the crucial moment.
From the resulting corner, Cruz then nearly opened the scoring for the Union from the other side of pitch. The set piece was well cleared by Montreal, but the Union winger raced nearly from touchline to touchline to harass Patrice Bernier into a turnover. Charging at goal with the stolen ball, Cruz found a shooting lane, but ballooned his shot over the cross bar.
As time wore down in the half, the Union almost found the vital opener when Cruz slipped in behind Jeb Brovsky. But when Le Toux received Cruz’s smart cutback, he was unable to beat Perkins, who came up with an equally smart close range save. Unable to beat the ball to safety though, Perkins looked on gratefully as McInerney pounded the rebound wide of the near post.
If the Union expected an aggressive second half response from the Impact, none was coming. Both sides quickly resumed the roles they had held in the first half. The Union attempted little through the middle, leaving Cruz, Le Toux, and the fullbacks to serve in crosses from the wings, while Montreal remained content to hit back on the counterattack.
One such counterattack nearly opened up the Union defense in the 56th minute. Cutting into the box, Di Vaio had the ball touched away from him by Parke, but the Union man laid the ball at the foot of the arriving Felipe. Just as quickly though, Williams arrived, sliding in to clear the danger before Felipe could get in alone on MacMath.
This time, the Union took their chance to counterattack, as they drove the ball forward. Collecting the ball high in midfield, McInerney strode forward before unleashing a venomous blast that Perkins could only beat to the ground. Le Toux arrived quickest the quickest to the ball but he was unable to bury his shot before Camara slid in to block the goal-bound effort.
As the momentum swung back and forth, Montreal nearly opened the scoring five minutes later through DiVaio. The Italian stole in behind Williams from the Union’s right flank, but with Felipe hesitating before playing him in, Di Vaio’s confident finish was for naught as the assistant referee correctly raised his flag.
With neither side asserting consistent control in the center of the pitch, the match grew disjointed. And with both sides adding speed by way of Antoine Hoppenot for Philadelphia and Sainey Nyassi for Montreal, the middle third became stretched.
Exploiting the space to stretch his legs, Fabinho burst up the left flank and hooked in a lethal cross. McInerney had the simplest of headed finishes to nod it home, but the out of form striker was unable to apply the decisive touch.
That missed chance would be the last serious opportunity created with the sides sharing the spoils on the night, and Montreal far happier to do so. The Union have scored only once in their last 285 minutes of play.
“I thought we created some really good chances in the first half and the second half,” Hackworth said. “The hardest thing to do in this sport is to score a goal. As long as we’re creating [good chances], then I know they’re going to come. We did that in both halves.”
The Union are on the road next Sunday when they face the San Jose Earthquakes (11 pm, ESPN2)
Zac MacMath; Ray Gaddis, Sheanon Williams, Jeff Parke, Fabinho; Sebastien Le Toux, Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel, Danny Cruz (Antoine Hoppenot ’73) ; Jack McInerney (Kleberson ’80), Conor Casey (Aaron Wheeler ’86)
Unused substitutes: Oka Nikolov, Michael Lahoud, Michael Farfan, Leo Fernandes
Troy Perkins; Hassoun Camara, Matteo Ferrari, Alessandro Nesta, Jeb Brovsky; Justin Mapp, Hernan Bernardello (Collen Warner ’85), Patrice Bernier, Andres Romero (Sanna Nyassi ’56); Felipe Martins (Davy Arnaud ‘78), Marco Di Vaio
Unused substitutes: Andrea Pisanu, Daniele Paponi, Evan Bush, Adrian Lopez
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
|Philadelphia Union||Montreal Impact|
|12||Attempts on Goal||4|
|4||Shots on Target||1|
|6||Shots off Target||2|
|21||Open Play Crosses||3|
|0||First Yellow Cards||0|
|0||Second Yellow Cards||0|
|50%||Duels Won %||49%|
|82%||Passing Accuracy %||84%|