Photo: Courtesy of Portland Timbers
It would be safe to say that most observers picked Portland to win Saturday night’s season opener against the Union. For example, all six of the MLS editors did in the weekly predictions post at MLSsoccer.com. And so, when the Union were leading 1-0 with only seconds of stoppage time remaining, it is probably also safe to say that eyebrows were raised across the league.
Said Portland midfielder Diego Valeri. “They surprised us. We were expecting a different kind of Philadelphia team. They opened up and tried to play, and they played well. They came to play.” He added, “They tried to take the ball from us and they did it very well. They were very well organized, and opened up the field well and played well…It surprised us because we expected another kind of Philadelphia honestly. We expected a Philadelphia that would keep numbers in the back and look to counter. We ran into a team that has changed its look.”
That the Union would concede a 94th minute equalizer after poorly setting up to defend a late corner kick was a heartbreaking disappointment. As John Hackworth said, “we let it slip out of our grasp.”
Zac MacMath said, “Very unfortunate to give up a goal like that in the end. I don’t think the team deserved it, but no one is at fault but ourselves.” He added, “We’re happy with the way we played for 93 and a half minutes and then giving up the goal in the end is unacceptable. We know that going forward and that’s something we have to cut out of our game.
The Union deserved to win that game. And, but for some bad decision making leading up to the fateful corner kick, and lackadaisical defending on the corner kick itself, they would have returned to Philadelphia with all three points.
But those late lapses should not overshadow the fact that the Union – contrary to what the possession and passing numbers might suggest – were bossing much of the play, taking the Portland crowd out of the game in the process, and doing so with great style and belief, thanks in large part to some tremendous performances from the team’s new trio of Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana, and Vincent Nogueira.
Simply put, Union fans were treated to some great soccer on Saturday night. On the road against a team that many — PSP readers included — have tipped to again win the Western Conference, the Union didn’t sit back, they came to play. And how great is that?
Soon enough, dropping points as the Union did against the Timbers will be a cause for real concern. As Jack McInerney said, “It’s disappointing, but if you were to have come in and told us we would have drawn 1-1, I think we would have taken it. So, I think we just have to put this behind us and we did a lot of that last year where we gave up late goals and it cost us points and it’s something that’s going to have to change if we want to make it to the playoffs.”
But for now, it is early. Now, with 33 games remaining in a long season, it is the promise that the Union displayed on a rainy Saturday night in the Pacific Northwest that ought to be the story.
Maurice Edu said, “I thought we played really well, we played confident. We defended well as a unit and we looked good going forward. We created some good chances in the first half, in the second half as well.” He continued, “This is a good starting point for us. Coming to Portland and getting a point is a good result. Obviously, we feel today we could have taken three points, but we’ll take a point from this and continue to grow as a team.”
The Union gets it, they know they should’ve won that game. So, enjoy watching the growth of all of that promise that was on display for “93 and a half minutes.” The fun is just getting started.
Match recaps from PSP, Philadelphia Union, Philly.com, The Daily News, The Inquirer, CSN Philly, Philly Soccer News, Brotherly Game, Portland Timbers, The Oregonian, The Columbian, Prost Amerika, Stumptown Footy, Rose City Soccer Press, MLSsoccer.com, Goal.com, ProSoccerTalk, SBI, The Sports Network, and The AP.
At Soccer America, Paul Kennedy says that Cristian Maidana “tormented the Timbers in his Philadelphia debut,” adding, “Few teams come into Portland and take the game to the Timbers, but the Union returned home very disappointed that it did not take three points as Maidana led the Philly attack that could have had three or four goals but for the work of Portland keeper Donovan Ricketts.”
Shin Guardian praises the Union’s midfield and defense. “The Union went into Portland and gave Portland something to be seriously concerned about and that is, ‘Our midfield and fullback support are as fast or faster than yours.’”
Brotherly Game begins a new regular column looking at game changing moments.
As if their ridiculous slide shows weren’t bad enough, Bleacher Report, while rightly praising the play of Maidana and Edu, unaccountably says Vincent Nogueira “didn’t get a chance to really shine.” What game were they watching?
At Soccer America, Paul Gardner writes that the ref lockout is a lose-lose situation for PRO and MLS. I didn’t think the replacement refs and linesmen for Saturday’s Union game didn’t stand out as factors in the game anymore than usual. What did you think?
In a poll of regular contributors to ASN, Brooke Tunstall predicts Jack McInerney will win the Golden Boot and John Godfrey taps Amobi Okugo for defender of the year.
The Tampa Bay Times has an interesting read on the different paths to MLS taken by Zac MacMath and Jeff Attinella, who played for rival high school teams in Florida. MacMath says, “The goal this year is to make the playoffs as a starting goalkeeper. We were there my first season when I was a backup. The playoffs are always the goal when you’re a professional.”
Drexel men’s soccer Hall of Famer Robert Linde (Class of 1951) passed away on Feb. 16 at the age of 80.
The Union were the only Eastern Conference team to get points off of Western Conference opposition over the weekend, with Sporting Kansas City losing 1-0 to Seattle after conceding in stoppage time, New York being delightfully pummeled 4-1 in Vancouver, Montreal falling short 3-2 to Dallas, and Chicago conceding an 88th minute winner to Chivas USA on Sunday to lose 3-2. In intra-conference play on Saturday, DC fell 3-0 at home to Columbus and Houston hammered New England 4-0. Toronto opens their season next Saturday on the road against Seattle.
In the Western Conference, LA lost 1-0 to Real Salt Lake. San Jose and Colorado — who, to the surprise of no one, announced Pablo Mastroeni as their head coach on Saturday — begin their MLS seasons next weekend.
- Seattle officially cut ties with Shalrie Josephs after exercising a buyout of his contract.
- Dallas and Eric Hassli have mutually agreed to part ways.
- Dallas have re-signed Homegrown midfielder Victor Ulloa.
- Chivas USA have signed Third-Round draft pick Kristopher Tyrpak.
- Chivas USA have signed trialist goalkeeper Trevor Spangenberg.
The league finally announced the 2014 roster and competition rules — one day before the start of play. Some of the highlights include a rise in the salary cap to $3.1 million and Designated Player hit to $387,500 (rises that in compliance with the CBA) and the implementation of away goals in the playoffs if the aggregate score is tied in the conference semifinals and champion ships “so as to be consistent with CONCACAF and FIFA practice.”
The new roster rules confirm something that has been widely assumed: “Designated Players of a certain threshold – as determined by the League – are not subject to allocation ranking.” And so, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley are determined by the league to be beyond “a certain threshold” and thus exempt from allocation while Maurice Edu is not.
At SI, Grant Wahl on the evolution of Portland owner Merritt Paulson.
From Goal.com, could MLS gain the same benefits from playing in the Copa Libertadores that Liga MX does?
The Miami Herald reports that Royal Caribbean Cruises, citing traffic concerns “and its own confidential plans to develop the 12 acres that Beckham and his investors want to lease,” opposes the plan to build a stadium for the Miami franchise in PortMiami. More on the story here.
My San Antonio sifts the tea leaves of Don Garber’s recent league expansion comments.
You will recall that Paul Riley was recently named head coach of NWSL side Portland Thorns, the position he held during the all too short existence of the Philadelphia Independence. Last week, Riley announced his assistant coaching staff, which includes Michael Demakis and Skip Thorp, both of whom worked with Riley at the Independence.
You will recall a Philly soccer history post here at PSP from last year about the first women’s team to play in Philadelphia, England’s Dick, Kerr Ladies, who visited this city at the conclusion of their 1922 US tour. Grant Czubinski has the story of the team’s game in Washington DC on Oct. 8, 1922.
On Friday, the USWNT’s 43-game unbeaten streak came to an end with a 1-0 loss to Sweden, led by former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage, at the Algarve Cup. The loss means the US has no shot at playing in the tournament championship and will need to defeat Denmark today — and for Sweden to defeat Japan, who the US must then eclipse in goal differential — to win second place in their group and so qualify for the third place game.
At The New York Times, Sam Borden looks at how going to Europe is no longer the best option for US players looking to break into the national team.
ESPN will be broadcasting a behind-the-scenes look at the USMNT as it prepares for the World Cup beginning with an hour-long episode on May 13, followed by 30- minute segments each week that are capped by another hour-long final episode on June 10. More on the six-episode series here.
Werder Bremen midfielder Aaron Hunt successfully convinced the ref in Saturday’s game against Nurnberg not to award a penalty kick after he went down in the box. Fair play rules.