Union steal a point in Colorado to continue hot streak

Warren Creavalle, Kevin Doyle
Colorado Rapids forward Kevin Doyle, front, takes a shot as Philadelphia Union defender Warren Creavalle pursues during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, May 28, 2016, in Commerce City, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

This time last year the two worst teams in MLS were Colorado Rapids, and Philadelphia Union. Now they are the top two teams in the league! This is a testament to the way both clubs have been able to turn their fortunes around. Both teams have played well so far this season, and goes to show the sheer unpredictability of MLS. These two teams have been the best in their conferences through the opening third of the season. The game between the two was scrappy and hard-fought, both defenses were spectacular and the game featured moments of brilliance leading to the two goals. A brilliant moment came from Brian Carroll whose stoppage time equalizer helped the Union steal a point in Colorado stole the show however as the Union continue to turn heads in 2016.

This game produced a juicy fixture for MLS fans, as it is featured the beast in the East versus the best of the West. However, it might not have been the matchup people expected from two first place teams. This game was the second game in four days for Philadelphia, they had been on the road since Tuesday. The Union played in hot Orlando Wednesday night, and then traveled to Denver Thursday to get used to the altitude of Colorado before their match with the Rapids Saturday. The Union were tired and Colorado were without two of their most important players on Saturday; Shkelzen Gashi, and Jermaine Jones..who will  be reporting to their respective national team squads. While the Union and the Rapids lacked firepower..it was the home side who had a narrow advantage coming in to the matchup..and it showed.

Colorado dominated Philly all night; they had more possession, more shots, better passing accuracy..not to mention crossbars hit! The Rapids should have had two more goals but the crossbar kept the greatly fatigued Union in the hunt. Colorado played the Union’s game..perhaps something the team didn’t expect. They pressed the Union and spent most of the game in the Union’s half of the field and had many chances due to their flowing attack. Colorado had their way with Union moving the ball around the pitch tiring out Philly’s already fatigued players leading to shots in dangerous positions. This made hard work for the Union defenders and keeper Andre Blake. But for eighty plus minutes they did a good job of stopping the Rapids chances. The Union struggled to find chances of their own in the match, probably because of their lineup.

The Union only made two changes from the Orlando game. Gaddis came in to relive Fabinho, and Tribbett got the start for the injured Yaro. These changes did little to help the Union’s attack. It showed that Coach Jim Curtin thought his team was able to play even if they were a little tired. Philadelphia only had five shots all night, and resulted to playing long ball. They would look to clear the ball up field and hope Sapong, Le Toux, or Pontius could create a chance. The away side found their only goal through their resilience and belief. The Union did not deserve to split points with Colorado, but they did just enough to do so. This just shows that the Union are not going to give into adversity.

All eyes were on Philly and Colorado Saturday night. The matchup brought speculation of a possible 2016 MLS Cup matchup. This game was not an attractive Cup Final preview.  It was a game where the Union were against the ropes and defended for their lives. When Colorado found the breakthrough goal in the eighty-seventh minute, the game looked finished. Last year’s Union team would have given up on a chance to equalize, but not this team. The Union continued to send the long ball forward even in stoppage time; smart passes, and smart runs resulted in their tying goal at the death of the game.

The 1-1 tie was the first time Colorado did not win at home in 2016. The Union are now unbeaten in seven games, and have one more game before MLS goes on break for the Copa America Centenario tournament. The Union play Columbus at home on Wednesday night. They have a chance to tie the franchise record for games unbeaten (8 games). Philadelphia are still in first place after the Colorado result, and can extend their hold on the east with a win against Columbus on Wednesday. Let’s hope The Union recover from their long road trip, and get a good result before the long break!


Photo credit: David Zalubowski, Associated Press