Oh Consistency thou art a wicked witch with a B. The Union tied DC United 2-2, after doing enough to win the game for 94 minutes. Alas, there were 95 minutes in this one, and DC found a late equalizer. This tie is one of those ones that feels like a loss. It’s a result that shows the recent consistency this team has had. The Union give up leads, and in doing so let up late goals. This season, the Union have been outscored 12-7 after the 75th minute of games. More recently, the Union have been outscored 4-0 in the past six games after the 75th minute. This bad habit is one that the Union wanted to prevent, and for the most part, did prevent in the first half of the season. Now, the Union are giving up goals late in games that leave everyone saying what if.
If the Union would’ve cleared their lines better after stopping a late corner last night, then the Union would be celebrating a big three road points. It would’ve been their second road win of 2016, but their team defense fell asleep at the worst time. This DC game shows the Union defensive weakness.
The first goal was one that came from a give away from the back. Tribbett played a ball up field that was easily intercepted. Since the Union sent numbers forward, Taylor Kemp was allowed to take the ball down the field. The only one that could make a play to stop or delay Kemp was Tribbett. Kemp wrong footed Tribbett and blew by him into the box. Marquez tried to cover ground to stop an oncoming Kemp shot, but was a few seconds to late. The shot came and it was a beauty; beating Blake to his far post. DC had an early first half lead. Luckily Tranquillo Barnetta was on the field.
Barnetta helped tie the game at the stroke of halftime. The Union had a free kick from about thirty yards out. Some trickery helped the Union tie the match. Before Barnetta struck, Fabinho ran over the ball. His fake, made Hamid move from his spot. The kick came from Barnetta and Hamid was a step too far away from the ball. The Union found the equalizer. Twelve minutes into the second half the Union found a lead thanks to former DC United player Chris Pontius. After a failed clearance Ilsinho found the ball and saw an open Chris Pontius on the edge of DC’s box. The Brazilian played Pontius through and he finished the play. The Union had the lead but had to hold it for over thirty minutes.
The Union looked like they would bend, and bend a lot, but not break against DC. Especially with Andre Blake pulling out another double save! Philly sat back and absorbed the pressure, but when they transitioned they moved awkwardly. The substitutes Creavalle, who came on for an injured Brian Carroll, Restrepo, and newcomer Charlie Davies didn’t help the Union contain possession while going forward late in the match. In the third minute of the five minutes of additional time DC found the equalizer.
A failed clearance from a corner created a 50/50 ball. Fabinho got to the ball first and played it back to Marquez. The center back saw Ilsinho on the left-wing with some space in front of him. Marquez played a through ball in front of the Brazilian winger. Ilsinho jogged towards the ball, and didn’t think the DC player, who was sprinting, would beat him to the ball; he was wrong.
Patrick Nyarko intercepted the poor clearance, and looked to move forward. Ilshino stood flat-footed as Nyarko shimmied his way around the Union player. Nyarko had room for a cross and he sent it in. The ball floated through the box and went towards the back post. Their were two open DC players who had beaten their marks. The ball came to Birnbaum’s head, and he placed the ball past Blake who was helpless to stop the equalizer. 2-2 game over!
The Union are now winless in their last four league games, and other Eastern Conference teams have passed them by. Sitting at 31 points, Philadelphia has a lot of work to do to get back towards the top of the east. With their recent play, we can say the Union have been consistent, consistent in giving up late goals. Philadelphia has let up 12 goals in the last fifteen minutes of the game; a quarter of those goals have been in the Union’s last four. The Union need to break this habit. They need to remember how they played in May; stout defense, good transition play, a high press to keep the ball in the opposing half. The Union need that consistency back.
Unfortunately, that type of consistent play will be harder to obtain. The Union’s ageless man, Brian Carroll, was injured in the DC game and was seen on crutches after the game. It is reported that Carroll will be out for three to six weeks. Carroll has been a stud defensive midfielder for the team all year, and now his absence means something scary. Carroll played as much as he did this season because of Maurice Edu’s long injury. Mo is still not at full strength, which means that the number six role will be filled by Warren Creavalle.
Creavalle has had good moments this season, but he tends to wander around a bit and lose his head in key moments. There have been numerous occasions this season where Creavalle commits an unnecessary tackle that leads to a dangerous free kick for the opposition. This type of plays cannot happen if the Union are trying to correct their late game give up goals. The next two games the Union face New England and Toronto; both teams are dangerous when running at opposing teams defensive midfielders, and can draw fouls in dangerous spots. If the Union want to fix their problem Creavalle will avoid the types of tackles that have trademarked his time in Philly.
The Union’s next two games are important ones against Eastern Conference teams. New England and Toronto are tough, playoff spot holding, opponents. If the Union want to get back to further up the table, they will need to get results against these teams. In my last article, I talked about the importance getting good results against the Union’s Eastern conference opponents.
Philly’s three game stretch of DC, New England, and Toronto proved to be a stretch where the Union could gain points in the East through good play. They screwed the first game by dropping two points. Now, they shift focus to a New England team that has struggled in league play lately. The Union need three points from this match. If they can play good team defense, press New England, and see the game out to the end, then there is no reason that they shouldn’t get the much-needed road win. Look for a full New England preview from me later in the week on Philly Sports Network!
Mandatory Photo Credit: Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports