The Seattle Sounders’ strategy against the Philadelphia Union was fairly clear from the opening whistle. Park the bus and get out of Chester with a point. That’s what they did, with a 0-0 tie, but the numbers (other than the final score) tell a different story. Playing their third match in eight days and missing some key contributors, including USMNT striker Jordan Morris and three-time MLS Defender of the Year, Chad Marshall, the Sounders could have easily laid an egg. Well, they almost did.
The first ten minutes looked like a feeling out process for both clubs. The Union had a few opportunities to take the lead early on. Defender and crossing extraordinaire, Kai Wagner, played a great ball to midfielder, Brenden Aaronson. Rather than one-timing the ball, Aaronson took one touch too many and the chance fell apart. He was able to earn a free kick just outside the box two minutes later. The resulting shot by Jamiro Monteiro sailed way over the Seattle goal and into the stands.
The Union would continue to put pressure on Sounders goalkeeper, Stefan Frei. Haris Medunjanin had a wide open Kacper Przybylko streaking down the left side of the box, but the pass to the Union striker was out of reach. Ray Gaddis then delivered a solid ball to Aaronson, who in turn sent a quality pass to Przybylko, whose shot hit right on the outside netting of the Seattle goal.
The Union’s best chance on the night would come in the 17th minute. Aaronson stripped the ball from a Seattle defender, took a few steps up and fired a shot with decent pace. Frei made an outstanding diving save towards his right, keeping the Union scoreless. As the Union seemed to have chance after chance to take the lead, I was noticing their dominance of possession. At the 20 minute mark, they controlled that aspect of the match 70/30. No way they could maintain this, right?
During the first half I was unhappy with the performance of referee, Marcos de Oliveira. He appeared hesitant to call any foul and didn’t get close to pulling out a card. Przybylko was pin-balled around by two Seattle defenders earlier in the half and no foul was called. Even more egregious, Wagner was fouled by defender Kim Kee-hee in the 26th minute. Kim clearly shoved Wagner in the back of the head with no attempt on the ball. De Oliveria called a foul, but as he did throughout the entire first half, kept all cards in his pocket. In my opinion this was a clear yellow, and I’ve see fouls of this ilk even designated as red. For all gripes with the official, in the 2nd half, he did call the match evenly, and didn’t have an affect on the final outcome.
The details after halftime were much of the same so I won’t bore you with repetition. The only very un-Union-like series of events occurred late in the 2nd half. Goalkeeper, Andre Blake, while not receiving any pressure from the Seattle at that moment, fired a flat, line-drive clearance into traffic and it almost cost the Union. Within seconds, defender Auston Trusty did almost an exact imitation of Blake’s mistake, but again, the Union were spared by the Sounders’ inept offense.
I don’t normally stress or call a ton of attention to stats in match recaps, but if any match called for that, it was this one. The numbers are staggering. If one would be presented with the statistical summary for this match without seeing the final 0-0 score, it would be fair that many would guess the Union had won 3-0, or at the least 2-0. The Union lead in all of these categories:
Shots on goal 6/1
Total Passes 637/294
Duels Won 57/31
Tackles Won 12/3
The main factors in this draw, which felt like a loss for the Union, were their inability to capitalize on several golden opportunities near the Seattle goal, as well as a very solid performance by Seattle’s Stefan Frei. Jamiro Monteiro had his worst match in a Union uniform, committing just as many fouls (3) as he sustained. Striker, Sergio Santos, earned his first start but never really got involved in the flow of the offense. Like Monteiro, his timing was off. Santos was able to muster only one shot, committed two fouls and found himself off-sides three times. A match he’d like to forget.
Although Aaronson missed a few chances to score, his work rate and tenacity on defense was exceptional. Ilsinho registered 33 minutes off the bench, put on some Ilsinho-like moves and drew some fouls, but didn’t get off a single shot in that time. It simply was not the offense’s day. On the bright side, Ray Gaddis was very good and Jack Elliot outstanding yet again. The Union defense continues to be one of the best in MLS and they haven’t given up more than 2 goals in a single match since opening day. Most importantly, they are back on top of the standings in the East.
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Chris Szagola, AP.