Union fall to Seattle Sounders, 2-1

Despite being the better side on this night, the Philadelphia Union fell to Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 Saturday night in front of 39,620 fans at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Sebastien Le Toux had the lone goal for the Union.

Lineup: Andre Blake; Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Josh Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry; Warren Creavalle, Vincent Nogueira; Chris Pontius, Roland Alberg, Sebastien Le Toux; CJ Sapong

First half:

The Union possessed the ball for long stretches of time, ending the half with 57% possession (on the road no less). Cross after cross entered the box but the final pass was lacking as the Union searched for the finish. Seattle had to settle for striking on the counter early as they had very little of the ball as the Union dominated it. Later in the half Seattle started having a bit more of the ball, but their first goal could still have been considered to be against the run of play; Seattle defender Chad Marshall was left unmarked in the box on a Sounders corner kick and easily headed home past Union keeper Andre Blake in the 41st minute to put the Sounders up 1-0. Minutes later, Sounders man Andreas Ivanschitz hit a blast that took everything in Blake’s power to parry over the bar, making a spectacular leaping save that kept the scoreline where it was. Fabinho and Roland Alberg would pick up yellows during the half, which ended 1-0 to Seattle.

Second half:

The second half saw more of the same from the Union; possession, searching, missing a finish. They suffered a big blow when Roland Alberg picked up a second yellow on a tackle in the midfield where his legs appeared to accidentally scissor a Seattle player’s leg and was sent off in the 53rd minute. Playing against a ten-man Union, Seattle had more of play but the Union were still dangerous; they kept possessing the ball and playing as if they weren’t down a man. Union manager Jim Curtin sent Tranquillo Barnetta in for Chris Pontius in the 63rd minute and Barnetta had an immediate impact again, moving the ball around, creating, and being dangerous. It wasn’t enough though as Seattle found a second goal in the 71st minute when Ivanschitz played a beautiful ball to Seattle striker Jordan Morris, who split the Philly defense and poked a shot past Blake to make it 2-0.

The Union weren’t done though; just two minutes later, Fabinho played a ball into CJ Sapong who set up Sebastien Le Toux for a first-time shot about fifteen yards away, which he buried and promptly fell to the ground with an injury in a microcosm of Philly’s night. Down a goal again at 2-1, Curtin sent in Fabian Herbers for Le Toux and then in the 83rd minute, Leo Fernandes for Fabinho as the Union went three across the back to try to find an equalizer which they ultimately did not, falling just short on a night they played well but couldn’t capitalize.

Observations:

  • The officiating was brutal this match. CJ Sapong had guys hanging all over him for most of the match, but nothing was called. Sapong led the Union with 15 fouls drawn so far this season due to his strong hold-up style of play, but he scarcely added to that lead tonight. The yellow on Nelson Valdez for his studs-up tackle on Rosenberry could have been (and has been) a red this year. There were calls big and little all through the match I felt were poor. This match was certainly not PRO’s finest moment; fortunately for them, they’ll be guaranteed to have at least one more terrible match this weekend so that this match will only be their second-worst.
  • No, I’m not done yet. The officiating was so bad, Curtin was spotted yelling at the ref to give him “just one f***ing call”. It was one of those nights when the home team got a lot of calls, and unfortunately, the Union were not the home team.
  • It will be a welcome sight to see Tranquillo Barnetta’s name in the first XI and it could happen as early as next match. He’s such a difference maker; he’s better corner taker than Alberg or Le Toux, he has a more refined touch, and he makes the runs and plays the defense you want your 10 to play in a high press system.
  • Speaking of Alberg, I haven’t been impressed by him. In my eyes, he’s done very little to dissuade Curtin from plugging Barnetta into the starting lineup immediately. Alberg will be suspended next match for picking up a red anyways, so if Barnetta is fit, it’s his job.
  • If Ilsinho is back next match too, it’ll be a lot of fun to see some Barnetta/Ilsinho/Rosenberry interplay down the right side.
  • Josh Yaro got his first start for the Union. He was drafted second overall this year and made his first ever appearance for the big team tonight, playing in the back next to his old Georgetown teammate Rosenberry.
  • Vincent Nogueira has looked like his old self, seeing things, hitting those amazing diagonals, and running the show in the midfield. The team is much better when he’s out there.
  • Warren Creavalle too looked very good in the number 6 role as Brian Carroll got a well-deserved rest. In Carroll’s stead, Sebastien Le Toux wore the armband as captain.
  • Seattle is a notoriously difficult place to play, even when the home side is playing poorly. The Union did well tonight especially for an away side, even if the scoreline doesn’t show it; the boys in blue won’t lose a lot of games playing like they did tonight.

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