The Philadelphia Union opened their 2017 campaign with a 0-0 road draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Union starting XI: Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Onyewu, Rosenberry; Medunjanin, Jones; Pontius, Bedoya, Herbers; Simpson
Vancouver starting XI: Ousted; Williams, Parker, Dean, Harvey; Techera, Laba, Jacobson, Davies; Manneh, Hurtado
There were no real surprises in the starting lineup that Jim Curtin came up with. Fabian Herbers got the start at right wing due to a hamstring injury to Ilsinho. This would be the MLS debut for Jay Simpson, Haris Medunjanin, Oguchi Onyewu, and Derrick Jones.
The first half was uneventful, with no corner kicks or bookings and only 2 shots on goal, both by the Union. The Union had the edge in posession but struggled to get the ball to Simpson. The Whitecaps had a couple of chances but could not get a shot on goal. The most dangerous one was in the 25th minute when Cristian Techera moved forward into the box with only Andre Blake to beat, but his shot was off target. Simpson finally made his first shot on goal in the 36th minute but it was from distance and easily saved by Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted. The half ended scoreless without any stoppage time added.
The boys in blue came in looking stronger in the second half. Alejandro Bedoya got two shots on goal in a 2 minute stretch just before the 50th minute ended, one of them being a nice looking backheel redirection. Simpson finally made his first MLS shot on goal in the 36th minute from distance, which was easily saved by Ousted. He was replaced by CJ Sapong in the 61st minute, but Sapong was basically invisible for the rest of the match. The Whitecaps got their best chance in the 65th minute when a shot from within a crowded box was kept out of the goal by Keegan Rosenberry who was guarding the post. After Chris Pontius got a shot on goal right at Ousted, Curtin gave another player his MLS debut when he replaced Pontius with Fafa Picault in the 70th minute. The Union were content with maintaining as possession as they could for the last 10 minutes so they could run out the clock and go home with road point.
- Simpson didn’t look entirely comfortable out there. Perhaps it was due to needing adjust to the MLS style of play, or playing on Vancouver’s artificial turf or a combination of the two. Sapong didn’t stand out either, so the starting job is probably still Simpson’s for now.
- Medujanin looked every bit like the Vincent Noguiera replacement the Union needed since Nogs’ sudden departure last June. He controlled the ball and made crisp passes.
- Jones had a solid game. He didn’t make any mistakes, and had a nice run in the 79th minute where he forced Ousted to come out and dive on the ball. He’s making a case to stay in the starting lineup over Warren Creavalle.
- Onyewu was solid. He showed flashes of his skill in the air that we were used to seeing during his US Men’s National Team heyday.
- Picault also looked good in his MLS debut, as he showcased his speed.
- Fabinho had a very un-Fabinho-like game, where he actually stayed back and provided some defense.
- Bedoya looked like the stud player that the Union signed him to be. He got some looks on goal, and was a reliable outlet for Medujanin.
A draw on the road following a long cross-continent journey is a good result for the Union. They return to Chester for their home debut on Saturday, where they will have a tough test against the 2016 Eastern Conference champions, Toronto FC.