One week ago, the Philadelphia Union were mostly satisfied to settle for a 1-1 draw in Columbus, a place they had never before earned a point.
On Saturday, the final whistle once again blew with a game tied at 1-1, but this time the Union were not happy at all.
In fact, following the tie to Toronto FC at PPL Park, Union manager John Hackworth called the game “one of the most frustrating games of my coaching career.” And that’s even after he watched his team come from behind with a dramatic game-tying goal from Jack McInerney in stoppage time.
So why was the team so disappointed? Let’s take a look at what went wrong –- and what can go better next week –- with a new “Inside Doop.”
Three thoughts from Saturday’s game
1. The fact that the Union scored only once –- and that it took the more than 90 minutes to do so -– was probably the most troubling part of the game. Led by strikers Conor Casey and Jack McInerney, Philly finished with 10 shots on target and 18 attempts on goal. But in large part because of the brilliance of Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik (nine saves) and some wasted opportunities -- “I didn’t think we created too many good chances; we created a lot of half-chances,” McInerney astutely said -- the Union were left pondering so many what-ifs in the locker room after the game.
2. No miss was more glaring than Antoine Hoppenot getting stoned by Bendik on a final-minute breakaway. As a speedy second-half sub, Hoppenot has a knack for getting behind the defense late in games and has shown in the past that he sometimes likes to try to chip it over the goalie in that situation. But instead of doing that –- or trying to make a move around the 'keeper as teammates later told him he should have done -– he took an early shot that the hard-charging Bendik stopped. Hoppenot was pretty distraught about it after the game, calling it “one of those plays that’s going to stay in my mind for a while.” It’s hard to blame him.
3. Former Union captain and fan favorite Danny Califf did not get any minutes in his first return to PPL Park since getting traded away last May. But Califf did get a warm response from Union fans before the game began –- and then even during the game when the Sons of Ben chanted “Bring on Califf.” Toronto head coach Ryan Nelson didn’t bring on Califf – but he did bring on another former Union player in Ryan Richter. A Philadelphia-area native who starred collegiately for La Salle, Richter actually made his MLS debut Saturday since he never got into a league game while playing for the Union in 2011. Not a bad place for a Philly kid to play his first MLS game, huh?
Three questions for the week ahead
1. Another player who made his MLS debut Saturday was new Designated Player Kléberson, who entered the game for the Union for the final 11 minutes. And the Brazilian certainly did well enough to earn more minutes moving forward, as he set up Hoppenot’s breakaway and nearly scored a goal of his own. Will he come off the bench when the Union travel to RFK Stadium on Sunday for a nationally televised clash against D.C United? Or did he earn a start in a midfield that mostly struggled Saturday before he came in?
2. For the first time this season, the Union started their three top strikers – Casey, McInerney and Sebastien Le Toux – together in the same game. But while Casey and McInerney both played very well, Le Toux did not have one of his better games as he played primarily in an outside position. Le Toux, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, hasn’t played a full 90 minutes in any of Philly’s three last contests. As the partnership between Casey and McInerney continues to blossom, could the Frenchman see his role diminished even further Sunday in the nation’s capital?
3. The center back pairing of Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo has been rightfully praised all season. But there’s no way Parke and Okugo should have allowed Toronto’s leading scorer Robert Earnshaw to get behind them on a harmless long ball and score the first goal of the game. Parke, Okugo and the rest of the Union defense will likely feel some pressure to help Philly get its first shutout in more than a month against a struggling D.C. team that currently sits in last place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Stat of the week
Heading into Sunday’s Union-D.C. United game, McInerney has scored twice as many goals (four) as the entire D.C. United team (two).
Quote of the week
“That should be a game we win every week. And if we want to make that playoffs, that’s got to happen.” – Jack McInerney
Player of the week
Here’s a little more love for McInerney, who not only scored the equalizer but was involved in most of the best chances for his team and was strong on the ball all game. A few days after saying he hopes to win the MLS Golden Boot, the 20-year-old is now tied for second in the league in goals scored.