As far as ties go, this was a pretty good one.
Despite giving up a late equalizer, the Philadelphia Union escaped from Columbus on Saturday with a hard-fought 1-1 draw, marking the first time in four all-time games they've earned a point at Crew Stadium.
How did they pull it off? Why weren’t they able to hold on for the win? Here’s a closer look at the game –- as well as what lies ahead for the Union –- in this week’s “Inside Doop.”
Three thoughts from Saturday’s game
1. For much of the contest, the Crew’s backline pressed high and the Union were able to exploit that in the 34th minute when they broke the offside trap and went ahead 1-0. Jack McInerney scored the goal but the true highlights were a wonderful flick by Conor Casey -– who started up top alongside McInerney -– and a calm assist from Danny Cruz. It was, perhaps, the Union's best team goal of the year.
2. Cruz, who started his fourth straight game on the right wing, also nearly had a second assist on a similar play but Casey missed the net on a clean look. Cruz then left the game early in the second half after taking a knock on the head for the fourth straight game, coming out in favor of Michael Lahoud. Cruz seems to have his fair share of doubters and, in fairness, is not a particularly skillful player. But the midfielder should be commended for his strong game in Columbus – and for continuing to put his head in the line of fire.
3. Union manager John Hackworth seems to have his back four in place as fullbacks Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis and center backs Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke have all played every minute this season. Against the Crew, they did well to limit the hosts to just three shots on target. But too often Philly’s defenders seemed to just boot the ball out of trouble, rather than making the shorter and smarter pass. And they allowed the Crew way too much time on the ball on Dominic Oduro’s game-tying goal in the 72nd minute.
Three questions for the upcoming week
1. New Designated Player José Kléberson made his first public appearance as a member of the Union last Wednesday and then traveled to Columbus for Saturday’s game but did not play. Is the next step coming off the bench or perhaps even getting the start when the Union host Toronto on Saturday at PPL Park (4 p.m., 6ABC)? The Union could certainly use the Brazilian’s calming touch as they have yet to win a possession battle all season.
2. For the first time as a member of the Philadelphia Union, Sebastien Le Toux came into the game off the bench. After the contest, Hackworth told reporters how valuable it is to use a striker of Le Toux’s caliber as a reserve. But will that happen again this weekend and throughout the season? And, perhaps more to the point, can a player that’s used to playing every minute grow comfortable in that role?
3. There are typically injury concerns every week but one big one to keep an eye on heading into Saturday’s contest vs. Toronto is the status of Michael Farfan. The team’s top playmaker missed the game in Columbus with an ankle sprain, and Gabriel Farfan, who had been sidelined the last two games with an injury himself, filled in for his twin brother. It will be nice to see both Farfans operating at full strength and playing together in the midfield.
Stat of the week
Only 14 Union field players have played more than 10 total minutes this season, meaning Hackworth has pretty much settled on his 11 starters and three subs through the first five games.
Quote of the week
“Not only am I going to bring my experience, but I will bring that Brazilian football to help the Philadelphia Union.” - Kléberson
Player of the week
McInerney is now tied for fourth in the league in goals scored (with three) and continues to look like one of Philly’s best players week in and week out – this week included.