Red cards and injury overshadow Union's draw with Sounders

Red cards and injury overshadow Union's draw with Sounders
May 4, 2013, 6:15 pm
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CHESTER, Pa. -- On a typical Saturday at PPL Park, two second-half goals separated by just a minute from Danny Cruz would highlight a 2-2 draw against the Seattle Sounders.

Not this Saturday.

Overshadowing a scrappy offensive effort and another leaky defensive game was an injury to defender Jeff Parke, red card to Sheanon Williams and a missed handball that changed the game.

“I think the points were dropped,” said Union coach John Hackworth, who began his post-game press conference by saying he accepts a league fine for criticizing head referee Jorge Gonzalez. “But I don’t think it’s as much our fault as the refs.”

The Union players agreed.

“I thought we played better than they did,” said Williams, who will sit out next Saturday’s game against the Chicago Fire. “I thought we played 100-times better than they did.”

The draw gives the Union a 3-3-3 record on the year and at least one point in four of their last five games.

Following a slow building opening half, the Union locked the game at one in the 50th minute when striker Jack McInerney played a soft pass into the box. Receiving a clean header on the ball, Conor Casey fired the ball of the right post, which seemed to freeze the Sounders’ defense. The bounce didn’t freeze Cruz, who ripped the rebound to the left side and in.

Before the home crowd finished their celebration, Cruz did it again. Once again, the post played a part as a clean McInerney shot from the left side of the box hit the hands of goalie Michael Gspurning and off the crossbar. Djimi Traore missed a clearing attempt and simply directed the ball to Cruz, who finished the play, making it 2-1.

“At the end of the day, I wanted to win,” said Cruz “I couldn’t be happier to get the goals and contribute. Coach has faith and me and it’s continued to drive me. I was just happy to see the ball go in the net both times.”

It was Cruz’s first two goals of the season.

“We got two great goals from Danny in the second half, he finished two great opportunities,” said Williams. “If we can play like that all the time, we’ll have good success.”

But that lead wouldn’t last. In the 64th minute, Sounders' Mario Roberto Martinez played the ball forward to Leonardo Gonzalez in the Union box. In one motion, Gonzalez crossed the ball through the Union defense, off the leg of Mauro Rosales and in to lock the game at two.

“Great response but we let up,” said Hackworth. “We worked so hard to get back into that game, we put a lot of energy out. We get two back, do all the right things but it’s our fault for giving up that second one for sure.”

Then the contest turned into a brawl.

In the 84th minute, Williams and Lamar Neagle got into a vicious pushing content, which earned both a red card. Shortly after, DeAndre Yedlin caught Michael Farfan from behind with a flagrant foul, earning himself a red. The two teams needed to be separated.

“He said we both headbutted each other which is false,” said Williams. “I didn’t headbutt him and he didn’t headbutt me either. That’s the explanation the referee gave us. If he wants to give us yellows for a shoving match, that’s fine. But to throw us out of the game for something we both didn’t do.”

In stoppage time and up a man, the Union pressed. Creating a mad scramble in the Sounders box, Casey rocketed off a shot that was ruled to hit the face of Gonzalez. However, the replay showed the shot actually his Gonzalez’s hand, which would have made it an automatic penalty kick.

“Having watch some replays from the last 10 minutes, it absolutely blew my mind,” said Hackworth. “Full credit to Seattle, they are a very good team but that should not have ended in a draw. There’s a clear penalty at the end of the game and how it’s not called is beyond me. There were so many parts to that game that were mismanaged by the officials. I don’t even know what to say.”

But the contest wasn’t always spirited for the Union. The listless hosts stood trapped in their own zone for the opening 10 minutes, almost stunned as the Sounders plotted high percentage chances on goal. On just their second corner kick of the game and in the 10th minute exactly, Rosales’ volley found the head of unmarked Eddie Johnson, who easily buried it to give the Sounders the early 1-0 advantage.

The start was Johnson’s first since March 30, as he suffered a nagging hamstring injury. It was his second of the season.

After giving up the first goal, the Union woke up and countered, controlling the ball for much of the first half. However, their disjointed and scattered attack was unable to get on the board in the first half.

The Union finished the half with 11 shots but only one on goal.

“We were playing well at the end of the first half but execution was pretty poor,” said Hackworth. “You gotta just keep going, you have to keep your foot on the gas and know it’s coming. You have to believe it.”

Losing Parke to a right hamstring injury to start the second half, the Union were forced to scramble their defense, adding Gabe Farfan at left back, moving Ray Gaddis to right back and shifting Williams to the middle. According to Hackworth, the matchups that created was the key to second-half success.

“In the end it’s execution,” said Hackworth. “We pushed Gabe forward into the midfield and essentially came out with three players back to start the half. That allowed Michael to push up inside. That was hard for them to deal with. We got the match up we wanted with Cruz and Gonzalez.”