Well, the shutout streak was bound to end eventually. But it was how it ended that really stings for the Philadelphia Union.
After not surrendering a goal for a club-record 407 minutes, the Union gave up two in the final 15 minutes of Saturdays disappointing 2-1 setback to the San Jose Earthquakes at PPL Park.
Heres a look back at what we learned about the Unions bitter defeat, as well as a look ahead to their next game:
Three thoughts from Saturdays game
1. It was only a matter of time until the defense cracked, especially with left back Gabriel Farfan serving his first of a three-game suspension for a dangerous tackle, rookie Ray Gaddis thrown into the fire for his third straight game and Sheanon Williams switching from right back to left back (the third position along the backline hes played this season). At the same time, giving up two late goals to Steven Lenhart -- whos now scored four times, all on headers, at PPL Park -- is certainly a setback for a unit that had been virtually impenetrable for three straight games.
2. Considering the Earthquakes are in first place in the Western Conference and the Union were playing without three starters in Farfan (suspension), Keon Daniel (suspension) and Brian Carroll (hamstring strain) not to mention manager Peter Nowak, who was also suspended and replaced by top assistant John Hackworth the loss cant be considered a terrible one. But if the Union wish to return to the playoffs, they need to win home games, no matter the opponent. Currently, theyre just 1-2-1 at PPL Park, which represents one of the worst home records in the league.
3. While the Union were without a few key players Saturday, they also welcomed a couple of key additions. Two days after arriving from Germany, new acquisition Kai Herdling started in the midfield for Philly, where the coaches said he performed well. Also, third-year midfielder Amobi Okugo made his first start in the midfield in place of Carroll, and Califf the clubs captain returned after sitting out two games with a hamstring injury. Say what you will about the Union but they have put together a roster with some nice depth this season.
Three questions for the upcoming week
1. As always, the biggest theme for the Union is their offense or lack thereof. Until a late game-tying goal from Gabriel Gomez on Saturday, they didnt do very much in the attacking third and only put a total of two shots on target. One player that may be beginning to feel the heat is Lionard Pajoy. Often serving as the lone striker, Pajoy has shown a terrific work-rate but has yet to strike any fear into opposing defenses. Might he be joined by another striker up top soon?
2. With Daniel set to return from his one-game suspension, the Union coaching staff will need to do some lineup tinkering. If the Union continue to go with four attacking midfielders, theyll have to bring one of these five players Gomez, Michael Farfan, Freddy Adu, Herdling or Daniel off the bench. Or they could sit two of those players and start Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney or Josue Martinez up top alongside Pajoy. It will be interesting to see what direction they go in as they have a surplus of attacking players but still little in the way of attacking initiative.
3. The Union have an interesting history against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field, where they play this Saturday (4:30 p.m., NBC Sports). They played the first game in franchise history there in 2010, losing 2-0. And last year, they enjoyed one of their best wins of the year in Seattle, beating the Sounders 2-0 in October a victory that basically propelled them in the playoffs. What can we expect in 2012? Whatever happens, we know many people will be there to witness it as the Sounders consistently draw far more fans than any other MLS team.
Fact of the week: Gabriel Gomez, who was originally used as a defensive midfielder for Philly, currently has more goals (three) than the rest of the Unions players combined.
Quote of the week: That guys a Union killer, isnt he? Every time he comes here, he scores a goal. Union assistant coach John Hackworth, on San Joses Steven Lenhart.
Player of the week: Despite the loss, goalie Zac MacMath had another big-time performance, making five saves, including a couple of very difficult ones to keep his team in the game. Right now, the young keeper is the least of the Unions problems.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com and CSNPhilly.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.