After what was a forgetful 2012 campaign, the Philadelphia Union hoped to get off to a hot start against Orlando City SC in their preseason opener.
The start was certainly not ideal for the Union, who struggled out of the gate. Despite the Union having much of their expected regular season starters in the starting XI, Orlando City supplied most of the pressure in the first half.
Led by Long Tan and Dennis Chin, Orlando City was able to get a couple solid goal scoring opportunities early in the first half. Newly paired center backs Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo struggled to contain the early onslaught, but the Union managed to come out unscathed.
Questions originally arose this about Philadelphia's back line when they loaned Carlos Valdes out to Santa Fe for the season, and the Union's effort tonight certainly did nothing to mollify the doubters. Parke and Okugo seemed to lack communication and Parke was often situated far away from Okugo, leaving a large gap between the two over the center of the Union's final third.
On the offensive side of the ball, the rust was certainly evident.
Conor Casey, acquired in December in the MLS Re-Entry Draft, had a rough night on the forefront of the Union attack. The 31 year old struggled to control passes sent into the box, and he and fellow forward Sebastien Le Toux had trouble creating any sort of chemistry in their first opportunity to play together.
Le Toux took the corner kicks for the first half, despite Keon Daniel being a better option, and this may not be a one time opportunity for Le Toux. Former coach Peter Novak used the Frenchman on corner opportunities on Le Toux's original stint in Philadelphia, and it looks like Hackworth is ready to utilize him there once again.
Orlando City and Philadelphia were locked at zero early into the second half until Chin put his USL team on top. Chin, who led all USL PRO scorers last season, forced a Brian Carroll turnover in the box, then danced around Zac MacMath before netting a goal from an rather tight angle.
Philadelphia would finally make their subs after 20 minutes into the second half, and the pace seemed to pick up for them. After coming into training camp in the best shape of his career, Roger Torres was the focal point of the offensive attack for the Union in the latter portions of the game.
Torres, 21, came extremely close to knotting the game on a knuckling strike from outside the box, yet Miguel Gallardo, the Orlando City goalkeeper, was just able to deflect it out of play. The Colombian was able to eventually help put Philadelphia on the scoreboard, by sending in a cross to Stony Brook product Leo Fernandes, who took one touch off his chest before sending the ball past Gallardo.
The game would end tied at 1-1, and despite a lackadaisical effort from the starters, the Union can take a couple positives away from the game. Torres showed pure skill in his passing against Orlando City, and after a season marred by injuries and very few appearances, he looks like a man on a mission.
Bakary Soumare came in as part of the group of second half substitutes, and played very strong. After dealing with a knee injury last season after being acquired, Philadelphia will call on him to be a strong central defender.
The preseason keeps rolling, as Philadelphia's next game is against the Columbus Crew on February 13 from the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex. From there they head to Everbank Field to take on the Montreal Impact on February 15, before playing one more game in four days.