Despite missing Obafemi Martins (knee), Shalrie Joseph (hamstring), Steve Zakuani (groin) and Osvaldo Alonso (birth of daughter), the Seattle Sounders certainly did not look like a depleted team early. In the tenth minute, the always explosive Eddie Johnson scored on a corner kick service from Mauro Rosales, and Seattle were up 1-0.
Johnson found himself all alone in the middle of the box, as Amobi Okugo lost his assignment. The tide would begin to turn midway through the first half, with Philadelphia spending a lot of time in the final third.
The Union found woodwork twice, as McInerney deflected a Sheanon Williams pass off the crossbar, and Okugo headed a Michael Farfan corner kick off the right post.
Any advantage Philadelphia had seemed to be lost in stoppage time, as they were dealt a blow to their already fragile backline. After getting tripped up with Johnson in a fight for the bottom, Jeff Parke fell awkwardly and seemed to injure his left hamstring.
The injury too severe to continue, Parke was forced out and replaced by Gabriel Farfan, due to head coach John Hackworth having no true center backs on the active roster.
Even though they found themselves down a goal, Philadelphia was finally able to generate some strong offensive opportunities in the first forty-five minutes, something they've struggled to do in previous matches. They had 11 attempts on goal as opposed to just six from Seattle.
The first half (and most of the 2013) season, had brought little luck for winger Danny Cruz. Hard as he may work, he's shown he lacks the ability to finish and create consistent opportunities in the final third.
He would partially redeem himself on Saturday afternoon. After scoring just two goals in his past 36 games, Cruz would score that same amount within sixty seconds of each other.
The first came in the fiftieth minute when a Conor Casey header off the post fell right onto Cruz's right foot, and he would make Seattle pay. After goalkeeper Michael Gspurning failed to corral a Jack McInerney shot, and Cruz would slot one past the Seattle keeper on one hop.
It was an incredible series of events, which ended with Philadelphia miraculously up 2-1.
But just like that, the lead was lost.
In the 64th minute, Leo Gonzalez would make a run along the left sideline and he would find yet another unmarked teammate in the middle of the box. Captain Mauro Rosales would get his head on the Gonzalez cross, and the teams found themselves locked at two.
This time it was G. Farfan who made the mistake, who lost sight of Rosales. It seemed almost inevitable that the decision to only dress to center backs would haunt the team, but the Union's feud with now exiled Bakary Soumare left them with no options.
And in the 86th minute, the Union's backline would weaken even more so. Williams would engage in a shoving match with Seattle's Lamar Neagle, and head referee Jorge Gonzalez would produce a red card for both men. It was a chippy ending to what was mostly a well played match.
DeAndre Yedlin would be given a red card for a horrible challenge on M. Farfan, and Johnson was shown a yellow for a hard challenge on Antoine Hoppenot. Just like any good Philadelphia Union match, it wouldn't end without controversy.
A clear handball would go uncalled in the dying seconds of the match, as Gonzalez stuck out his hand and deflected a Casey shot from well inside the box. The referee would inexplicably let it go, and Philadelphia and Seattle would both take a point from the contest.
Although the Union and Sounders play just once this year, Saturday had all the makings of a budding rivalry.
Philadelphia can feel pretty good with themselves going into their matchup with the Chicago Fire next week, but will be without Williams and presumably Parke as well. Hackworth may have no choice but to reconcile with Soumare in order for the team to fill a competent back line.