It looked as if the Union were on their way to three points Saturday night at PPL Park. Second half, up a goal, then up a man as well, but it all came crashing down in the 79th minute when Amobi Okugo gave Marco Di Vaio a tad too much space and Di Vaio in turn created a moment of magic. His sublime equalizer proved to be the difference as the Union walked away from PPL Park tonight disappointed and tied at one.
The first half began as a rather sloppy affair with little of note happening in the first ten minutes. The Union were holding the bulk of the possession but neither team were able to break through the defense until the 11th minute when Vincent Nogueira made a spectacular 60-yard run only to find himself between a rock and a hard place. With Jack McInerney making an offside run and Nogueira running out of room, he fired a shot that went across the net and out of play harmlessly for a goal kick. It was a disappointing finish, but the run was only a sign of things to come.
But before Nogueira could make his presence known in the match again, a momentarily scary incident occurred in Troy Perkins's box. With Perkins seeking to punch a cross away, Perkins went through the ball and grazed the head of Maurice Edu. It was a scary incident, but fortunately, Edu was able to get up and stay in the game. Shots to the head are always a great cause of concern, and Edu was fortunate that Perkins only grazed him and he was able to get up.
In the 26th minute Jack McInerney appeared to be making a run at goal but before he could enter the box Hassoun Camara dragged McInerney down accepting the professional foul. With other defenders still behind the ball, it could not be called denial of a clear goal-scoring opportunity and Camara was appropriately shown yellow by referee Edvin Jurisevic. The resulting free kick was taken by Cristian Maidana. Maidana got off a nice shot on goal but it was patted away nicely by Perkins.
Nine minutes later though Perkins would find himself helpless. Brian Carroll intercepted a lazy Heath Pearce pass to no one in particular and found McInerney running. McInerney then played a marvelous through ball to Nogueira behind the defense. With only Perkins in front of him, Nogueira powered it high past Perkins and into the back of the net to give the Union a 1-0 lead.
Di Vaio found himself with the ball in the box near the end of the first half, but a well-timed block by Aaron Wheeler turned it only into a corner kick, ending the dangerous moments of the first half.
The second half began with a common theme. Montreal would possess the ball or earn a free kick, often embarrassing Fabinho in the process, and would have an opportunity to score but either through fine defensive work by Okugo and Aaron Wheeler or Di Vaio flat out missing, the Union were able to cling on to the 1-0 lead in the second half.
The Union had an opportunity to add to their lead in the 59th minute when the newly subbed Leo Fernandes in for Maidana took a free kick that was just barely out of the reach of Wheeler and Edu, both of whom had what was likely a surefire goal had they been able to make solid contact with the ball.
The Union had another opportunity in the 60th minute when the ball came out to Edu at the top of the box. Edu blasted it on target but Perkins made a fine save parrying it away for a corner kick. Conor Casey came on for McInerney in the 71st minute and that quickly led to another opportunity. Casey crossed it into the box to Fernandes. Stuck at a tight angle, Fernandes did the only thing he could do and backheeled the ball across the face of the goal. Unfortunately for the Union it traveled harmlessly out of play for a goal kick but the threat once again was there.
The Union seemingly gained an edge in the match in the 76th minute when Andrew Wenger met Nogueira with a studs up over the ball tackle. Jurisevic properly awarded Wenger's actions with a straight red card and the Union found themselves up a man for the first time this year.
Unfortunately though, the Union's problems up a man last year seemed to re-surface despite the off-season's roster changes and three minutes after Wenger's sending off Montreal evened the ledger. After Nogueira turned the ball over, Justin Mapp found Di Vaio who despite his earlier misses bent this one into a world-class finish rendering Zac MacMath powerless.
The Union had several chances in the final 10 minutes and stoppage time to pull ahead and take the full set of three points, but each time the ball was deflected around in the box until it was cleared or bounced out of play or Perkins met the opportunity with a save. The game ended 1-1 sending Union fans home wet, disappointed, and wet.
The Union are now 1-1-2 on the season, and while some fans may have hoped for better, it is important not to overreact to four games. Single games results are highly variable and four games is not enough to gauge a proper read on a team. MLS seasons are long, changes are inevitable, and dismissing the Union now would be nothing short of foolish. Let's increase the sample some more before concluding what the Union will or will not do this season. Speaking of increasing the sample, up next up for the Union is a trip to Chicago and a game against the Chicago Fire. Three points there would do a lot to cheer people up after tonight.