Here are the game changers of the Union's dramatic 1-1 draw on the road at Sporting Kansas City.
1. Sitting back and hitting on the counter was working well.
This Philadelphia Union team are made to play on the counter attack. If Jim Curtin picks his best team, that's how they should be set up to play. Curtin realizes this and it's great to see. In the first half, the Union had only about 25% of the possession. While that may not be great at home against Montreal, it is how they get points in places like Kansas City. That's something the Union have been fantastic at this recently, taking seven points out of a possible nine in the last two years.
Possession is only important if the team does anything with it. Much more important are creating chances in dangerous areas while limiting the same from the opposition. Despite not having the same amount of possession, the Union were able to create just as many chances. And that made me smile.
2. The Goalkeepers (and Brian Carroll) keeping it scoreless in the first half.
Dom Dwyer beat Zac MacMath to a corner in the 12th minute. With Dwyer's header beating MacMath and heading for the top corner of the net, Brian Carroll nodded the ball off the line. In what is likely MacMath's last game as the Union number one keeper, it was not something Zac would have wanted to be remembered for.
However, after that point, Zac had a very solid game, and made some good saves, including stopping a one on one with Mikey Lopez. A goalkeeper must make saves required of them, and except for this one error Zac did that Friday night.
However, at the other end Andy Gruenebaum did the same thing for SKC. In a mad 5-minute spell before half time, there was Zac's big stop on Lopez sandwiched between Gruenebaum making a fantastic save from a Vincent Nogueira free kick, as well as stopping a Sheanon Williams shot on the break. It was an exciting end to the first half, and early in the second half Gruenebaum made a fantastic save on a Brian Carroll shot, who yes, managed to get involved in a breakaway after Danny Cruz set him through.
Both goalkeepers did well to keep the score at 0-0 for as long as they did. It goes without saying that one minor blip from the keepers and the rest of the game ends up very differently.
3. Ray Gaddis trying the impossible header.
Individual mistakes often lead to goals against, and it was no different when Raymon Gaddis tried to head the ball to Maurice Edu, who was much too far away. Instead, Gaddis should have headed the ball out of play for a throw-in. These kinds of mistakes often happen in away stadiums, where the crowd will make it difficult to hear any shouts. That means players often need to make decisions on their own, and this is a decision that Ray will want to take back as the failed header resulted in a break and easy goal for SKC.
4. Brian Brown getting on, and getting his head on a Gaddis cross.
I did not agree with the actual substitution that was made. The Union were 1-0 down at the time, and I thought that Conor Casey should have stayed on the field to allow the other Union forwards to play off of him. At that point, Sebastien Le Toux had been having a pretty poor game. My sub would have been to take Le Toux off instead and paired Brown up front with Casey
That being said, Casey wasn't needed for the goal. Minutes after coming on, Brown lofted a ball to the corner flag area, where Ray Gaddis was waiting. Igor Juliao, for some unknown reason, showed Gaddis onto his right foot allowing Gaddis to send in a great cross to the edge of the six-yard box. Brown managed to get away from Kevin Ellis, and Brown put a header into the back of the net.
It was a good sign in that Brown knows how to get goals, but he needs to be more of a physical player and less of a diver. He has been easily forced off the ball in his 40 minutes or so of play with the Union and he had what appeared to be an awful dive late in the game. If he can up his physicality while showing less of a propensity for diving and embellishment, he could do real well here and unlike the Union's last second half attack-minded speedster, might even draw foul calls from time to time.
5. The referee having no clue.
This isn't necessarily something that changed the game, but referee Jair Marrufo didn't exactly cover himself in glory. All game, when he should have given out yellow cards, he didn't. Conor Casey was lucky not to be yellow carded for barging into the back of the SKC keeper in the first half, or for persistent fouling meanwhile Wenger was lucky not to be carded when he pulled back a SKC player breaking away. This was all in addition Marrufo's foul recognition was poor as well, who weirdly called non-fouls fouls and fouls non-fouls throughout the game. Though there was no major controversy tonight, it is this kind of officiating inconsistency that can lead to some games getting out of hand. Marrufo was fortunate for his sake that did not happen Friday night.
Overall, it was a very entertaining game to watch, despite the Union playing on the counter attack. This may be the biggest improvement over how the team were playing under John Hackworth. Let's hope it continues.
Up next for the Union is an interesting question for Jim Curtin to tackle. We have a home game against the worst team in the league when Jack McInerney and the Montreal Impact visit on Saturday. Then on the following Tuesday, the Union are in Dallas for the US Open Cup semi-final. What will Curtin do in terms of team selelction? Will he rest the first team on Saturday to concentrate on the US Open Cup? Or will he play guys needing minutes on Tuesday? I suppose we will where his priorities lay on Saturday. Tell us in the poll what you would do, and why you would do it in the comments section.
Also to come this week: Rais M'Bolhi! And probably Carlos Valdes! Get ready, Union fans, these next two games are going to be fun.