Resting starters in an attempt to make sure the squad is healthy for Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup Final, the Philadelphia Union still managed to come away with a 2-2 draw Saturday afternoon at PPL Park thanks to a stoppage time penalty kick converted by Sebastien Le Toux.
Illustrating what can happen when one builds a stadium a few feet from a rather large river, the match was delayed an hour due to on-field drainage issues. Based off reports from PPL Park officials on site made the right call, but that once again begs the question "who thinks it is a good idea to build an outdoor stadium in Pennsylvania where drainage could be an issue?"
Transitioning from the idiocy of the stadium's developers to the idiocy of Jim Curtin, the Union decided it would be a smart idea to rest a few players ahead of the U.S. Open Cup. A fair enough idea in theory, but Ray Gaddis and Maurice Edu played 90 minutes in defense. And Fabinho was forced into duty as starting left back. First rule of Fabinho: never use Fabinho as starting left back.
Gaddis, Edu, and Fabinho joined central defenders Ethan White along the Union's back line with Zac MacMath in goal behind them. Curtin played a 4-2-3-1 with Amobi Okugo and Brian Carroll in the midfield and Danny Cruz, Fred, and Andrew Wenger deployed as attacking wingers. Pedro Ribeiro started up top for Conor Casey in what is perhaps Curtin's most logical move to start the game.
Despite the advantage of playing a team resting its most key contributors, the Red Bulls struggled mightily to sustain any amount of pressure in the early going despite the Union content to counter-attack. But despite New York being feckless in attack, the Union would bail them out with a White penalty. With Edu about to win the ball in front of MacMath, White and Peguy Luyindula engaged in a clutching and grabbing match which saw Luyindula go down rather easily. It may have been a bit of a soft call, but White put himself in that questionable position without any urgent need to do so, and should be the one who carries the blame for the ensuing PK goal. Luyindula sent MacMath the wrong way, and it was 1-0 visitors despite the fact they had yet to register a shot on target from the run of play.
While MacMath can not be blamed for guessing wrong on the PK, he can be blamed for the embarrassing howler that followed minutes later. Thierry Henry's weak shot from the top of the box proved to be a savable shot. But instead of actually, um, saving it, MacMath let it bounce off him and into the net.
Proving the final few minutes of the first half were on some sort of mad acid trip, the Union followed MacMath's howler by recording a goal of their own. Seconds after play's re-start following the howler, Fred played Wenger down the left wing. Wenger crossed it to Ribeiro into the box, and Ribeiro made no mistake in shooting the ball past Luis Robles and into the net.
The Union outplayed the Red Bulls for the entire second half. Henry left the game in the 55th minute while Sebsatien Le Toux entered in the 48th minute, Cristian Maidana in the 61st, and Vincent Nogueira in the 70th minute. The Red Bulls ended the game with only three shots attempted, though the two that were on target (the PK and MacMath's howler) were both goals. Suffice to say, the second half belonged to the Union.
But it would take awhile for the Union to reap any rewards, and they came upon plenty of near misses before they did. Robles was outstanding in goal for New York Red Bulls, and Jamison Olave made a spectacular tackle inside the box to deny what would have otherwise been an open shot at net for Ribeiro. But the crown jewel of near misses came in the 77th minute. Following a pass of the year candidate from Nogueira that sprung Edu in the box, Robles denied the shot and forced a rebound which the midfielder-turned-centerback muffed.
Then in stoppage time, the reward finally came for the Union. Ribeiro chested the ball down in the box when Ibrahim Sekagya defended it like a drunk person exiting an Arsenal bar. He clumsily stepped in front of Ribeiro and flailed around before falling and tripping Ribeiro as he went down. The penalty was called, and Le Toux stepped from the line. Mr. Perfect From The Spot delivered once again for the Union in one of the match's final actions, securing a 2-2 draw.
Up next for the Union is a chance at their first trophy in franchise history when on Tuesday evening they host Seattle Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup final. For MLS play, the Union's next match will occur next Saturday when the Union host the Houston Dynamo.