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Wild Wild West: Union draw Real Salt Lake 3-3

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Own goals, penalty kicks, and questionable refereeing. It was a very, very MLS kinda game.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Union got off to a bit of a shaky start, not looking altogether composed during the first few minutes. The first card was shown to Olmes Garcia in the fourth minute for hitting a sliding Rais M'Bolhi in the face with a trailing leg. The Union had a great chance during the seventh minute when Andrew Wenger found Sebastien Le Toux wide open in the box, but Le Toux's shot went high. The Union were able to sustain some good pressure, forcing Nick Rimando to make a diving save on a Wenger shot. Real Salt Lake then countered, and Sebastian Jaime's shot hit M'Bolhi square. Jaime had another chance, but his header off of a corner went into the side netting in the eleventh minute. Garcia had a decent shot in the sixteenth minute, but M'Bolhi was able to punch it out. In the nineteenth minute, Cristian Maidana sprung Fernando Aristeguieta on a great pass. Aristeguieta shot hard  but Rimando was able to make a save on the attempt.

In the 22nd minute, Steven Vitoria went in hard on Javier Morales on a ball in the center circle, and drew a yellow card. No Silviu Petrescu moment there - it was a fair card. Four minutes later, the Union defense looked a bit confused and left Luis Gil alone on a cross into the box. Gil however scuffed it wide of the net. In the 27th minute, Sheanon Williams barreled over Alvaro Saborio just outside of the box for a very dangerous free kick. Javier Morales then hit a beautiful bending free kick into the top corner of the net to put Real up 1-0.

The Union would answer in the 34th minute when Nogueira tried to hit a cross that was deflected by Kyle Beckerman toward Rimando. Rimando got a hand on it to push it out, but Aristeguieta was there to mop up the rebound and open his MLS account, drawing the Union level at 1. Three minutes later, Aristeguieta would latch on to a quick throw in from Maidana and put it past Rimando to take the 2-1 lead. The Union would then continue to apply pressure on RSL until the end of the half, getting a couple of decent chances.

In the second half, Real came out a bit more focused, stringing a couple of decent runs at goal but nothing really materializing until Luis Gil hit the post on a defensive miscue by the Union. in the 49th minute, Kyle Beckerman was shown a yellow card for dropping F-bombs on the referee. Maurice Edu then picked up a rather dubious yellow card for getting tangled up with Tony Beltran. After another Beltran dive, Jamison Olave got on the end of a free kick during a scrum in the box and put it past Rais M'Bolhi to even the score line at 2-2 in the 55th minute. Two minutes later Olave would score again, this time it would be an own goal off of a Maidana cross into the box, and the Union led once again 3-2.

In the 61st minute, Ethan White picked up a yellow card for a hard challenger on Alvaro Saborio. Saborio almost scored off of the resulting free kick, but his header went just high. As the game went on, more and more fouls were committed by both sides. In the 65th, the first change occurred when Jordan Allen was brought on for Sabastian Jaime. Luke Mulholland then came on for Luis Gil in the 69th minute. He'd pick up a yellow card in the 73rd for a reckless challenge on Maurice Edu that may or may not draw some attention from the MLS Disciplinary Committee this week. Jim Curtin pulled a double switch in the 77th, bringing on Zach Pfeffer for Andrew Wenger and Michael Lahoud for Cristian Maidana. Jeff Cassar countered with a change at the 81st, bringing on Abdoulie Mansally for Demar Phillips. In the 83rd, M'Bolhi had to make a big save on a header. In the 85th, disaster struck. Luke Mulholland went down easy in the box, and the penalty was awarded  to RSL. Aristeguieta was shown a yellow card for arguing the call, and then Saborio hit the penalty. Conor Casey came on in the 86th for Aristeguieta, Edu was able to get a bit of revenge, forcing Mulholland to foul him at the top of the box at the 90th minute. The free kick looked like it might have hit a hand in the box, but no call. The match ended a 3-3 draw.

I absolutely hate blaming the referees for missed points. 99.9% of the time it's misplaced anger, blaming a neutral party for a side missing prior opportunities or allowing the other side too many opportunities. This may be that 0.1% though. The Union may have a right to feel aggrieved at that scoreline. It will be interesting to see if referee Allen Chapman will reprimanded for a couple of questionable calls, however they can take solace that a draw at Rio Tinto Stadium is a positive - if not expected - result.

That all being said, there were positives to take from this match too. The Union were able to hold a lead and regain it too - if only for a bit. The club looked like a cohesive unit for the most part, and the defense in particular looked like it was starting to coalesce. Ray Gaddis is starting to get attention, and if his play continues to improve as it has almost every game he's played in since joining the club, he will certainly be on the radar for bigger and better things. Fernando Aristeguieta is that kind of hustle (I know how much we all hate that word now but hear me out) that can change games. It's not the running around to run around and look busy kind of hustle we see from some other player, this is the hustle that's tempered with situational awareness and soccer smarts that allows him to know to follow up off of a Beckerman header or on a Maidana quick throw. This team showed tonight that there's reason for optimism in Philadelphia.