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Union Take: Beyond The Numbers

This is a carnival that is called the beautiful game – a feast for the eyes, a thrill for the heart. Slowly joining the revelry is a procession of numbers, thousands of them for each match each week. Here's a look at the important numbers behind the game - giving them context, and providing insight into what they mean for the Philadelphia Union.

Maidana leads MLS with 8 key passes so far this season.
Maidana leads MLS with 8 key passes so far this season.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Union settled for a draw in a tough place to get a draw. And while there is no number in a box score for a controversial call, we can all agree there was at least one in this match. The Union take the one point, knowing that for two straight weeks they should have had three.

Here are four numbers from the match that jump out, and one to think about for next week as FC Dallas visits PPL Park.

291. That is the number of passes the Union attempted in Rio Tinto Stadium. That was the 2nd lowest pass attempts by any team in week two and highlights the fact that the Union were not too interested in possession. Less than 10 percent of all away teams attempted fewer than 300 passes in 2014. Attempts this low are a sure sign of a counterattacking strategy, which Curtin openly admitted to before and after the game. The strategy worked well for the Union last season and the trend continued against Real Salt Lake, where the Union could have easily netted three points. Here is a chart that shows the Union's points per game on the road by total passes attempted.

Union Passes 2014

Less passing is clearly more for the Union, especially on the road.

10. The Union attempted just 10 crosses (passes that are from a wide area to an attacking position) against Real Salt Lake. That is 15 less than their league leading average of 25 in 2014, and 21 less than they had in their opener against Colorado. The average for an away team in MLS last season was 18.3. This low number shows the Union were entering the final third with space and were not forced by a compact Real Salt Lake defense to go wide. Because of this space the Union were able to score their three goals. Don't let the own goal fool you either. Olave was compelled to make a play for Maidana's cross because he knew he had little help behind him. The Union's counterattack forced Olave to attempt a kick he wasn't in position to make, which resulted in the goal.

8. The number of key passes (passes that lead to a shot taken) completed by Cristian Maidana in 124 minutes of play. That is the highest number in the league and even higher when you look at the number per 90 minutes (5.8 p90!). While none of the resulting shots have officially become an assist, Maidana is well on his way to playmaker of the year. The next closest Union players are Le Toux and Aristequieta with three each.

6. Six of the fourteen Real Salt Lake shots were the result of set pieces. When you factor in Colorado, the Union have allowed seven shots from set pieces out of the sixteen shots allowed, for a percentage of 44%. The league averaged 25 percent last year and the Union actually allowed just 23 percent of their shots from set pieces last season. It's too early to panic but it's a trend to watch.

There is a good side to this statistic as well. A higher number of shots allowed through set pieces means that the Union have allowed just eight shots against in the run of play, which is a great trend.

Looking ahead to next week, the Union face FC Dallas, who actually attempted the fewest passes of any team last week (260) and won their game easily over Sporting KC. FC Dallas was one of the better counterattacking teams last season and appear to be on the same path this season. The big thing to watch will be how Curtin avoids a repeat of Colorado in week 1, as FC Dallas will attempt the same strategy but also has the playmakers on the other end to make the Union pay for committing too many numbers forward. This soccer game may very well turn into a game of hot potato. I don't hear too many people pining for the days of hot potato so this one might be ugly.

All of these statistics are compiled at whoscored.com