It wasn't the worst match we've seen from the Philadelphia Union, but it certainly wasn't the best either. The Union had the chance to come back from Central Florida with three points, but only mustered one. It's not the worst thing, but considering the club had lost three straight and had sunk to the bottom of the MLS standings, three points would have meant a lot. So what happened?
1.) Tally Hall was a force
While the Union spent eleventy bajillion dollars (or thereabouts) creating a stable of goalkeepers, Orlando City picked up Tally Hall from the Houston Dynamo for allocation money last October. While John McCarthy was serviceable in the match and did what he had to do, Hall showed the form that made him a two-time MLS All-Star. His save of Cristian Maidana's blast from 20 yards out in the 80th minute and his reaction save on Richie Marquez's header in the 86th minute salvaged a point for Orlando.
2.) Richie Marquez returns to the lineup
With Maurice Edu missing the match due to a groin strain (hopefully it's only a precaution, ensuring he's ready to play on Wednesday against the Chicago Fire for the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal), Marquez was paired with Steven Vitoria at center back. Marquez had missed the previous two matches after rolling his ankle against Toronto FC on July 18, and it wasn't certain he'd be back in time for this match. While both he and Vitoria were wildcards going into the match, Marquez stepped up and played remarkably well. He was able to help keep Orlando's potent offense in check, and perhaps most importantly he didn't commit any of the dumb mistakes that have killed the Union all year.
3.) Mike Lahoud returns to the lineup
With Vincent Nogueira out injured, the Union had tried Zach Pfeffer at defensive midfielder in the past couple of matches to pair with the resurgent Brian Carroll. They also had acquired Warren Creavalle from Toronto to help with cover at the position, however Creavalle had been with the club for slightly more than 24 hours. Mike Lahoud made his first start since suffering a right quadriceps injury May 2, and he covered Kaka well. The one-time World Player of the Year was a non-factor for Orlando thanks in no small part to Lahoud and Carroll.
4.) The Union's midfield was... something
Sebastien Le Toux started on the left, Tranquillo Barnetta in the center, and Cristian Maidana started on the right. I'm not entirely sure what Jim Curtin was thinking there, but Maidana does much better playing centrally while Barnetta is best out wide on the wing. As far as Le Toux, I'm all for getting your best players out on the pitch, but on the left is not a position that he's proficient at. It was pretty evident that these three hadn't had much time to gel, as the Union's offense was impotent during much of the first 60 minutes. It wasn't until Eric Ayuk came on in the 59th for Barnetta (and consequently Le Toux moved to the right wing and Maidana moved to his familiar central attacking midfield role) that the Union's offense looked dangerous. Perhaps it was moving the players to their natural positions, Maidana and Le Toux working with a player they're more familiar with, or a combination of both that gave the Union signs of life offensively. This will be something worth watching over the coming days and months.
5.) The war of attrition
Between the turf and the humidity, this was not an easy match for the Union - or Orlando for that matter, who lost Conor Donovan after just fourteen minutes after falling awkwardly onto the turf. For the rest of the guys, it was a brutal 90 minutes that saw players cramping up at the end. The Union then had a plane ride home and will need to rest quickly, as they'll host the Chicago Fire twice this week with the U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday unquestionably being the more important of the two. If the Union show up looking gassed, many (myself included) will look back at the decision to play guys like Carroll and Maidana for 90 minutes in the Orlando heat as a game changer in the next installment.