The Philadelphia Union battled Orlando City to a scoreless draw on Saturday night. Despite a late surge in the final 20 minutes, the Union couldn't find the goal to give them their first road win since May 24th.
A sleep-inducing first half produced only one real chance. In the 21st minute, Tranquillo Barnetta slid a ball through to Sebastien Le Toux, splitting two Orlando defenders in the process. Le Toux cut back onto his right foot, but his shot from ten yards out was taken at too tight an angle. It flew by a streaking and goal-side CJ Sapong, clanging off the post.
Orlando was similarly listless in the first half. In the 30th minute, they awoke briefly to take their first and last shot on target: a tame effort from Cyle Larin that settled comfortably in John McCarthy's chest. Kaka may have created this opportunity, but Michael Lahoud and Brian Carroll did well to keep him quiet for most of the night.
The opening minutes of the second half seemed to be a mere continuation of the first until the hour mark, when the substitution of Tranquillo Barnetta allowed the Union to revert to a more familiar system. Cristian Maidana, who played second fiddle to the new arrival for much of the first hour, was handed the keys to the attack for the game's final 30 minutes. To the surprise of few, he thrived.
The first chance of the last half hour actually came off the foot of Sebastien Le Toux, whose slide-rule pass was reminiscent of the one he received from Barnetta in the first half. Sapong was the recipient this time, but his shot couldn't find its way past Tally Hall, who did well to close down the angle.
In the 69th, Le Toux provided another quality entrance pass, finding Maidana just inside the box. Chaco cut inside and hit a rare shot with his weaker right foot, but Hall was there again to deny the opportunity from point-blank range.
In response, Orlando stormed down the field and answered with an agonizing miss of their own. Carlos Rivas sent an enticing ball that navigated its way through the Union's box, avoiding clearance, but also eluding a desperate slide from Cyle Larin.
For the next 20 minutes, the Union controlled play, which is to say that they had a monopoly on near misses.
In the 75th, Sebastien Le Toux played a square ball to Cristian Maidana. Unmarked and ten yards out, all he really needed to do was poke it home, but he just sorta stopped running. That's all I got.
Maidana hit a much more difficult shot just minutes later, forcing a save from Tally Hall after unleashing from range. Hall pushed the ball over for a corner rather nonchalantly, but it was a respectable effort from a player who usually requires a written invitation to take a shot.
With time winding down, the Union had three more chances to put the game away. Maidana's dead-ball service found Richie Marquez in the 87th, but--guess who!--Tally Hall denied the center back's strong header. A minute later, CJ Sapong stabbed one wide after a good tackle from debutant Warren Creavalle. Finally, in the 90th minute, the Union botched their best chance of all. After some corner craziness, Fernando Aristeguieta found himself with the ball at his feet and fired away from inside the scrum. Unsurprisingly, the game-winner was blocked, but Tally Hall was not the culprit. Aristeguieta's effort deflected off the knee of Steven Vitoria and out of danger, taking the Union's chance at three points with it.
The Union have struggled mightily this season, but the goalscoring production would tell you otherwise. This is the first time the Union have been shut out since May 9th.
In the next week, the Union will host the Chicago Fire twice. The first encounter will determine who advances to the U.S. Open Cup Final, and that will be played on Wednesday. The second is a crucial matchup between two teams whose playoff hopes are quickly fading. Both matches will take place at PPL Park.