The preseason's penultimate exhibition saw the Union roll out one version of a potential regular season starting lineup against one of their bitter division rivals Wednesday night. What it lacked in chemistry, it made up for in combustion. The Union experimented with the backline by seeing if Joshua Yaro and Keegan Rosenberry could translate their already existing familiarity against an MLS side. Also, they flanked fresh official signing Ilsinho with Chris Pontius and Sebastien Le Toux. The mainstays that are Brian Carroll and Vincent Nogueira were in their holding roles, but rookie Fabian Herbers was tasked with leading the line.
Either the teams were anxious to begin playing matches for real, or their timing on challenges are really off. The first half was littered with knocks about the feet, many coming dangerously from behind. However, it wasn't until the 27th minute that the referee brandished a yellow card. Le Toux was the first recipient, and he would hardly be the last. The ink was still fresh on his MLS contract when Ilsinho received the second caution, and he would go on to collect the fifth yellow for his side as well, as the referee sent him off in the 45th minute. His last contribution to the match sparked a coming-together of all of the outfield players. It resembled a scrum after an ice hockey goaltender covers the puck and his defensemen prevent slapping the puck loose.
One player whose timing was good was goalkeeper John McCarthy. The Philadelphia native made several acrobatic saves, earning him Man of the Match honors. His efforts were required early, as he was called to deny a near post try by Mike Grella, then minutes later, coming off his line to steal the ball off the foot of Sacha Kljestan. His command of the 18-yard box on corners and free kicks was strong, and he did well to punch clear most attempts. This was the second-consecutive clean sheet for the Union this season, which is a welcomed trend, given the defensive difficulties of previous campaigns.
Red Bull had the better of the match in the second half, with Union being down to ten men, but they were unable to get the ball across the goalline after their wholesale changes. Despite the lesser of the possession, the Union were able to muster shots and chances. None were able to beat Luis Robles, but the Union put Red Bull in some uncomfortable positions. The match lacked fluidity with the plethora of fouls, solid defense at the back, and poor touches on through balls from both sides.
Notes: Leo Fernandes was given another opportunity to stake a claim to a spot on the MLS roster. He came on in the second half and showed his talent on the ball, but his passing and free kicks left something to be desired. It also helped to have normal starting striker CJ Sapong enter the match in the second stanza. Yaro was the most impressive Union defender, exhibiting his passing poise and solid positional play.
Union complete their preseason slate Saturday afternoon, a 4:00 P.M. affair with Toronto FC, back at Al Lang Stadium in Tampa, FL.