Facing a contender for the MLS Cup Final, the youthful Philadelphia Union got off to a predictably rough start Saturday afternoon in Frisco, Texas dropping all three points to FC Dallas by a score of 2-0.
Dallas opened the game on the offensive, attacking the Philadelphia Union through bypassing the team's attacking fullbacks. Fabinho and Keegen Rosenberry were certainly not the ideal choices to play a team that uses width as much and as well as Dallas, and it showed in the consistent chances Dallas generated throughout the match. Though Dallas had a fifth minute goal called back due to a handball, they kept pressing, forcing Blake to make numerous saves and Fabinho to make a clever block in front to steer the ball away from goal.
But that may have been Fabinho's only highlight of the match. Dallas's first goal came in the 22nd minute as a result of Fabinho's dispossession of the ball leading to a Fabian Castillo breakaway. Castillo's speed allowed him to stay out of reach of the chasing Union defense and with Blake coming out of his goal Castillo slotted the ball between his legs and into the back of the net to put Dallas up 1-0, a lead they'd add to and never relinquish.
Although Dallas dominated possession in the first half and dominated the opportunities, Andre Blake's stellar goalkeeping kept the game from getting out of hand. Blake stopped eight of Dallas's ten shots on target, many of which had to be of the rather stellar variety. It's always hard to say what the results would have been had Player X been in the game instead of Player Y, but it is hard to imagine this scoreline remaining as close as it was if another goalkeeper from the Union's past started this match instead of Blake.
Even though the Union never really threatened Dallas keeper Jesse Gonzalez's net - they had two shots on target all match and one of those was in the final minute of stoppage time with the match already decided - Dallas needed some time to put the game on ice, in part because of the aforementioned performance by Blake. But in the 79th minute, Dallas finally succeeded in doubling their lead. Once again Fabinho found himself dispossessed of the ball, except this time it occurred in the Union third of the pitch. No breakaway was needed, only a pass from Mauro Diaz to Maxi Urruti who quickly and deftly elevated his shot over Blake and into the goal.
Of note, Keegen Rosenberry made his first MLS start and despite being overmatched and set up to fail did not show himself to be a complete waste of space. Rosenberry got caught high a bunch of times, but that was to be expected given Curtin's absurd tactical decision to start him at right back against Dallas. Rosenberry displayed a strong-arm on throw-ins, got in a strong cross that no one was able to latch on to, and both goals were the result of errors committed by the team's leftback. Not to mention Rosenberry will be forever grateful that attacking down his left side for the rest of the season will be Not Fabian Castillo.
On the whole, this was a very lackluster performance from the Union to open the season. But given that they were on the road against one of the best clubs in MLS that cannot be all that surprising and unfortunately for the Union the "on the road against one of the best clubs in MLS" sentiment will apply next week in their game at Columbus Crew. The Union may not be a bad team this season, but it's going to be awhile until we know for sure. In the mean time, Jim Curtin will be looking to regroup, keep his team's confidence high, and hopefully not start two attacking fullbacks against a team that's great out wide ever again.