Throughout much of their sordid history, the Union have found themselves in control of games approaching the final minutes only to grasp defeats and draws from the jaws of victory. Tonight, the shoe was on the other foot. Despite Colorado Rapids out-playing the Philadelphia Union, it was the Union who snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat in stoppage time thanks to a Brian Carroll equalizer.
The first half was a tight and compact affair with no shots on target for either side, though in spite of that each team did have one chance to put themselves on the scoreboard. Colorado's came first in the 33rd minute. A mishit ball found Luis Solignac in the box about 8 yards from goal with time and space to work with. Solignac took this golden opportunity and launched it way too high and much too wide. For the Union, their missed opportunity had less to do with having a mental lapse and more to do with a stellar defensive play. Tranquillo Barnetta unleashed a free kick on a rope that had beaten Zac MacMath but nonetheless was cleared off the line by Bobby Burling.
Things remained compact to open up the second half, but once the game began open up in the final 20 minutes all the critical chances were going for Colorado. In fact, it seemed almost certain that Colorado should have scored before they eventually did, and the Union stayed in the match only through the grace of the crossbar. Taking the ball in the box off Ken Tribbett's deflection, Marlon Hairston found an open Dillon Powers who rocketed the ball off the bar and away from danger.
10 minutes later, the Union got similarly lucky again with deflections, woodwork, and the officials, and all in a string of 15 seconds. Hairston sent the ball into Powers once again, but this time the ball deflected off Ray Gaddis. However Gaddis's deflection directed the ball to Solignac who after some fancy footwork in the box launched one past Blake and off the bar. But the deflection off the bar found Powers fresh off a brief stint of self-incredulity following the shot of his blocked by Gaddis seconds ago. Powers sent it in and Solignac appeared to have finally beaten Blake however the assistant referee called the play offside and the danger for the Union was finally alleviated.
But the Union would not stay lucky forever in this match. In the 87th minute, the Colorado Rapids broke free, and you could not say it was undeserved. Hairston's cross attempt this time found Sam Cronin running in between Richie Marquez and Tribbett. With the ball past Marquez, and Tribbett inexplicably attempting to play the high cross with a volley, Cronin had no problem latching onto the ball and slotting it past Blake for what appeared to be a late-winner.
Alas, though, a late-winner it was not. In stoppage time, following a long Blake goal kick resulting in an extended aerial volley among the teams, Gaddis had possession of the ball at his feet and chipped it in the box. Fabian Herbers headed the cross toward the post where Brian Carroll was coming and Carroll struck it past a charging Zac MacMath for a shock equalizer that sent the game to an inevitable 1-1 draw conclusion.
While the Union may feel lucky to get a point, this is the type of match that in the past the Union would not have gotten a result from. And not only that, while they were outplayed on the road following a mid-week road game on the other side of the country, this match was not a situation where the Union were vastly outplayed by the Rapids, themselves a very good team. Once the game opened up late in the second half it appeared to be getting bad, but the Union were in the thick of things for most of the match - neither team generated much offensively early while playing stellar defensively - and will certainly be happy with a draw against a high quality team.
Up next for the Union, it's a return home for a match against Columbus Crew, the Union's last match before their Copa America Centenario break. The bad news though is that due to Blake's Copa participation with Jamaica, the Union will be minus their stalwart shield for the first time this season. Hopefully John McCarthy can fill-in admirably and the Union can get three points, a result which would tie the franchise record (eight) for most consecutive matches unbeaten.