The Philadelphia Union's slide down the Eastern Conference table continues, as Real Salt Lake downed them with two golazos on Sunday night. The loss--the Union's fourth in six games and second at home--sends the former East-leaders down to fourth.
Roland Alberg scored the game's first goal, slamming home a penalty kick just before halftime. Joao Plata and Javier Morales quickly made up the deficit on the other side of the break. Both players fired off goal-of-the-week contenders in quick succession, as they silenced the crowd and took the lead by the 54th minute.
Despite the scoreline, the game was pretty even. The Union edged the possession battle and came away with more shots, but their opponents recorded more shots on target and had more goals, which is a key stat. Beyond the statsheet, the game was evenly contested, though RSL came away with all three points.
The Union's first opportunity came in the sixth minute, when Fabinho slightly overplayed a cross to a streaking CJ Sapong. Some nice defensive work high up the field from Ken Tribbett ensured that the play stayed alive.
In the 15th, Olmes Garcia tore up the Union midfield and played a through ball to Joao Plata that cut the back line out of the play. Fortunately for the Union, Andre Blake rushed out well enough to disrupt Plata, whose shot hit the post and bounced clear.
The Union earned a spot kick just before halftime thanks to the physical play of CJ Sapong. Referee Juan Guzman whistled Jamison Olave for a foul when he and Sapong became entangled in the box. After some RSL players made their complaints heard, Roland Alberg stepped up and blasted a shot past a diving Nick Rimando. The USMNT 'keeper guessed correctly, but Alberg's shot was placed too well and hit too hard. The goal was Alberg's seventh of the season and his fourth from the spot.
Real Salt Lake came out of the locker room and quickly equalized via Joao Plata. After some nice combination play atop the 18-yard box, the Ecuadorian stepped up to hit his sixth and sexiest goal of the season. His curling shot was unstoppable, soaring past an outstretched Blake before slapping the crossbar and finding the net.
Javier Morales gave his side the lead minutes later. With Warren Creavalle sagging off him, the midfielder had a bit of space near the top of the box and took advantage of it, as he unleashed a chip that, once again, rendered Andre Blake helpless.
Joao Plata continued to run the Union defense into the ground after the second tally, but he could not come up with another goal. He came close on two occasions though, forcing a save from Blake in the 62nd and sending another dazzler just wide of the post in the 65th.
The Union came close to tying it up in the 85th minute, when Leo Fernandes broke free into the box and squared a ball that just nearly connected with CJ Sapong.
RSL made an incredible goal-line stand in the 89th, denying two goal-bound Union attempts in quick succession. As he often does, Nick Rimando played savior, getting down to save the first of the Union's tries.
The Union have now lost four of their last six, conceding 13 over that period. They'll look to snap their two-game losing streak on the road next Saturday, when they take on D.C. United at RFK Stadium.
- This team needs some serious midfield help. Tranquillo Barnetta is uncomfortable at the No. 8; Maurice Edu hasn't played in a year and his health will remain a question mark; and Warren Creavalle and Brian Carroll aren't good enough to lead this team on a playoff run. Optimistically, Edu will be fit and playing by late October, meaning that the Union really only need to find him a partner. Though the Union are reportedly looking to add a player or two, time is quickly running out.
- Keegan Rosenberry, Ken Tribbett, and Fabinho were all responsible for a number of weak clearances tonight. Only Rosenberry was punished for his gaffe, as Real Salt Lake scored their first goal shortly after the right back failed to clear the ball effectively.
- CJ Sapong's line: 0 shots, 3/8 on passes in the attacking half. 35-year-old Jamison Olave ate him up, which can't happen if he's to lead the line for the rest of the season.