The Philadelphia Union offense finally remembered how to score on Saturday night but also squandered chances to return to the win column in a 1-1 draw with San Jose Earthquakes in front of another sparse crowd at Talen Energy Stadium.
With Fafà Picault back in the lineup for the first time this season after serving a three-game suspension, the Union attack looked sharp out of the gate but still struggled to — stop me if you’ve heard this one before — find that final ball.
The Union played the way a team at home against a team with a bad road record playing on the opposite coast should play but like a bad movie we’ve seen all too many times, the Union went into the break down 1-0 from a goal Magnus Eriksson created basically out of nothing.
Eriksson’s first MLS goal off a rocketed shot Andre Blake could do nothing to stop in the 37th minute was the first conceded by the Union at home this season, but if not for Blake a goal would have come seven minutes earlier when Vako Qazaishvili broke free in the box.
The Union had a great chance to equalize just before halftime when Matthew Real served up a pretty cross that found the head of Picault. Andrew Tarbell gets credit for the stop — one of seven in a very solid outing — but it should have been Real’s first point in MLS.
The equalizer did come at last in the 64th minute shortly after head coach Jim Curtin subbed in Ilsinho for an ineffective David Accam. Switching to the left flank, Picault was able to gather a great ball from Bořek Dočkal, shake Nick Lima and cross the ball to an unmarked Alejandro Bedoya at the far post for the header into the back of the net.
Bedoya’s goal ended a 265-minute scoring draught but unfortunately did not open the floodgates for more against an Earthquakes team that seemed satisfied with ending their two-game losing streak with a point on the road.
“I don’t remember how the whole play developed, but I saw Fafa (Picault) out wide and he was coming straight, so I was trying to get the back post and make a late run in the box,” Bedoya said after the match. “It’s not a run that midfielders normally make and go unmarked. I was able to get on the end of it and get a goal.”
The bad news for the Union was a third straight game without a win, but there were many more positive takeaways than that stinker a weak ago in Commerce City. Starting with Dočkal, who had his best game in a Union uniform with a number of crisp passes and seemed to finally have his timing down combining with his new teammates.
“I think we found him a lot in between the lines, and it’s a credit to him for making those movements, coming off the back line – their centerbacks had a tough time dealing with him,” Curtin said. “He found a lot of space and you can see his quality on the ball. He’s getting sharper and sharper every day.”
Dočkal nearly opened his scoring account on a rocketed shot that went down as another save for Tarbell. Haris Medunjanin also had a fine game patrolling the midfield and Auston Trusty continued to flash the kind of form that will only speed up his go-to-Europe timeline. His play, however, apparently didn’t impress Harold Cummings who was shown a red card after the final whistle for striking the 19-year-old.
Decent individual performances and half decent ones like Picault’s — along with the odd substitute of Ray Gaddis for Matt Real in the 71st minute — aside, Curtin summed up the game as “a night that’s frustrating to think about.”
“You’re going to lose some sleep because it should have been three points,” Curtin said.