Hoping to build on the momentum of a midweek win against New York City FC, the Philadelphia Union found themselves on the wrong end of a 1-0 score at halftime but did manage to claw their way to a 1-1 draw against CF Montreal at Subaru Park on Saturday night.
Playing on short rest, head coach Jim Curtin replaced Kacper Przybylko with Cory Burke and Alejandro Bedoya with Jamiro Monteiro in the starting lineup and brought back Olivier Mbaizo for Alvas Powell at right back after his one-game suspension.
Montreal came out on the front foot early and like the game against New York City looked threatening but the Union defense stayed organized and midway through the half the tide started to turn in the Union’s favor as chances came their way and it was the hosts with the ball and the momentum.
Montreal squashed that momentum just before halftime when they turned a poorly played goal kick and some ball-watching into a goal when Joaquín Torres connected with Djordje Mihailovic, who poked the ball past Andre Blake in the first minute of stoppage time.
Coming out of the locker room, Montreal opted to put nine men behind the ball to try to preserve the lead and while they were successful in limiting the Union to zero shots on goal, it was the one shot on goal from the 81st minute substitute Quinn Sullivan that was the difference between three points being dropped and one being earned.
Sullivan’s rocket came off a pass from Jack Elliott, who laid it back to the 17-year-old open in the D on the continuation of the Union’s seventh corner kick of the night.
In a change of pace for a team content to let opponents control the ball, Montreal’s decision to pack it in with the 1-0 lead led to the Union finishing with 57 percent of the possession on the night and while their passing accuracy was much better (84% to 68.8% Wednesday) the attack wasn’t able to find a way through the Montreal defense often enough from open play to take all three points on the night.
As Curtin has often said, the identity of the Union centers around scoring first and playing with a lead instead of coming from behind, which is what they faced Saturday night. While getting late equalizers is a big reason why the Union are in third instead of further down the table, there were several moments on the night to point to where the Union made it harder on themselves than it could’ve been with a team straddling the red line of making the playoffs.
With the All-Star Game putting a pause on league play, everyone but Andre Blake and Kai Wagner will next play a game at DC United on Saturday night. The Union head into the rivalry match two points behind second place Orlando City but 17 points (with just a game in hand) behind the New England Revolution, which comes to town the Friday night before Labor Day.