July 20, 2017
While the United States national team was slugging it out with El Salvador at Lincoln Financial Field, the Philadelphia Union were wrapping up a mostly feckless outing in Montreal with a late push for an equalizer.
That goal never came, and Jim Curtin's team slumped to a 2-1 defeat in Quebec, conceding three points to the Impact and falling back to ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
The disjointed performance was not without chances, but again the final product was lacking. Fafa Picault scrubbed a pair of first-half sequences, ripping one shot wide of the far post and later missing Roland Alberg with a squared pass just outside the six-yard box.
"We (forced) turnovers three or four times in the first 15 minutes and we wanted to get a goal early in the game but we didn’t execute," Curtin said post-game. "On a two on two, Fafa had one (chance) where, if he cuts it back, it’s a tap in, but he just didn’t have the final execution on the final ball tonight."
Picault made amends with a goal before halftime, pouncing on a scandalous Chris Duvall back pass and going five-hole on goalkeeper Evan Bush.
The celebration was mostly muted, with Picault seemingly perturbed at the barking of his teammates following the earlier blown sequences.
“It’s more the result that was the most frustrating,” said Picault. “We had good momentum and I thought we would have got a second and third goal, but unfortunately it went the other way.”
The Union improved in the second half but again lacked quality in front of the net.
Substitute Jay Simpson did well to get off two good looks in the game's later stages, and Alberg saw a thundering volley called back for offside.
Aside from Picault's goal, the only other on-target shot belonged to center back Jack Elliott, who found himself near the top of the box on an open sequence in the 59th minute of play.
The Union actually out-shot the home side 10 to nine, but only put 20 percent of those efforts on frame.
"I thought we were in the game, pushing the tempo in the second half, but overall, we weren’t sharp enough on the ball in terms of keeping possession and Montreal punished us," Curtin explained. "Their first goal, it’s a good ball and a very good header. [The] second one, there’s a lucky bounce. But then the goal that Roland scored, it looked onside, as Chris Duvall keeps him onside."
Curtin might not be wrong about the play, which looked like an incredibly tight call:
That angle makes it look as though Alberg's upper body is just barely putting him in an offside position.
He finished with an incredibly disappointing line, combining with right winger Ilsinho for one shot attempt, zero shots on goal, zero key passes, a 14 percent dribble rate (1/7), 17 completed passes, and just three final third entries.
Ilsinho alone was dispossessed four times in the attacking half of the field.
The other members of the front four, Picault and C.J. Sapong, didn't fare that much better, with the goal following the turnover, three more off-target shots, and two key passes built from Sapong's hold-up play and taking place well outside of the box.
The conceded goals were equally perturbing, with two moments of hesitation on the left side of the Union defense, manned by Giliano Wijnaldum and Oguchi Onyewu.
Philadelphia remains on 23 points, six out of the final playoff spot with a crucial home-and-home series with 7th place Columbus starting up this weekend.
"We’ve been off for a while and everyone has been off," said Curtin. "We’re thin, with the guys being away and some injuries, but (Montreal) was missing guys too. We have to regroup and go against Columbus."