May 01, 2016
Everything was going according to plan, then the specter of the 2013 Philadelphia Union revealed its grotesque visage at Talen Energy Stadium.
Like the ghost of Union past, Philadelphia found a way to turn three points into one, conceding a late equalizer while up a man and playing at home.
Jim Curtin's team may or may not have been the better squad on the day, depending on what you value in hindsight. San Jose had more efforts at goal and more on frame while the Union could only muster two on-target shots over the course of 94 minutes. Possession was skewed in the home side's favor, which probably would not be the case without the red card. Still, it didn't feel like the Earthquakes really began to threaten until late in the second half.
Last week, Philadelphia conceded possession and shot attempts to New York City and comfortably rode out a 2-0 home lead.
This week, they seemed to be caught in two minds, pushing forward initially for a second goal, then falling back into a more conservative mindset when that insurance couldn't be applied.
Take a look at the possession breakdown over five-minute intervals.
See that light blue bar towards the bottom? That's the monumental possession shift that occurred from minute 80 to minute 85.
You see that line of five consecutive intervals where the Union won possession. That begins when Anibal Godoy is sent off in the second half. Philly is comfortable on the ball and pushing forward for the second goal.
The dramatic shift begins in minute 75 when San Jose gets into the 55 percent range. That extends to 80 percent (!) by the time the 80 to 85 interval finishes. So, if you average those two intervals, the Union lost the possession battle on a 68 to 32 scale from minute 75 to minute 85.
Why did it happen?
Maybe the team was gassed from chasing the second goal, or just being on the field for 73 minutes before the first sub took place. Maybe they lost their shape a bit when the man-advantage came into effect. Maybe it was just a complacency to see out the game.
Whatever the reason, that ten minute period made the difference in this one.
Twice this season the Union have conceded restart goals on illegal pick plays.
Saturday, they used that design to their benefit.
Take a look at the Chris Pontius goal, but don't look at the goal scorer, look at Keegan Rosenberry instead.
Rosenberry isn't even facing the ball. He screens Fatai Alashe and impedes his progress, freeing up Pontius to get a clean effort on goal.
If we're being truthful here, that's a foul. But you don't always get those calls in soccer, certainly not when one referee and two linesmen (with distant views) have to account for about 16 to 18 guys inside the penalty area. Richie Marquez didn't get the call when he was sealed off on similar plays against Columbus and Seattle.
Additionally, the scissor-kick goal scored by David Villa on Saturday, which was a great finish, should not have counted.
Frederic Brillant reaches out and impedes both Matias Laba and Tim Parker. That's two fouls by one guy, which is pretty impressive.
Starting XI: Blake, Gaddis, Marquez, Yaro, Rosenberry; Creavalle, Nogueira; Le Toux, Barnetta, Pontius; Sapong
C.J. Sapong: C
C.J. again put in the requisite effort and hold-up work; he just couldn't finish.
On the blown shot in front of goal, it almost felt like he left his feet prematurely. Maybe that lunge didn't even have to be made. Sapong normally buries that type of service, but he seemed to be caught in two minds on that play.
He had another sniff in the second half when a dead ball was knocked down to the far post but just couldn't steer it on frame.
Sebastien Le Toux: B-
Seba was active early on and played the brilliant 35th-minute cross that Sapong should have finished.
He also could have got a second assist on another similar ball just a few minutes later.
Seba seems to have a good understanding with Barnetta when it comes to timing that right channel run behind the fullback. He isn't the best possession guy on the team, and maybe that changes if Ilsinho comes back as the starter in the RF spot.
Tranquillo Barnetta: B+
The backline-splitting pass that he tried in the 8th minute is something that 99% of all-time Union players probably wouldn't even visualize.
He got the assist on the goal, but his pass to play-in Pontius and earn that set piece was the real gem on the afternoon.
Chris Pontius: A-
He didn't do much before the goal, with a bad field-switching ball in the 22nd minute and another giveaway a short time later. Some of that anonymity can likely be attributed to having Ray Gaddis behind him, instead of the more attack-minded Fabinho.
Later, in the sequence leading to the restart and goal, he makes a really nice back-shoulder run to get behind Kofi Sarkodie and earn the corner.
There was a dead ball later in the game where he rose to knock down the service, only to see a lunging Sapong just miss at the far post.
Pontius, in strange fashion, continues to disappear for long stretches of time. But when he's involved, he's scoring goals, or making a well-timed pinching run, or just doing things that Philly really didn't get from the LM position last season.
Vince Nogueira: B-
The Union were playing at home, up a man, and holding onto a 1-0 lead. That's exactly the type of game that Nogueira should be able to dominate.
Again he was solid in ball movement and positioning, but he's better offensively than he thinks he is, which you saw in that 64th-minute effort that sailed over the bar. Nogueira can get forward more and contribute to the attack, and he tried to do it after the red card happened.
In those cases, Warren Creavalle is going to have to sit in a little bit more and account for the fact that another body is going forward.
Warren Creavalle: C+
For 77 minutes, he had a really nice game, breaking up plays, winning tackles, and splitting the lines with some high-percentage passes.
Then, he switched off in that 10-minute chunk of the game that San Jose controlled.
It began with a set piece, where it looked like either Creavalle or Rosenberry mixed up their assignment on Shaun Francis, who blasted one over the bar from seven yards out. The camera cuts away from the action, so it's hard to tell who was originally marking who, but both players got sucked in on Chris Wondolowski and left Francis wide open.
Next, there were some midfield gaps where Nogueira went forward and Creavalle couldn't cover in time, which provided a couple more iffy moments for the Union defense.
Finally, on the equalizer, he takes a stab at Simon Dawkins, instead of just trying to close the space and keep the midfielder in front of him.
Ray Gaddis: C
He did exactly what was expected, which is to shut down his side of the field at the expense of any attacking contribution.
His matchup on the left, Alberto Quintero, was basically invisible until he came off the field.
There actually was one nice run into the attacking third, which took place up the 19th minute. Gaddis tried a left-footed cross, which bounced across the box behind a couple of Union players.
What would his crossing ability look like if he hadn't been consistently shoved into an unnatural role since 2012?
Richie Marquez: B
He made the necessary plays, including a 38th-minute block/interception to keep Innocent from finding Wondolowski on an inside run.
There was one ball that he mishandled, and that allowed a Wondo shot that was easily taken by Blake.
Otherwise, he had a good game.
Josh Yaro: B-
Yaro made two mistakes on the equalizer.
First, his clearance landed about 27 yards from goal, almost dead central on the field, and gave Dawkins the ball in a great spot.
Second, he stabbed at the ball after Dawkins' initial cut, when Marquez was already in position to make a play.
It's a shame, really, because the rookie was having another good game up until that point.
Keegan Rosenberry: C+
There wasn't much offensively from Rosenberry until San Jose went down a man. Then, you saw a couple of good crosses from positions inside the attacking third.
Defensively, he was up and down as usual, and did well enough with the ball at his feet, despite a long field switching pass that put Marquez under some presser near the far corner.
Andre Blake: C
He didn't have much to do but came out nicely to punch a cross out of the danger area just before halftime.
73' Ilsinho: C
Ilsinho didn't even really get into the game until San Jose found the equalizer.
85' Leo Fernandes: N/A
Barely touched the ball in a brief cameo.
86' Fabian Herbers: N/A
He had a really nice channel run and cross attempt late in the game but really wasn't on the field long enough to make any kind of impact.
Referee: Ricardo Salazar: B
He could have sent off Alashe with a second yellow in the 33rd minute, but I think he was right to let that tackle go uncalled. As for Godoy, he could have been sent off in the 35th minute, instead of the second half, but he got away with a late shove on Barnetta after an early tussle for the ball.