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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Sunday, July 1, 2012


The Union played for 80 minutes like a draw with Houston was imminent. And in the 81st, the game changed dramatically with the toot of the referee's whistle. A penalty-kick strike from Brian Ching led the Dynamo to a 2-1 victory. Now, I'm not prepared to say that a referee's call, a drawn foul by Ching in the box in the 81st, ultimately led to the Union's demise.

Fact is, John Hackworth's club had multiple opportunities to win this game, without resorting to physical play in the box against Ching, a former U.S. national team player and an MLS veteran who knows who to make a subtle contact look not to subtle. “It was a tough call," Hackworth said Saturday night. "I would need to go look at the replay a couple times. Either way, we have two guys in the box versus one and we need to be smarter in the box and defend it better."

 The Union, after playing 45 minutes of flat soccer, found the back of the net in the 46th minute when Keon Daniel turned and fired a cross from Brian Carroll at the edge of the box. Prior to that, the Union had two sound chances to score -- including a 2-on-1 attack from Lio Pajoy and Jorge Perlaza, the latter of whom hit the ball just wide of the left post in the first half's earliest moments.

And after Daniel's goal, the Union began to dominate possession like they hadn't in the opening 45 minutes. It looked like the Union, who had never lost to the Dynamo in a regular-season match, were about to maintain that streak.

The folks conversing with me on Twitter attempted to place the blame on referee Fotis Bazakos, who blew the whistle and, in doing so, blew the call. They called it "unjust," "unfair," "a blown call," and "a phantom call."

Others prior to the game wondered why guys like Freddy Adu and Antoine Hoppenot were on the bench and not in the starting lineup. With the Union mired in a nine-match-in-27-day stretch, Hackworth can't afford to start Adu every game, nor can they attempt to try Hoppenot, who's developed into a super-sub, outside of a reserve capacity. Hackworth has said he has to trust the depth of the Union. He can't play a game of lineup favoritism. He can't play his ideal lineup each time out, either. He has to use the best guys available at the best times in order to keep everyone fresh, so some nights --- like Saturday in Houston --- you might not see the Union's most-potent lineup on the pitch.

OK, long story short: In the most-literal sense, yes, the Union lost the match because of Ching's penalty kick. But neither a PK, nor an errant whistle should have kept the Union from winning. They had opportunities, but failed to deliver on them.

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