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

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Union 0-0 Timbers: Post-match observations

There wasn’t a whole lot to write home about in the Union’s scoreless draw Saturday night against Portland. About the best thing you could say is that it was their first such scoreline in almost 11 months. In any case, a few points that deserve a little bit more air into them.

- Leo Fernandes is looking more and more like an MLS player with each appearance. When he came on for Michael Farfan in the 68th minute Saturday, it caused a few raised eyebrows. Farfan took a while to get into the game, but he was looking better after halftime and was about the only member of the Union able to keep possession in the face of Portland’s hard-pressing attack. But Fernandes proved to be a good choice by stand-in manager Rob Vartughian. He wasn’t afraid to mix it up, picking up his first pro yellow card, and his 87th minute volley went off the post and could’ve gone in. “It’s helping me a lot,” Fernandes said about his more regular time on the pitch. “I feel a lot more conformable when I get on the field. I don’t have as many nerves now when I get in. … Every game I’m getting more excited. I just try to help out the team.”

- Zac MacMath has taken his lumps this season (cough, Dallas, cough). But he deserves credit for being really good since then (as my colleague Chris Vito writes). He gave up two goals his next time out against Real Salt Lake, but you can’t fault him on that penalty that forced the Union to settle for a draw. Most importantly, he looked like he learned and grew from the failed punch incident against Dallas. He made a couple of great saves against Houston, where Ricardo Clark’s goal was hardly his fault. (I don’t know how much it mattered anyway; the Union sans most of their midfielders were never going to score that day.) And he was good against Chivas before tonight’s clean sheet. Quietly, MacMath has six shutouts, which puts him squarely in the pack among MLS starters, three off the joint leaders Donovan Ricketts and Bobby Shuttleworth. - A casual appraisal of the game would say that the Union had a much better statistical half in the second. Of their 17 shots, 10 came after halftime, along with all six of their corner kicks. But possession-wise, the margins were miniscule: The Union still had only 41 percent of the possession after the break compared to 39.9 before. And they actually completed fewer passes (112) after the break than before (140), though their passing accuracy went up to 75.9 percent. That’s the difference between a team who occasionally dominates possession like the Union and a team like the Timbers who regard it as a cornerstone of their philosophy.

- Don’t look now, but Jack McInerney’s last goal was June 1. Yes, he missed three games on international duty, but he also has been shutout in four straight Union matches. He was withdrawn Saturday in the 82nd minute for Antoine Hoppenot after an indifferent shift of work. It’s the first time he failed to go the full 90 minutes since May 18 against Chicago; it’s the first time he’s been subbed off prior to stoppage time since May 4 against Seattle. But Vartughian chalks up the struggles of all the Union forwards, not just McInerney, to the efforts of the Timbers' suffocating defense. “I think it’s a tough game for our forwards especially in the first half just because we had to chase it more than we would’ve liked,” he said. “So when we finally get on the ball after defending so much, guys are tired and it’s hard to connect passes and then play. I think Jack did fine. He was good in training when he came back. This just wasn’t an easy game to get involved with on our half.”

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