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

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Union 2-2 RSL: Deja vu all over again, plus some other observations

I think the obvious has already been addressed, but now that the dust has settled a bit, here are a few other things that I noticed as the Union let another two points slip away in a 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake.

- If the Union somehow miss the playoffs, the image of Sebastien Le Toux firing a ball into the hands of Josh Saunders should be on the cover of the season highlight tape. No moment would encapsulate the season quite so well. I hate to kill Le Toux for the game he had, since he scored the first goal and was active throughout. John Hackworth took a similar tack: "Sebastien had done so much work in that game," he said. "It’s hard to fault any guy that has run as much as he has and the length of the sprints and the efforts that he’s put out." But left all by his lonesome, the truth is that Le Toux has to finish it. I could bold, italicize and all-cap “has”, and it still doesn’t quite capture the pertinence of that sentence. Is he the main culprit in the loss? No. But it’s certainly a person of interest.

- I’ve never thought that the phrase “devastating draw” could be cobbled together, much less be perfectly appropriate two times in the span of five days. But once again, the Union jump on the emotional roller coaster and leave it feeling nauseous. From “a draw would be good” at the beginning to “must-have three points” late on when up a man and a goal (twice!) to feeling hard-done by leaving with the original result. The Union are turning the process of making a draw feel like a loss into an art, and you have to wonder what the psychological toll of two straight games like that is come Saturday against Houston. This team is resilient – the defiance with which Conor Casey almost blasted the ball through the net on the second goal – shows that, but you just wonder how much they can take.

- The final score line doesn’t bear it out, but I thought that Matt Kassel actually played well. Pairing with Brian Carroll late in the game actually had a bit of a calming effect, at least for a while.

- The verdict on Leo Fernandes' first start: Eh, not bad. He was a little too easily dispossessed from time to time, but it wasn't a bad debut on all counts.

- Hackworth was right in assessing that referee Ismail Elfath did not cost the Union the game, but that doesn’t mean his performance was stellar. For Real Salt Lake’s first yellow card to have come in the 90th minute was quite ridiculous. The red card to Lovel Palmer was a bit harsh, but the fact that he didn’t give anything to eventual goal-scorer Luis Gil for physically grabbing Elfath’s arm in an attempt to stop him from showing red is ludicrous. It was also shocking that Carlos Salcedo didn’t see yellow for blatantly ramming into Zac MacMath in the box late on.

- Well what was going to be a positive spin to another really strong outing from Casey has turned to this: How great is the physical toll being paid by the 31-year-old for the outstanding performances he’s put in lately? Sadly, they haven’t recently been turning into wins, through no fault of his own.

- In a season of some notable defensive blunders, Ray Gaddis made one of the most visible in stoppage time with his handball. And he did it six days before a new left back in Fabinho is eligible to join the fray. Not good timing.

- If there’s a silver lining, maybe it’s that you can’t blame MacMath. Carroll was the one who lost Gil on the corner, and you can't expect MacMath to stop the stoppage-time penalty kick. He took a couple of ill-advised forays toward the limits of the 18-yard box as per usual, but he was more authoritative around goal and punched out a couple of late deliveries into the box, showing he learned from his mistake a week ago. Based on the final result, that puts him in the minority.

- The bottom line is this: You can easily point to 10 points (two draws against Toronto and blown leads to Seattle, Dallas and Salt Lake) that could well doom the fate of this season. Add those points to the equation, and the Union are running away with the Eastern Conference. Running away with it. They’d better hope they start to figure things out before they get back into the Eastern opposition-heavy finish to the season.

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