Philadelphia Union rue one that got away: "We had the defending champions on the ropes"

CHESTER, Pa. – For the first time since 2011, the Philadelphia Union surrendered four goals in what was their most lopsided loss of the season.

But Union right back Sheanon Williams has a message for anyone that judges Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy only on the scoreline.

“If you want to take that as a 4-1 game, then go for it,” Williams said. “But it’s not. We pushed numbers forward, knowing we wanted to get points at home. What does it matter if you lose 3-1 or 8-1? We have to go for the goals. And they punished us for it.”

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The game certainly got out of hand late, with Landon Donovan logging a goal and two assists in the final 19 minutes to turn a 1-1 game into a 4-1 laugher, stunning the 17,031 fans at PPL Park.

But before that, the Union believe they were the better team.

“Honestly, we played probably the best 40 minutes we played in that first half,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “We had the two-time defending champions on the ropes in a big way. We’ve just got to be able to sustain that.”

The Union certainly looked sharp for much of the first half, led by the midfield direction of Kléberson and the third goal of the year from a Sheanon Williams throw-in, courtesy of Amobi Okugo.

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But Philly goalie Zac MacMath misplayed a corner kick for an own goal in the third minute and then couldn’t do enough to stop some wide-open looks down the stretch as the Union pushed numbers forward and seemed to tire.

“I don’t want to use that an excuse because I don’t think our fitness is a problem,” Hackworth said. “I certainly think there were some lapses there. And I think we made some glaring errors defensively as a group. And we have to correct those.”

Hackworth chose to fault the team’s defensive execution rather than the play of MacMath, who he said “didn’t deserve to take four today for sure.” He went on to say that “a lot of silly turnovers early in the second half” completely changed the momentum of the game, which the Union could never steal back from the reigning champs.

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Okugo agreed.

“Zac can’t make saves every day,” Okugo said. “Whether it’s the pressure in the midfield or following runners, we just have to buckle down and stop leaking goals.”

Okugo credited fluid movement, quick one-touches and good passing sequences for what he thought was a solid first half. But, he added, that doesn’t mean anything when the game completely gets away from the team in the final portion of the game.

“When we have them against the ropes, we have to capitalize,” he said. “We have to punish them, don’t give them any hope. We’ve got to put these games away.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.