After a half of chasing, Philadelphia Union use lightning delay to their advantage

CHESTER, Pa. – First, there was a monsoon. Then came the lightning.

The Philadelphia Union have certainly had to deal with some interesting weather during their last two games at PPL Park.

But after beating Chivas USA during a ferocious rainstorm last Friday, the Union survived a 50-plus-minute lightning delay on Saturday to earn a hard-fought 0-0 draw against the Portland Timbers.

It was a result the Union were relatively pleased with, considering the sloppy conditions and the fact that Portland has lost only twice all season.

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“In the first half, we chased the game a little bit more than we would have liked to,” said Union assistant Rob Vartughian, who ran the club in place of suspended manager John Hackworth. “But I think guys came out of the locker room under difficult circumstances. With the weather and the delay, we had a really good second half. I was really happy with that.”

Vartughian admitted the halftime delay was tough because no one was sure how long it would last. But the Union players tried to use it to their advantage to rest up and talk about changing tactics after getting mostly outplayed in the first half.

“I think it actually helped us,” said Union goalie Zac MacMath, who made four saves to post his sixth shutout of the season. “It gave us a little time to get some rest, get our legs up a little bit and got reenergized for the second half.”

Captain Brian Carroll thought the Union “picked up a little bit of intensity” after the delay. And it showed as all that separated the Union from getting the full three points was Portland goalie Donovan Ricketts making a leaping save on Conor Casey in the 72nd minute.

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“Their guy makes a world-class save at the end of the game and that’s just the way it goes,” Vartughian said. “Toward the end of the game, everyone was feeling good with what we were doing.”

Perhaps the Union are simply getting used to playing in bad weather?

“It seems like every Saturday right around game time it just starts pouring or thunderstorming or something,” Carroll said. “It’s just something new we have to deal with at PPL. There’s never a dull moment around here.”

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