Forty-one games without a PK: Frustration starting to boil over for Philadelphia Union

Brian Carroll protests a call by referee Alan Kelly

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CHESTER, Pa. – Despite salvaging a point in the 90th minute with a dramatic Maurice Edu equalizer, Philadelphia Union players were not particularly happy following their 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

The Union’s displeasure stems from their troubling trend of allowing penalty kicks while not getting to take any of their own, even though they believed they had multiple chances to earn one.

“It’s getting to be amazing that we’re not getting any penalties,” Union fullback Sheanon Williams told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re just not getting the calls right now. I thought we had clear-cut chances to get a penalty, and [referee Alan Kelly] didn’t call either one of them. I can’t say I understand why we didn’t get it. I thought that they were penalties, and I guess he thought differently.”

The Union have not taken a penalty kick since Oct. 24, 2012, a span of 41 consecutive games. Saturday’s game against Real Salt Lake seemed like it may have been the last straw for their frustration, especially as Real Salt Lake’s early PK attempt led to a sixth-minute goal on a rebound from Luke Mulholland.

“We might have to flop like other teams,” center back Amobi Okugo said. “Who knows?”

The no-calls Union players believe should have been made came in the second half, both on plays involving Leo Fernandes. In the 71st minute, after an impressive run-up, the second-year midfielder found himself open at the penalty spot and attempting to shoot before a Mulholland slide disrupted the play and set Fernandes to the ground.

Fernandes, who fell to the turf dramatically on that play, later appeared to collide with a Real Salt Lake defender while chasing a long ball in the penalty area with the game tied at 2-2 in stoppage time.

“I felt like both of them were penalties,” Fernandes said. “I felt like the defender made a bad play and clipped me on the second one. And on the first one, I got to the ball first, and the guy hit me.”

Union manager John Hackworth tried to steer clear of the controversy but did admit that he was not sure if the first-half call against Austin Berry deserved to lead to an RSL penalty kick attempt from Alvaro Saborío – which Union goalie Zac MacMath saved before Mulholland followed the play up.

“On the same token,” Hackworth said, “I thought we had two PKs late in the game that somehow don’t get called.”

For Hackworth and his players, those no-calls spoiled some promising moments, including Andrew Wenger’s goal in his Union debut, Edu’s second goal in as many weeks and MacMath making five saves. 

“It’s definitely frustrating, but I just think we have to keep at it,” Fernandes said. “[The penalties] are going to start coming soon. They have to.”

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