CHESTER, Pa. – If the Philadelphia Union didn’t know before, they certainly know now: When other teams come to PPL Park, they aren’t always interested in playing for the win.
Wednesday night in Chester, the Union settled for their second straight disappointing home draw, tying Sporting Kansas City 0-0.
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It was a result, Union manager Peter Nowak said afterwards, that the visitors were hoping to achieve in front of a hostile crowd at PPL Park, where Philly have not lost this season.
“It’s not going to get any easier,” Nowak said. “I think other teams have recognized that they come here and just play defense and look for a goal and look for a counter. But even in the second half, I don’t think Kansas City was looking for a counter-attack or looking for a goal. That’s how it’s going to be. We are where we are in the standings and the teams are coming to be happy with the points.”
The Union are certainly content with their place in the standings – they’re currently tied with the New York Red Bulls for first place in the Eastern Conference – but they also know if they don’t find a way to get three points, especially at home, that will begin to change.
The Union have not won since blitzing Toronto FC, 6-2, on May 28.
“I know this team is used to expecting everyone to come here and take all the points and play open,” said Union goalie Faryd Mondragón, who needed to make only one save vs. KC. “This year, this is not the case. This year, everyone is taking Philadelphia Union very seriously. With a lot of respect, teams are coming here to PPL Park to get one point as a trophy.”
Still, knowing they might have more respect from other teams did little to quell the club’s disappointment following Wednesday’s result.
The Union finished the game with 19 shots, including seven on target. They had many good chances to score, including two from Gold Cup returnee Carlos Ruiz, whose first-half free kick was stopped by a diving Jimmy Nielson and whose second-half header was stopped by the crossbar.
“It’s a bummer when you dominate and you can’t get anything out of it,” said Union defender Danny Califf, who helped the club earn their fifth clean sheet of the year. “We felt like we gave away points against Salt Lake at home [on June 11] and again tonight at home.”
Veljko Paunović has only been with the Union for two games – getting the start in both – but he joined his new teammates in their ever-growing frustration.
“If someone looked at the game after, they’d say it’s impossible how these guys didn’t win the game,” said Paunović, who played in the central midfield before coming off in the 66th minute. “We played a very complete game. It’s a little disappointing we didn’t win because we deserved it 100 percent.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.