CHESTER, Pa. – More than 35 minutes after a disappointing 1-1 draw against the Montreal Impact on Saturday at PPL Park, Philadelphia Union captain Brain Carroll sat in full uniform in front of his locker, staring at the floor.
He took a few breaks to speak with the media, but mainly appeared reflective and, frankly, stunned that his side wasn’t able to come away with three points in a relatively dominant performance in the pouring rain.
An inability to close out matches proved an unwelcome recurring theme for last year’s Union team – a club that missed the postseason by three points – and twice this year Philadelphia have seen victories downgraded to draws in the game’s final 10 minutes.
“It’s up to us to be smarter and out-work the other team,” Carroll said. “Whether that’s possession, scoring a goal or just being stout defensively, we need to find a way as players and the group on the field to get the job done.”
Of Philly’s two draws this season, their opponent has scored goals in stoppage time (Portland) and the 80th, which came Saturday when clinical finisher Marco Di Vaio returned from a three-game suspension to score on his first shot on goal of the season.
“I don’t think we’re the same team as we were last year,” said Union manager John Hackworth. “I don’t want to make that comparison, but we were definitely in similar situations last year and got a similar result. It’s something this year’s team is going to have to get over.”
For nearly the entire match, Philadelphia were the aggressors, leading to a 58-42 edge in possession and a 5-1 advantage in shots on target. In fact, in the Union’s previous two matches – the first being a 2-1 loss against Columbus – they’ve allowed three goals on three shots on target.
“We did great. I didn’t think they had a sniff all game,” said center back Aaron Wheeler. “I can’t remember a time when [goalkeeper Zac MacMath] was worried or we were scrambling or anything like that. … It’s just one of those things, it seems like we can’t catch a break.”
Afterward, Hackworth cited the reluctance of his players to take chances in 1v1 opportunities as one of the reasons the Union weren’t able to add insurance.
“We passed the ball an awful lot, but we passed it when we should have been taking a guy off the dribble, getting a cross off or, really, getting shots off,” Hackworth said. “We have to have a little bit more of a variety in our attack that way.”
Beat on Di Vaio’s goal, Union defender Amobi Okugo remained upbeat regarding Philadelphia’s progress throughout the season’s opening month.
“It’s still early,” Okugo said. “I feel like we’re taking the right steps but we’ve got to pick it up sooner than later because those points are going to catch up to us.”