New-look Philadelphia Union struggle to slow down FC Dallas: "It's a learning experience"

FRISCO—Securing three points against FC Dallas remains an elusive task for the Union.

It perhaps didn’t help Philadelphia’s case that they started four MLS newcomers to kick off their 2016 season – a 2-0 loss Sunday to extend their winless streak against Dallas to nine in a row.

“We knew it would be a difficult day, but at the same time I thought we were a little timid to start the game,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “They put us on our heels a little bit. We survived the first 15 minutes, but if you look at both goals, bad giveaways in bad spots.”

The first goal, as Curtin alluded to, came on a tackle from recent FC Dallas acquisition Carlos Gruezo to begin a counter that ended up at the feet of Fabian Castillo and through the five-hole of goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The second goal also came off a turnover, with Mauro Diaz pickpocketing Fabinho and finding Max Urruti in front of the net for a quick finish.

“It’s a learning experience. Every time you go out, you learn,” Curtin said. “But I was happy for the most part with the younger guys, and I thought we made two big mistakes. And a good team like Dallas will punish you for that.”

Despite allowing two goals, one of the brighter spots on the afternoon for the Union was Blake. The 25-year-old ’keeper finished the day with eight saves, ranging from a leaping stop to swat the ball out of bounds to a head-on-a-swivel save to be in the right place at the right time.

“Andre bailed us out a bunch tonight,” Curtin said. “You need that in this league, especially when you go on the road.”

The Union relied on the services of two rookies (Keegan Rosenberry and Ken Tribbett) and two Brazilians who are new to the league (Ilsinho and Anderson). With three of the newcomers making up Philadelphia’s backline in front of Blake, it was apparent at times the fresh faces struggled with the potency of Dallas’ attack.

The rookies weren't daunted, though.

“It was everything I could have imagined coming into the game,” Rosenberry said of playing FC Dallas in the opener. “Obviously the bigger picture is that we didn’t get the result we wanted, but I think there’s some things to build on today. And I think that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

With Maurice Edu and Tranquillo Barnetta dealing with injuries, the Union may need to rely on some of the new players moving forward. But Curtin is not making any excuses for his squad and remains optimistic about the direction of the franchise.

“Yeah, we had a couple guys injured right now, but we have to have the mindset that the next man up can step up and do the job,” Curtin said. “I still think we’re in a better spot than we were last year.”