In other words, the Philadelphia Union’s last-minute lapse that turned a sure win into a less-than-satisfying tie brought back many of the same feelings that presided over the club’s disappointing 2010 inaugural season.
“It was kind of like a flashback,” said Okugo, a Philly central midfielder, of the team’s 1-1 draw with the Sounders on Saturday at PPL Park.
Seattle’s Alvaro Fernandez leveled the game in the 91st minute after a scramble in the box.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Philadelphia 1, Seattle 1
“We were working hard for 90 minutes and then to have that happen is really heartbreaking,” Okugo continued. “This tie feels like a loss to most of us.”
Last season, the Union made a habit of outplaying the opposing team with very few results to show for it—a theme that was mostly chalked up to expansion inexperience.
Heading into Saturday’s game, the 2011 season had played out very differently for the Union (3-1-1). They had charged to the top of the Eastern Conference table with stingy defense and opportunistic goals, posting three 1-0 victories and losing only away to the LA Galaxy.
But on a cold, rainy afternoon at PPL Park, it was like déjà vu all over again as the Union opened up their attack and looked strong again on defense—only to leave the rain-soaked field with just one point to show for it.
“It’s been put on display that the best team doesn’t always win,” said Union central defender Danny Califf, who used his body to block a second-half shot on the endline and preserve a late lead. “Even if you’re at your best, anything can happen. We lost our concentration and composure for one second—and there they go. They’re a good team and they punished us for it.”
Califf later added that he thought this was the Union’s best overall game of the season, but conceded that they probably shouldn’t have dropped back into a defensive shell for the final portion of the contest.
Union manager Peter Nowak agreed.
“It’s important that we realize not to be afraid to score the second goal,” Nowak said. “In some capacity, maybe it’s in the back of their heads that we’re still winning, but winning doesn’t mean that we need to go on the shelf and just defend. It’s just not going to happen.”
If there’s a saving grace from the result, it’s that the Union did not lose. Last season, mistakes like the one they made Saturday would have probably led to a stinging defeat—or, as Califf put it, “we would have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.”
“This is a completely different group this year,” said Nakazawa, who played a full 90 in the midfield. “We expect a lot of ourselves. We know we should have won this game. To control a majority of the game and come out with a tie, it’s heartbreaking.
“But it’s early in the season. We just have to learn from today.”