The only Philadelphia Union player to score on Saturday was Carlos Ruiz. Unfortunately for Philly, that goal came 3,000 miles away from where the rest of the team was playing.
Not long after Ruiz — on respite with the Union while he plays with Guatemala at the Gold Cup — had a first-half tally against mighty Mexico, the Union suffered through one of their worst offensive performances of the season in a 1-0 road loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Mustering just one shot on goal — a deep blast from midfielder Brian Carroll — the Union were shut out for the first time since May 14 and allowed the struggling Whitecaps to snap a 14-game winless skid.
“Vancouver scored a good goal early on and we struggled to get our rhythm,” Philadelphia’s Sheanon Williams said. “I think we just didn’t play our game and we didn’t play that well.”
Some Union fans might point to a conservative lineup as the reason for the team’s scoring woes. Manager Peter Nowak decided to insert Stefani Miglioranzi into the starting 11 alongside fellow holding midfielder Carroll, while putting new acquisition Veljko Paunović — who hasn’t played a professional game since 2008 — at striker beside Sébastien Le Toux.
But the Union (6-4-4) still couldn’t generate many scoring opportunities when Miglioranzi and Paunović came off in favor of two of the team’s hottest offensive players, Danny Mwanga and Michael Farfan. Even sparkplug Roger Torres, an 82nd-minute sub, couldn’t put Philly on the scoreboard, although his last-gasp chip into the box to Carlos Valdés nearly did the trick.
The Union had another prime chance late in the game when, on a counter-attack, an 81st-minute shot from Kyle Nakazawa was blocked by a defender and Le Toux’s rebound flick was pushed just wide.
Le Toux, who led the team with 14 goals last year, has still yet to score during the run of play this season.
“Everybody is trying to help and stay positive,” Nowak said of Le Toux. “It’s very easy to drop your hat down and say, ‘You’re not scoring goals and we have to make a change.’ At some point we have to consider that, but as I said, we always try to stay positive and make sure that the players we’ve got have a fair shot at the positions they play. But the chances he had, especially at that point in the game, he had to finish.”
Philly’s disappointing performance in Vancouver comes on the heel of a solid month of production. Coming into Saturday’s contest, the Union had not lost in four straight games, scoring 10 goals in that span and appearing to have turned the corner after a handful of weak early-season offensive performances.
Is Saturday’s game an aberration or the beginning of a new trend? It won’t take very long to find out as the Union have a quick turnaround, hosting Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night at PPL Park.
“I think everyone worked hard and put a lot of effort into the game and it’s unfortunate to come out of here with nothing,” Carroll said. “We’ve got to turn around quickly and get ready for the next game.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.