SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Down four starters from their previous match, the Philadelphia Union managed to steal a point on the road on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes.
When Friday's injury report listed center back Carlos Valdés as out with an illness, the absence of Jordan Harvey — who was sent to Vancouver on Thursday in exchange for allocation money — became all the more glaring.
Manager Peter Nowak inserted veteran holding midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi into Valdés' spot and Gabriel Farfan into the left back position previously occupied by Harvey, and the defense didn't skip a beat, recording their sixth shutout of the season and limiting the Earthquakes to just two shots on goal.
“From the defensive perspective, we played a pretty good game," Nowak said after the match. "We didn’t allow San Jose to counter. … We were pretty sure that Stefani can do the job with his confidence and experience. It’s another option for us defensively."
In a match controlled by the visitors, Philadelphia put their quality depth on display, perhaps one of the reasons Nowak felt comfortable trading away Harvey for financial flexibility heading into the July 15 international transfer window.
"I think Gabriel Farfan as a left back did pretty well to replace Jordan," said Nowak. "In the long run, we’re going to look to do better, but as of now, we do have options — and they are good options. [Farfan] is still young and he’s still getting experience. For his first time at this position, for 90 minutes, he did alright.”
Veteran striker Carlos Ruiz was rested after playing three matches in 11 days following the CONCACAF Gold Cup, while recent acquisition Veljko Paunović missed the match with a strained left hip.
The Union created a handful of goal scoring opportunities, but a lack of finishing prevented the East frontrunners from securing three points.
“With the chances, we need to do better, much better," Nowak lamented. "We got lucky when we played DC, but this game we were supposed to win by a couple of goals. Those games last year we lost. This is progress and we are still getting the points on the road, which is important as well.”
“Yeah, absolutely it’s frustrating," added Danny Mwanga, who had multiple opportunities to break the deadlock. "I think we had more chances than they had in the first half, and then in the second half, we dominated until the end of it. It’s obviously frustrating to not come away with a goal, but at the same time, we didn’t lose.”
The draw — Philadelphia's fourth positive result in their last five road matches — gives the Union a share of first place in the Eastern Conference with two matches in hand on the rival New York Red Bulls.
“Everyone worked hard," midfielder Brian Carroll said of Philadelphia's performance in San Jose. "We deserved the clean sheet, I thought, and maybe more out of the game than a tie. But we’ll certainly take one on the road.”