In most situations where a team loses a lead by conceding a goal in the final minutes, the manager is fuming afterwards.
This was not at all the case for Philadelphia Union head man Peter Nowak on Sunday. He actually seemed content with his side’s 1-1 draw against Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Chivas USA 1, Philadelphia 1
When asked if Juan Pablo Angel’s 90th-minute goal and the ensuing result stung, Nowak was clear.
“No, it doesn’t,” he said. “You can see at the end of the game we just didn’t have the legs,” the Union manager said. “That’s the reason for it. … We held up pretty good with all the pressure from Chivas.”
Winning Sunday’s game would have been a tall task for the Union, who just three days earlier picked up a huge 3-2 victory over rival D.C. United, before packing their bags and flying across the country. But even with the tired legs, they still managed to take a 1-0 lead on the third goal from the season from midfielder Justin Mapp — one of the only Philly starters who hasn’t played much in recent weeks, due to an injury — and got another strong outing from rookie ’keeper Zac MacMath.
Knowing all that, Nowak was pleased to escape with the draw, especially on the road against a team desperate to stay alive in the playoff hunt and pushing heavy numbers forward.
“It was a difficult environment,” Nowak said. “Every point is valuable at this stage to keep us as a contender to be in the playoffs.”
The Union (10-7-14, 44 points), who are now unbeaten in their last six matches, actually remain in very good playoff position, moving into a second-place tie with the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference, one point behind first-place Sporting Kansas City. And Philly still have a game in hand on both of those squads.
“Regardless if we got the win or not, I think the last six games were very good,” Nowak said. “And we’re still in a position to control our own destiny with three games to go.”
Of course, while Nowak was being pragmatic about the situation, Union players seemed more upset to let three points slip through their fingers, especially because they were minutes away from vaulting into first place.
“We’re satisfied but disappointed at the same time,” second-half sub Freddy Adu said. “We really wanted the three points and we had a good chance of winning the game.
“We all have one goal in mind, which is to come in first in the East. And we think we deserve that. But we have to step on the field and make it happen.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.