CHESTER, Pa. — Playing their third game in eight days 2,800 miles from home in front of a packed house, the Seattle Sounders were the happier team leaving the field after a scoreless draw Saturday night against the Philadelphia Union.
“If you look at this sheet of paper, statistically it wasn’t a good game for us and you have to credit Jim [Curtin] and the Union, they controlled large parts of the game,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the game. “It’s a monster performance. I don’t think there’s any team in the league that’s not going to take seven points in a week. Whatever this piece of paper says, we’re pleased.”
Flying across the country to face the 2nd place team in the Eastern Conference on two days' rest, Schmetzer switched to a 5-3-2 formation with three center backs to try and slow the potent Union attack. Jonathan Campbell made his Sounders debut as the left-sided center back with Román Torres in the middle and Kim Kee-hee to the right.
Schmetzer said the thinking was to have Campbell to “carry some of the load” and have outside backs Nouhou and Saad Abdul-Salaam do some of the work on the wings. There were five changes in all from Wednesday’s team that beat Orlando City 2-1.
“We did drop a little bit deep but the three center backs were allowing us not to get stretched out,” Campbell said. “They've got a combination of a big man but they’ve also got speed in behind so I think that allowed us to cover that pretty well and then frustrate them to not really find anything through the middle, try to force it wide and I think that’s where they had to break us down a little better to get some balls in behind. I thought that’s where we did a good job.”
The Union had close to 68 percent possession and outshot the visitors 20-6, but their biggest scoring chances were turned away by Sounders veteran goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who made a diving save on a shot from 25 yards out from Brenden Aaronson in the first half and in the second half tipped a Haris Medunjanin free kick over the bar and stopped a Kacper Przybylko header from point blank range. He finished with six saves on the night.
“I mean obviously he’s proven it, he’s done those many times,” Campbell said of the save on Przybylko. “I wouldn’t expect anything less from him, but that was incredible, very quick reaction and it kept us in the game. That was huge and gave us the point there.”
Curtin went to his bench in the 57th minute and brought on Ilsinho, who has been Philadelphia's biggest weapon off the bench in the second half this season, but even with his spark off the bench the Union were held scoreless at home for the first time this season.
“We dominated them, we created a lot of chances,” Ilsinho said. “It’s frustrating because we didn’t win.”