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Union and SKC dodge storms and get scoreless draw

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The Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City played to a 0-0 draw Saturday evening at Subaru Park. The start of the game was delayed an hour due to severe thunderstorms passing through the area, but luckily the tornado warnings that popped up around the Greater Philadelphia area missed Chester. The usual storm of goals from Union home matches also missed the area as neither team found the back of the net. 

Once things got going, both teams were chippy with a total of three yellow cards issued. Daniel Rosero Valencia had the first chance for Sporting Kansas City in the 3rd minute when he tried a long range bicycle kick from outside the box that went just wide right. In the 16th minute, William Agada of SKC had a hard tackle on Nathan Harriel earning the first Yellow Card of the night. Harriel earned himself a yellow a few minutes later with a hand ball in the 18th minute. A few minutes later in the 24th Agada leveled Jose Martinez with a running tackle leading with his shoulder looking like an American Football linebacker tackling a slot receiver in the middle of the field, but surprisingly Agada was only whistled for a regular foul for the tackle, not a second yellow card. The resulting free kick by Martinez was saved by Tim Melia of SKC. Daniel Gazdag was nailed for a Yellow Card in the 40th minute when the official saw Gazdag grab Roger Espinoza from behind as he was on a run. Espinoza’s free kick was wide left. 

The Union were able to collect more chances as the game went on but they just never got the right bounces. In the 60th minute Gazdag had a free kick from the outside into the pack in front of the net, where Matt Real was able to get his head on the ball but Melia came up with a tough save. A corner kick by Jack McGlynn in the 66th minute found Jack Elliott in the box for a header which sailed over the top of the goal. In the 74th minute, Julian Carranza took a shot from the right side of the box which curled just outside the right post by mere inches. Wide right seemed to be where all the shots were going for the boys in blue as another Carranza chance in the 85th minute off the rebound from an Ale Bedoya shot found the same spot, as did a Joaquín Torres shot in the first minute of stoppage time. A Jakob Glesnes shot from long range a minute later on target towards the top left of the net was saved by Melia to neutralize the last Union chance and preserve the double clean sheet.  

In the postgame press conference, Union coach Jim Curtin said the effort is there, the sharpness is not: “We have a situation where we have a little bit of a lack of confidence in ourselves right now and it becomes contagious. I think the one way to get out of that is through hard work and intensity, and the guys are working hard but we’re not sharp. I think that’s clear for everybody to see.” Curtin does see the silver lining and is hopeful the team is trending in the right direction: “The lone positive from the night is that we kept a clean sheet. I think that’s something to build off of, and right now when you’re looking for confidence…you can take that one positive away but we know we have to be better.”

The players echoed their coach’s sentiments about working through the adversity. Mikael Uhre said there was a “magic” last season that isn’t quite there yet this season despite the team playing hard: “Last year everything clicked, everything went into the goal. We just needed to hit the ball then the ball went in. Right now…those situations we have, it just misses that last piece of magic that we had most of last season. It’s about keeping our heads down and getting to work.” Andre Blake also sounded cautiously optimistic: “We didn’t lose the game so that’s a positive. We’re not playing to our full potential yet, but I know that we have what it takes, we’re just going to have to pull it together and figure it out.”

News and notes:

  • Andre Blake returned to his normal spot in the Union net after missing three weeks due to a groin injury. Blake smartly managed the injury by letting other players take the goal kicks for him, with Jakob Glesnes handling the bulk of the free kicks. Blake said regarding the injury management: “At this moment I just need to be smart. My movement in the goal is good, I have no problem if I don’t need to rush to take a goal kick. I won’t do that, so I just manage it, be smart, and keep going.” When asked if delegating the kicks would continue in the next game, Blake said only, “Let’s see.”
  • Kai Wagner did not play after suffering a Grade 1 hamstring strain during practice this week. Jim Curtin hinted he might return on Tuesday for the match against Atlas: “I think he’s feeling pretty good, so I wouldn’t rule him out yet for Tuesday. It’s a grade 1 hamstring, which is as minor as it gets…I think he’ll be back sooner rather than later.”
  • The Union’s next match will be at Subaru Park on Tuesday evening at 8pm against Atlas of Liga MX in Leg 1 of the Quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Leg 2 will be in Guadalajara, Mexico on April 12. The match will be broadcast on FS1. 
  • The next Union MLS match will be on the road against FC Cincinnati on Saturday April 8. 

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