A draw at home is never going to be a juicy result for a fan to sink their teeth into; and tonight's result is no different.
The Philadelphia Union had their opportunities to seize this game by the throat against the visiting San Jose Earthquakes. With Fafa Picault's return to the lineup, the speed of the Union attack was on display from the early get-go at Talen Energy Stadium. Picault and David Accam were chomping at the bit to work down the line to receive the ball; and they got fed in bunches by midfielder Borek Dockal and the young Union wing-backs. Their crosses into the box, however, were far from perfect as CJ Sapong was visibly frustrated by the lack of chances he was able to create with his frame and athleticism.
These failed opportunities on net really slowed the game down within 25 minutes of kickoff and the game finally slowed down to a point where San Jose could work the ball and test the Union's pressure in the hopes of executing a successful counterattack; and successful they were.
A miscommunication and poor touch by the Union defense led to a 5-on-3 break by the Earthquakes and within seconds, Magnus Eriksson patiently sat back, received his pass at the top of the box and delivered a vicious curling shot past goalkeeper Andre Blake to make it 1-0, San Jose.
The interesting note is that despite going down, the Union remained resilient in building up numerous attacking chances through their wingers and midfielders that came up just short of tying the game before halftime; mostly due to the heroics of Earthquakes' keeper Andrew Tarbell. While the frustration continued early into the 2nd half, Jim Curtin's side were persistent in their push forward.
A timely substitution that brought Ilsinho into the match proved to be effective as the Brazilian helped create space for the central midfielders in the 64th minute. His ability to draw in defenders opened up space for Borek Dockal to receive the ball and find Fafa Picault on the other side of the field; who then used his quick feet to create separation and deliver a perfect ball onto the head of a streaking Alejandro Bedoya and into the back of the net. From there, the winning goal seemed all but inevitable for the home side. But the goal simply never came to be.
The chemistry between the front four attackers looked to be well on display tonight; accumulating 22 shots in the game. Still, the points remain left on the table and fans cannot be happy about that. But for those calling for the head of head coach Jim Curtin on the heels of another effort that came up just short, hold the phone and take a deep breath.
The system is working, the pieces are effective, the final step is simply to execute; and that comes with time and reps. Andrew Tarbell played out of his mind, totaling seven saves on the night, some of which were ridiculous in terms of effort and extension. The San Jose back line was very strong in limiting the effectiveness of CJ Sapong, who is normally a menace to deal with in the 18-yard box.
To completely toss aside the good that came out of tonight's showing is ignorant to say the least, but you have every reason to be disappointed in the result. Spirits were far from high in the Union locker room and the team knows that these kinds of performances need to equal three points if they are going to compete for a playoff spot in 2018.
Time will tell if this result will be the wake up call needed for this team to bounce back and return to their winning ways; but time is not necessarily on their side as Orlando City rolls into town Friday, April 13th. If tonight is an indicator of anything, it's that this team is coming together as expected, but the climb to the perfect on-the-field product is not quite within reach just yet.