A team can only endure so much monotony before tensions begin to rise from all sides. If a result was to be had, it was under the lights of Talen Energy Stadium, in a prime time match, in front of a close to capacity crowd against a far from complete Orlando City team.
In typical Philadelphia Union fashion, the team came out quick and precise in their buildup; utilizing the left wing as their focal point of attack through David Accam in the first 15 minutes. Matt Real also used his speed and skill to create running lanes down the wing but crosses were handled quite well by the Orlando back line. The Union were able to keep the visitors in their own half for a solid stretch of the first half, but Orlando's experienced stars were tedious in their attempts to break through against Andre Blake and the Union defense.
Flashes of passing brilliance from the visitors put the young Philadelphia back line on their heels as the game opened up quite a bit on both sides as the match progressed. While Orlando looked dangerous leading up to the closing stages of the first half, the Union had their chances to breakthrough from both of their speedy wingers. But David Accam and Fafa Picault were both a fingertip away from finishing their shots which remains the ultimate achilles heel for this Union squad.
These missed chances would lead to Dom Dwyer finally breaking the deadlock after receiving a pinpoint pass from Sacha Kljestan and curling his attempt past Andre Blake in the 38th minute. Seven minutes later, a miscommunication between Jack Elliott and Matt Real lead to Chris Mueller taking a chance on his own and burying it into the corner just before the whistle for halftime. A staggering blow to the entire stadium that all but validated the mood felt by many Union supporters as of late.
I would be remiss not to say that head referee Chris Penso had himself an abysmal night from a consistency standpoint. The Union had many occasions where they had every right to question the calls against them in their own half. But to say this game was taken from them is far from accurate.
This Philadelphia team came out flat and unable to execute their attack in nearly every way. The later into the match, the more you could see the frustration and lack of communication being expressed by nearly every player wearing a Union jersey. Players simply letting the ball pass them assuming someone else would clean it up, heated shouting matches between teammates and an overall flatness that could be compared to an uncapped 2-liter soda being left to die on a hot, deserted highway. If there was a time to actually be worried about how this team approaches games, it would be now. There's nothing to be taken from this match other than the fact that if the Union do not spend their next 20 training sessions focusing on shooting, this will be the recurring nightmare for Philadelphia all season long. Their next chance to pick up points will be on April 21st as the Union visit FC Dallas.