By JOEY SAMUEL
With the MLS playoff race heating up, both the Philadelphia Union and Real Salt Lake could have used a win on Friday night. But in a game where chances were few and far between, each team was forced to settle for a single point.
Philadelphia and Real Salt Lake struggled mightily to create chances for the entirety of the match, and the clubs ended up tying, 0-0, in front of 18,441 fans at PPL Park in what could only be described as a bore draw.
Danny Cruz missed a sitter in his first home game as a Union player in the 42nd minute when he skied a shot over the crossbar despite having time on the ball. Salt Lake blew a clear opportunity as well late in the game when Jonny Steele hesitated in front of an open goal and gave Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath time to recover the ball.
Amobi Okugo saw an attempt saved on the line in the 90th minute, but the play was called for offsides anyway. In the end, neither team managed to find a winner as the game ended at 0-0.
"It is frustrating for us to get a shutout but not score at home," said Union coach John Hackworth. "It is disappointing. But I'm encouraged by the type of soccer we played. If you look at the standings, we're the team that's supposed to be getting our butt whooped by one of the top teams in the league, but that doesn't happen and it hasn't happened for weeks."
Philadelphia came out with something of a new look on offense, with Freddy Adu relegated to the bench and Gabriel Gomez replacing him on the left wing. It didn't work too well, as Gomez looked lethargic in such an offensive position. The Union couldn't create a single shot on goal in the first half, and Cruz's miss was their best chance of the whole game.
Salt Lake, meanwhile, used a fairly straightforward lineup, but fatigue seemed to play a factor for a team that was playing its third game in seven days.
In the last ten minutes, Adu was brought on by Hackworth as Philadelphia looked to create a late winner. He failed to generate much in his limited role, though.
"Today was one of those days where I personally didn't have a lot of minutes," said Adu. "But I was just trying to create chances, put them on their toes a little bit. I think my team played well today, they didn't give Salt Lake too many chances."
Steele, Paulo Junior, and Yordany Alvarez weren't much better for RSL when it came to injecting creativity, but by the end of the match Salt Lake seemed to be playing for the draw.
While both teams were in need of three points, it was Philadelphia that came away more disappointed. They blew a chance to get back into the playoff race and still sit 15 points shy of the fifth spot in the East. Salt Lake, on the other hand, snapped a three-game league losing streak and earned a point on the road after winning in CONCACAF Champions League play earlier in the week.
"Each time we let points go in the race for the playoffs, the pressure obviously grows and our chances get worse," said Union captain Carlos Valdes. "But we just have to turn the page and prepare for the next game."
Here are the match highlights:
What did you think of the match? Can Philadelphia still sneak into the playoffs, or did the result take them out of the running? Was a draw a good enough result for Salt Lake against a team much lower in the standings?
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