Quakes 4-Game Win Streak Ends At Hands Of MLS Cellar-Dwellers
In a league ruled by parity (and the sometimes arbitrary whims of its commissioner), a four-game win streak over some of the élite sides in MLS could only end at home to a thoroughly mediocre Philadelphia Union, 2-1, via a game characterized by a worrying lack of quality in possession and uncharacteristically shaky defending.
The visitors came out in a deep shell, with both sides preferring to push their possession up the pitch quickly rather than build deliberately. As such, much of the first half was a nearly unwatchable affair, with only speculative passes attempting to punch through or over each other's back lines.
Fatai Alashe's return from injury did help keep pressure off of the back line in the absence of newfound defensive midfield star Anibal Godoy, and Matias Perez-Garcia's own return from the starting lineup brought with it some of his characertistic quality and energy, but neither man's contributions added up to much. In fact, the visiting tandem of Tranquilo Barnetta and CJ Sapong looked like the best pairing on the pitch, probing for space and creating trouble for the Quakes back line.
The game's turning point came not from a goal or a card, but with an injury when Victor Bernardez landed awkwardly on his right leg and appeared to pull that hamstring. He was pulled off in the 39th minute for JJ Koval, a sometimes-defender who gives away about two inches and a decade of experience to the Honduran.
Without any meaningful chances going either way, the sides went into the break in which Quakes legend Ramiro Corrales was honored and inducted into the team's hall-of-fame on a day that the team could've used the old skipper in its back line.
The first chance came right off the second half whistle, with Clarence Goodson nodding towards goal and Union keeper John McCarthy not able to clear convincingly, with Quincy Amarikwa hooking a finish just barely off the bar from a position that was later ruled offsides. Ten minutes later, Perez-Garcia whipped in a nice corner and Chris Wondolowski directed it on goal only to be blocked by his own man.
The Union almost went on the board themselves in the 58th when Quakes keeper David Bingham cut down an attacker going for the ball, yet referee Ismail Elfath waved away the appeals and play went on.
Then, out of nowhere, the hosts won a fortunate penalty off a murky handball, and Wondolowski cooly converted the spot kick in the 64th. That put the Quakes up 1-0 and within sight of their fifth consecutive win.
Ten minutes later, the dynamic shifted just as dramatically back when Raymon Gaddis hit a "one in a million ball" (according to Goodson) in between the Quakes center halves that substitute Conor Casey nodded home past a hopeless David Bingham and into the back of the net for the equilizer in the 74th.
With almost no meaningful intervening action, the Union would go ahead in the 86th off a set piece, a rare form of concession for the Quakes this season, when Tranquilo Barnetta's excellent service caught the opposing back line napping and Casey nodded home his second of the game and just his third of the season to put the visitors up 2-1.
In a game where chances were already at a premium, there was no Goonie Magic to be mustered, and the Union suffocated any incipient attacks down the stretch to a whistle that was greated by some half-hearted boos by those in attendance.
- The home locker room was under no illusions about the quality of their play on the night and did not seem to feel they deserved to win. "It was a bad game," said Clarence Goodson. "To think we should've won is bogus."
- Dominic Kinnear blamed the goals on turnovers in bad positions that led to pressure, with the second one also being down to poor marking.
- He also suggested that Paulo Renato was not an option to fill in for Victor Bernardez, answering the possibility with "Paulo....probably not." No explanation has been given for his absence from the team since the Vancouver match last month, but if Bernardez is gone that gives the team just three recognized defenders that are healthy.
- This team clearly missed Anibal Godoy, but it seemed like more than just a few of them had a poor match. Cato and Salinas were quiet from the wings, Wondo was ineffectual, Koval was shaky at the back, and neither Shaun Francis nor Marvell Wynne offered any quality going forward. Sometimes in a sport as collective as soccer, just a few cogs being out of sync can throw the entire system into a mess, and that's what this game felt like.