Two Real Salt Lake leads were met with comebacks from Philadelphia, with the goal-scoring homecoming of Lancaster, Penn., native Andrew Wenger pushed off the headlines after a pair late goals. Despite falling behind late after Kyle Beckerman’s 85th minute goal, Maurice Edu’s second goal of the year brought Philadelphia even just before stoppage time, giving the Union a 2-2 result against the defending Western Conference champions at PPL Park.
In a well-played, balanced affair contested by two talented midfields, Real Salt Lake went up early thanks to another Union defender’s mistake. Austin Berry, returning to Jack Hackworth’s starting XI, took down Olmes Garcia near the top of the Philadelphia penalty area in the fifth minute, with Zac MacMath’s subsequent save on Álvario Saborío going for naught when Luke Mulholland slammed home the rebound.
A nice piece of control in the 55th minute from Wenger allowed him to slide home Vincent Nogueira’s cross, though Beckerman restored RSL’s lead 30 minutes later. Near full time, a corner from substitute Cristián “Chaco” Maidana found Edu in the middle of the box, with the U.S. international’s second converted corner of the season allowing the Union to claim a result.
Though they gave up two leads, Real Salt Lake remains undefeated, albeit with four draws (2-0-4). It’s a statistic the team shares with Philadelphia (1-1-4), but whereas Saturday’s game was the latest in what’s been a good start for RSL, the Union’s represented a bounce back from disappointment. Last week’s 2-2 in Chicago was a far less convincing performance.
So early into their makeover, however, the Union can still take solace in those of silver linings. The team was outshot in terms of attempts on target (7-2), but the possession number reflects a game that was played more on Philadelphia’s terms: 55-45 to the Union. While much of that is due to game state (RSL was up most of the afternoon), total shots help round out Saturday’s reality. While the Union had trouble getting theirs on target (a problem throughout the season), they attempted 13 shots, the same number as RSL.
Nobody’s really expecting Philadelphia to complete with the likes of Real Salt Lake right now, but the fact that it can hold tight and come back twice against a perennial power is reassuring. Instead of the game in Bridgeview, Ill., proving an omen, it may be an outlier. Philadelphia may truly be good.
If it is, it only makes RSL’s start look more difficult. LA to open the season. Then at San Jose before returning home to face LA, again. Toronto at home, Sporting on the road, then to Philadelphia – when does RSL get Chivas USA? Or one of those teams struggling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference? When does their schedule even out?
In that sense, a 2-0-4 record isn’t bad. In fact, it’s probably not any more or less than you’d expect. Swap the two LA results, and the season’s first six games would have gone exactly as Jeff Cassar would have hoped: Take points at home; hold serve on the road.