Marco Di Vaio had been kept quiet for 80 minutes in Philadelphia, the returning Impact striker failing to register a shot on target in his first action of the Major League Soccer season. Despite some curious positioning from Zac MacMath giving him two looks at empty goals, the 37-year-old star had failed to get his team on the scoreboard, with a first half goal from Vincent Nogueira putting the Union on track for its second win of the season. Di Vaio’s mid-week warnings that he would not be a savior were starting to look prescient.
With one bending shot in the 80th minute, however, Di Vaio made a liar of himself. After a long, rolled pass from Justin Mapp found his striker toward the left flank, Di Vaio backed defender Amobi Okugo into the middle of the area. Given enough room to pick out MacMath’s upper right hand corner, Di Vaio’s first shot on target gave his team a 1-1 draw.
It was a lesson for the young Philadelphia defender, whose decision to give Di Vaio (right) so much room was difficult to fathom. Working in the left of the penalty area, Di Vaio was given enough room to get a shot off with either foot, with Okugo seemingly playing a potential square ball (or, cutback). With a quick step into a right-footed attempt, Di Vaio picked out the far corner, the curl he put on his shot giving the keeper no chance to preserve the lead.
Given that was Montréal’s first shot on goal of the day, the result will be a disappointing one for the Union, but having scored exactly one goal in each of their four games this season, the final was a reminder: Possession isn’t enough. As they did in their previous home game against New England, the Union controlled play, with the work of Maurice Edu, Nogueira, and Brian Carroll leading to 58 percent of the ball on Saturday. But whereas a first half chance for Diego Fagundez almost saw John Hackworth’s team drop points two weeks go, Montréal’s single good look at PPL allowed it to leave with a draw. Philadelphia left themselves vulnerable.
The obvious answer: The Union need to find more goals. They need their quality in the final third to approach their play in the middle. They need one of Jack McInerney, Antoine Hoppenot, or Conor Casey to start producing goals.
That’s easier said than done. Casey just returned from injury today and appears to be a poor fit for Philadelphia’s new style. Hoppenot has never shown the quality that would justify a regular starting role, yet he’s been slightly better for the last eight months than McInerney, whose reputation continues to rest on the hot stretch he had to start last season.
On Saturday, Philadelphia had everything put a striker, something that limited them to one goal. Their visitors had little more than their striker, allowing Marco Di Vaio to steal a result from PPL.