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Match report: RSL 2-1 Union

Two goals in the first 26 minutes from Real Salt Lake sealed a home win over the Philadelphia Union at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.

Sebastien Le Toux’s fine volleyed strike in the 30th minute was only half what the Union needed as they fell to another Western Conference opponent on the road.

The match was falling into a recognizable midfield scuffle when Real Salt Lake capitalized on two corner kicks to break the game open.

Real break it open

In the 18th minute, Kyle Beckerman received a short corner to the left of the box. He rounded Michael Farfan and hit a stinger into the far netting while moving laterally. While Farfan looked at fault, the play was more a harbinger of the Union’s passive pressure in the final third, with the midfield unable to coalesce once their initial shape was broken.

Only six minutes later, the Union defense was again broken when Beckerman’s corner kick found Chris Schuler in the center of the box. The big center back, filling in for the suspended Nat Borchers, powered his header beyond Faryd Mondragon.

It was a stunning turn of events for the Union, who had hoped to come out of their two-week hiatus with a bang. Instead, Kyle Beckerman, who received special permission to show up late for national team duty in order to face Philly, had stomped all over the Union within half an hour.

Le Toux responds

The team needed their veterans to answer the bell. Justin Mapp found space down the left in the 30th minute and curled a wonderful cross onto Sebastien Le Toux’s right foot. The striker-cum-midfielder struck a low, bouncing volley that deflected of a sprawled Nick Rimando and into the net.

Le Toux did not celebrate his first goal in open play this year, he simply gathered the ball and returned to his position. The Union, it seemed, had decided to get serious.

And while the offense remained uncoordinated, the energy levels certainly rose. Amobi Okugo and Kyle Nakazawa had been as industrious as they were invisible in the first half hour, but they began to make their presence felt as the Union fought their way back from the brink.

Beckerman and Espindola run rampant

But no changes in tactics or energy could solve Fabian Espindola and Beckerman. Running at the defense with confidence and trickery, Espindola made incursions into the final third with regularity, while Beckerman sat in pockets behind Andy Williams and Luis Gil and sent the ball wide.

In the 35th minute, Robbie Russell finished Justin Mapp after the play and received a yellow card. It was indicative of Real Salt Lake’s emphasis on physical play, although Russell’s was an extreme example and the match was mostly on the level.

As the half wore down, Mondragon was forced into a number of saves. The most difficult was deflecting a goal-bound header from the six out of the frame.

MacMath’s first action

At halftime, it was announced that The Dragon could not continue and young Zac MacMath would see his first MLS action.

MacMath didn’t have long to compose himself, as Paulo Jr. cut in from the left and fired a stinger into the Maryland product’s mitts. Remaining composed, the only nerves MacMath showed were in his aimless punts.

Fabian Espindola offered MacMath his biggest test. In the best second half opportunity for either team, Espindola broke through the middle unmarked. With Califf, Miglioranzi and Okugo trailing, he tried to round MacMath, but the big goalie got down to disrupt. The ball fell back to Espindola but his hurried shot was cleared off the line by Califf.

Adu and Torres fail to make impact

Freddy Adu and Roger Torres were introduced later in the second half, with Kyle Nakazawa and Justin Mapp making way. Neither sub made much of a mark, and Nakazawa’s whipped dead balls were sorely missed, although in truth, there was no one attacking the space behind the defense anyway.

Adu was often caught in possession or unable to find space, while Torres’ could not, as he has done at times this season, make the match his own.

After another close defeat, the Union are left to sort out their set pieces. On both offense and defense, Philadelphia was overmatched and outmuscled. They will look to improve on Wednesday night against New England at PPL Park.

9 Comments

  1. No mention of Mapp’s huge miss? He needs to be more clinical and finish his chances. With only Rimando to beat from 8 yards out he passes the ball straight to the grateful keeper. We shoulda walk out of Rio Tinto with a tie.

  2. Well lets see, with a makeshift back four we conceded two goals from set pieces, no shock there then. Surely the last place we need a converted midfielder and little or no coverage against injury has to be the back four.

  3. No mention of you guys schooling SBI on Twitter?

  4. Almost as good as Nowak schooling G Wahl.

  5. PhillyHotspur says:

    At the end of the day, a probably fair result……

    Brilliant pass by Mapp but makes a complete mess of two other opportunities especially on the one he simply had to lay off a pass to DannyBoy……frustrating.

    And Okugo was pretty poor all game………….we need Carroll back asap

    And how about giving Adu a start so he can get into the game and gain some momentum……outside of set pieces, he clearly has more to offer creatively then Naka………….

    Lastly….For all the good that Williams has done all year, he has been responsible for at least 3 goals on set pieces and losing his man…………he needs to focus better. plain and simple

    A must win on wednesday and really 6 points that need to happen over the next week to have a chance at the top 3

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