The Philadelphia Union were expecting to continue a run of strong games with good results, but instead some questionable coaching moves lead toward a 1-0 loss against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Head coach Piotr Nowak decided to start newly signed Serbian striker and central attacking midfielder Veljko Paunovic, along with much maligned midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi. The Union started Miglioranzi alongside fellow defensive (or holding) midfielder Brian Carroll, the first time since the Union's recent return to offensive form that two defensive midfielders lined up with one another. Danny Mwanga, the Union's leading scorer this season, sat on the bench, as did exciting rookie midfielder Michael Farfan. Last week's her Keon Daniel, who gave the Union an 1-0 lead against Real Salt Lake, also was on the bench at the beginning of the game.
A dismal first half for the Union was the result of almost complete domination by the Whitecaps. Despite holding 52% of the possession, the Union failed to capitalize on any runs of play that they put together. Carroll had the only real opportunity on goal, striking from distance. His shot landed safety in Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon's arms. The Whitecaps, however, took advantage of some nice possession and passing around minute 12 and left back Alain Rochat's rocket of a shot nearly went upper 90 on Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon. The outside of the foot shot seemed to nick the turf enough to bend the ball so that Mondragon could only get his fingertips on it.
Paunovic, who had been retired for two and a half years before signing with the Union, was subbed out of the game in the 59th minute. He did not make much impact on the game and looked out of his depth at times. Miglioranzi was also substituted out of the game in the early second half. On came Mwanga and Farfan.
Even with those two moves the Union saw little change in the flow of the game. Mwanga saw a cross that came off of a run made all by himself land at a defender's feet. Le Toux couldn't sniff the goal. Farfan found no help trying to move up the left side. Justin Mapp lost the ability to make runs that he had done early into the first half. Other than Carroll, every player outside of the defense and Mondragon failed to make any impression upon the match.
There were two moments for the rest of the game that really had any life to them. Mondragon rushed out of his area to attempt to clear a long through ball, but failed to make it in time. He chose to fight with the Whitecaps player who also made it to the ball, losing out in the end. Vancouver, however, could not capitalize on that opportunity to double their lead. The second moment was in the last minute or so of the second half, when the Union finally found offensive life. That too came to nothing.
Coming back to Philadelphia, the Union face Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday at 7 pm.