Union fall to San Jose Earthquakes

The Union's Cristian Arrieta bicycle-kicks the ball in front of San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski during the first half. The Union fell to 3-8-2 with a 2-1 loss to the Earthquakes.
The Union's Cristian Arrieta bicycle-kicks the ball in front of San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski during the first half. The Union fell to 3-8-2 with a 2-1 loss to the Earthquakes.
Posted: July 11, 2010

A new stadium ushered in a sense of rebirth to a Union team that had struggled the way most teams do in their inaugural season. They rallied to win their first match at PPL Park and followed that with a tie on the road against Chivas USA.

Yet with one left-footed kick in the 90th minute, the visiting San Jose Earthquakes essentially closed the chapter on the honeymoon phase of the Union's new home, sending them off with a 2-1 loss Saturday night before a crowd of 17,183.

Despite faltering late, the Union had a couple of chances down the stretch to redeem themselves, of at least sending their fans off with a consolation gift of sorts by gaining a tie. Even one point in the standings would have been welcomed, with the Union (3-8-2) having only 11 points.

With the score knotted at 1, San Jose's Arturo Alvarez dribbled down the middle, trying to attack the goal with Jordan Harvey back-pedaling, trying to mark him. Undaunted, Alvarez persisted and fired off a shot toward the left side of the goal from 10 yards out that barely eluded the extended hands of diving goalie Chris Seitz.

The play highlighted a glaring statistic.

The Earthquakes (6-4-4) had just one shot on goal in the first half, and they converted. In the second half, they fired off two and converted the second. It took San Jose just three shots on goal to win, and the Union fired off 10, eight in the second half.

"That's soccer," Seitz said. "Sometimes you dominate a game like that, [but] we could have played another half-hour and I don't know if we would have scored again. For us, it's a little bit of focus and it's a little bit of luck, and luck wasn't on our side."

The Union have played the fewest matches of any club in MLS, with nine of the first 12 coming on the road. The Union can take solace in knowing they have a four-match homestand - including six of the next seven league matches at home - even though the first one, on Saturday, didn't result in a win.

Union fans had several reasons to feel optimistic entering Saturday's match - the club was one of only four unbeaten at home. Then midfielder Fred scored from about five yards out in the 14th minute after Danny Mwanga delivered a length-of-the-field assist.

But a one-goal lead was reduced to a tie at halftime, and that's one of the points that Union team manager Peter Nowak brought up in his postmatch interview.

The team has allowed goals late in halves, and that's the way matters played out Saturday, with San Jose scoring in the 45th and 90th minutes.

"They played well," Nowak said of his team. "It's just they stopped defensively as a team, as a unit, as a group, and we need to make sure nothing like that will happen again."

Asked why the Union have faltered that way, Seitz said, "I don't really know what it is. I think we need to go back and look at film. I don't know if people are turning off or what it is. Obviously in the 90th minute, we're not a team at home that's going to push for a tie. . . .

"It's about taking chances, and if you push guys forward, you're going to leave guys open in the back. And it's a risk that we're going to take at home and try to get a win."

The Union next will play host to Celtic FC in a friendly.

"We're two games in here and it's still got the new smell," Seitz said, "so we're looking to break it in a bit and look forward to Wednesday."

Contact staff writer Mario Aguirre at 215-854-4550 or maguirre@phillynews.com.

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