Union take heart from scoreless tie with Whitecaps

is stymied by Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath in the 0-0 tie with the Whitecaps at PPL Park in Chester. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer
is stymied by Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath in the 0-0 tie with the Whitecaps at PPL Park in Chester. RON CORTES / Staff Photographer (Vancouver's Sebastien Le Toux)
Posted: April 01, 2012

No, the Union didn't get the goal they were trying so desperately to score and thus didn't enact total revenge on their former player whose homecoming had been the story line all week.

Yet they got something that was desperately needed - some renewed confidence, along with their first point in the standings after Saturday's Major League Soccer scoreless draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps before 17,189 at frigid PPL Park in Chester.

The Union are now 0-3-1 while the Whitecaps, the only MLS team that has yet to surrender a goal, is 2-0-2.

Finally getting a point has taken the first load of stress off the team.

"Overall, we progressed, and that is not going to stop," Union team manager Peter Nowak said.

The scriptwriter couldn't have penned a more appropriate ending, in which former Union forward Sebastien Le Toux had the chance to win the game with a golden scoring chance in the 83d minute.

Le Toux, a one-time all-star and 25-goal scorer in his two seasons with the Union, was all alone inside the box when he received a pass. Never mind that the Union thought he was offsides.

From 12 yards out, Le Toux shot it high and wide past a diving keeper Zac MacMath, who did an excellent job coming out to cut off his shooting angle.

"I am disappointed with myself," Le Toux said. "I didn't do a good job and I rushed my shot."

MacMath made him rush by coming off his line.

"I came out aggressively to close his angle down and make him nervous on the ball, and it made him miss," MacMath said.

Captain Danny Califf returned after sitting out the last two games. Nowak said he wanted Califf to strengthen his knee. Califf seemed to feel he was ready to play, but that's in the past.

He is among the strongest players in the air, and his presence was huge as he stabilized the back line.

"Danny played great," Nowak said.

So did Gabe Farfan, who played both in the midfield and later in the back. Farfan brought a level of energy and toughness that was desperately needed.

Also playing a strong game was midfielder Keon Daniel.

With Daniel leading the way, the Union got the much better of play in the second half.

Early in the second half, in the 47th minute, defender Carlos Valdes hit the post from close range.

Two minutes later, Brian Carroll's rolling one-timer was stopped by diving Vancouver keeper Joe Cannon at the far post. Carroll didn't get much on the shot, giving the Whitecaps keeper time to react.

"I didn't get enough on it and should have taken a touch and put it away," Carroll said.

The Union's Daniel had a great chance in the 71st minute when he burst in on goal, but at the last second former Union defender Jordan Harvey was able to knock him off stride and he lost his dribble.

In the 76th minute Califf headed a Daniel corner kick wide.

The Union didn't lack chances, especially in the second half.

"I think we can build on this performance," Carroll said.

While the Union were encouraged, the offense is still very much a work in progress. The Union have now scored just two goals in the first four games.

Now the Union have two weeks off before hosting the Columbus Crew on April 14.

Nowak joked that the team needed a few days off to get away from the coach.

Most of all he hopes that the modest one point earned will be a start in the right direction.

"I think we're in a good way right now," Nowak said. "We have a couple of weeks to polish things and I think we're going to be more efficient."

Contact Marc Narducci at 856,779-3225, mnarducci@phillynews.com or on Twitter @sjnard.


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