Union look to build on solid opener

Union midfielder Maurice Edu chases the ball towards the goal past Timbers midfielder Diego Chara and defender Pa Modou Kah during the first half. (Don Ryan/AP)
Union midfielder Maurice Edu chases the ball towards the goal past Timbers midfielder Diego Chara and defender Pa Modou Kah during the first half. (Don Ryan/AP) (AP)
Posted: March 15, 2014

Every time John Hackworth rolls back the tape - and the tone of his voice suggests he's done it too many times this week - he notices the little things.

What the Union manager sees in those final, chaotic moments of a 1-1 draw at Portland changed a result that is great on paper to one he can still hardly swallow.

The Union were moments away from defeating last year's Western Conference finalist in their cauldron of a stadium. A Portland player took a quick corner kick before either side was ready for the restart.

A fortunate deflection and a header later and the game was tied in the 94th minute.

Will the Union improve off their 90-plus minutes of solid soccer or let a few seconds of disorganization and mental errors spoil the whole thing? That's the question the club carries into its home opener Saturday at PPL Park against the New England Revolution.

"We have to . . . make sure we continue to build on the performance, number one, but more importantly, have a better mentality about finishing the game out," Hackworth said. "We're anxious to get out there and make sure we're learning from our mistakes."

There was much to like about the way the Union played on Saturday in a stadium where Portland lost just once in 17 regular-season games last year.

Striker Jack McInerney, who endured a three-month long slump last season, scored in his first game. Hackworth said McInerney "needed to start that way."

Perhaps even more optimistically, the Union's offseason additions in the midfield played to their considerable promise.

Cristian Maidana and Vincent Nogueira both played well in the opener, with Maidana assisting on McInerney's goal. Along with Maurice Edu, they form a rebuilt midfield, and what Hackworth hopes is a more fluid and creative attack.

"We spent six weeks really trying to prepare this team to play a certain way, and really, in all aspects of the game, get those guys on the same page. Against a good opponent . . . in an environment that was amazing, you saw . . . it looked like we were a team," Hackworth said.

"It wasn't perfect, but it was a good starting point."

More help may be on the way. Forward Conor Casey resumed training this week, and the Union are hopeful he can play Saturday.

Injured defender Sheanon Williams didn't train and won't be available.

Hackworth said he's likely to return "sooner than later."

Unlike the Union, New England could draw nothing positive from its opener. The Revolution lost, 4-0, in Houston.

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