CHESTER, Pa. -- For the last three games, the Unions offensive issues were temporarily ignored in favor of the teams impressive franchise record shutout streak.
On Saturday night at PPL Park, facing Western Conference powerhouse San Jose Earthquakes, that streak ended in a big way, as the 'Quakes' Steven Lenhart scored twice in the final 15 minutes to give his team the stunning 2-1 win.
The loss broke a two-game winning streak for the Union, who are now 2-4-1 on the season and 1-2-1 at PPL Park.
The Unions shutout streak lasted 407 minutes and the better part of four games, before Lenhart, in the 76th minute, found net on an in-box cross from Marvin Chavez.
Finding a ray of hope just minutes later, the Union tied the contest as their leading scorer Gabriel Gomez received a pass in space from Danny Mwanga. Aiming his shot to the left, Gomez fired off a low liner that beat an outstretched Jon Busch.
But the joy didn't last.
The referees showed the Union mercy in the 89th minute, disallowing a 'Quakes goal on a controversial offsides call on Ike Opara. However, the visitors kept pressing and shocked the Union in stoppage time, when Lenhart bodied home another pass from Chavez for the game-winner.
Although the loss was riddled with disappointed, one bright spot was the play of rookie goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who battled throughout. Putting MacMath on display, the Union got their first test from the 'Quakes offense in the sixth minute, when a threaded back pass landed at the foot of Rafael Baca at the top of the Union box. Ripping a shot low and to the left side, Bacas attempt was turned away by a diving MacMath to temporarily preserve his teams three-game shutout streak.
MacMath pulled out another key save in the 12th minute off a Khari Stephenson shot to keep the Union away from an early deficit, while adding yet another in the 45th minute to keep the game scoreless at half.
The scoreless stanza came without much fuss by the Union, whose lone chance of the opening half came from Michael Farfan in the 30th minute, when he gathered a ball and lofted a shot that beat Busch but bounced off the crossbar. It wasnt much, but a minor sign of life from a previously tentative offense.
The momentum led the Union into earning a second corner and free kick in the 34th and 37th minute. Both were taken by Freddy Adu and both were defended with ease.
Making his Union debut after being acquired on transfer, Kai Herdling, in for red-card suspension Keon Daniel, nearly made his start a memorable one in the 54th minute. On the receiving end of a corner from Adu, the former German First Division attacker headed the ball just wide of the goal. Herdling was replaced by Jack McInerney after 62 minutes of respectable play from the newcomer.
(more coming...)E-mail Ryan Bright at firstname.lastname@example.org