[MLS] Not much went right for Philadelphia in its league debut, from the absence of playmaker Fred to a steady rain that slickened the FieldTurf at Qwest Field followed by a first-half red card, so a 2-0 defeat to Seattle Thursday can’t be construed as a total loss.
Yet Philly got right into the game, getting a few half-looks at goal in the first 10 minutes while trying to contain a robust Steve Zakuani working the flanks and Osvaldo Alonso reigning supreme in midfield.
In his rookie season, Zakuani scorched defenders by speed; in his first sophomore appearance, he muscled his way into good positions, and so frustrated Union right back Dave Myrie that the young Costa Rican flattened him with a forearm to the torso that earned Myrie a caution.
Union coach Peter Nowak chose to deploy defender Michael Orozco in midfield and holding mid Toni Stahl at center back, a tactic that seemed to confuse Seattle in the early going. However, the alignment didn’t give much support for Alejandro Moreno, who seldom found the right starting spot to reach balls and moves orchestrated by teenager Roger Torres, a poised and talented 18-year-old not all fazed by MLS oppositions or wet synthetic turf.
A few players more experienced than Torres fared poorly. Former Rapids left back Jordan Harvey failed to clear the goalmouth on Seattle’s second goal, which Fredy Montero – who would have been offside had Harvey hustled -- scored with a diving, redirected header of Alonso’s bouncing shot off a Chris Seitz punched clearance. Moreno struggled to threaten the Sounders’ central defense, where Jhon Kennedy Hurtado’s decisive tackles throttled the Union’s attack after Brad Evans scored the opening goal.
An overlapping run up the left wing by Zakuani chased down a ball from Montero, and both Torres and Myrie were beaten as Zakuani’s cut-back ball ran for Evans to drill first-time under keeper Chris Seitz in the 12th minute. Freddie Ljungberg had started the play from the opposite flank, and skated laterally across the field to start the scoring sequence. Union center mid Andrew Jacobson (ex-D.C. United) played a fairly strong game overall but on this occasion failed to check Ljungberg’s dribble, and Torres took himself out of the play by running into Montero as the ball ran for Zakuani.
Ex-Sounder Sebastian LeToux, who played two USL seasons for Seattle as well as the remarkable 2009 expansion year, effectively used his touches on the right flank, and on a few occasions played crisp combinations with Torres. Rookie Danny Mwanga, the No. 1 pick in this year’s SuperDraft, labored for most of the night, and completely disappeared after Stahl clumsily kneed Montero in the back and went off with his second caution five minutes before halftime.
Montero’s goal came right before halftime yet the Union came out sharp for the second half, buoyed somewhat by the insertion of Stefani Miglioranzi for Mwanga. The brief Philly flurry soon faded, yet in his few minutes as a sub 17-year-old forward Jack McInerney got right down to the business of getting a goal.