For the first hour of Wednesday's game at PPL Park, the Union went blow-for-blow with the two-time reigning MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy.
But by the end of the night, there was no question as to which team was better.
As the Union grew tired, Landon Donovan never wavered. With speculation rampant about his national team future, Donovan delivered three goals and an assist in L.A.'s 4-1 rout.
Was Jurgen Klinsmann watching? Who knows. Plenty of other people were, though:
Early on, it seemed that Kléberson would take the headlines. The Brazilian delivered a fine performance in his first start for the Union.
It's no coincidence that his teammates looked better too, especially Keon Daniel and Brian Carroll. Finally, the Union had a player in the center of midfield who could truly keep possession of the ball and dictate the flow of the attack.
Donovan's performance was impossible to ignore, though. When the game was over, I couldn't help but head to the Galaxy's locker room to get his thoughts on that command performance.
On his own performance:
Well, it always feels good to play well. Tonight I felt like I was back to my old self in all ways. The goal was nice, but I think just being aggressive and running at people and making a difference in that way felt like the old me, and it was nice to play that way again.
We did a poor job after our goal. They came with a lot of pressure, and for about 20 minutes put us under a lot of pressure. We withstood it a little bit, but then they got the equalizer. There was kind of not a whole lot in it for the rest of the half. And then our second half was really good.
On whether his performance may have sent a message to U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann:
I'm just trying to play well. I can't control what else happens. My job is to play well. I want to play well, and I want to use this and continue to play well. That's all I can control.
On whether observers should take anything from putting in a performance like this in the midst of much public speculation about his national team future:
Whatever people want to take from it, they take form it. I wanted to play better than I have the last few weeks, and tonight I really felt like I was my old self again.
I felt like the confidence was back – obviously hitting the net helped, but I think everything just came together tonight, but I think this will be more the norm going forward.
On whether that confidence was lacking before this game:
Yeah. When you miss a couple penalties, that can hurt the confidence. I've had some chances where I could have done a better job and probably scored. I had some chances where I could have run at people and been more aggressive.
Today I just said, you know what, if I make mistakes, I'm going to make aggressive mistakes. It wasn't perfect, but I certainly created a lot more chances tonight than I had in the previous two games.
On what turned the game around in the second half:
I thought we were okay in stretches for the first half. We felt like there was a lot of space and we were going to get a lot of chances, but we needed to be a little better collectively when we defended.
I thought we did better at that in the second half, and as they got tired, I think we really opened them up and our passing was good. And we were a little more clinical, which made a difference.
On his combination play with Robbie Keane:
Well, you have to remember that he's been off for three weeks. He came right back in and it was seamless. Having Todd [Dunivant] back helped a lot, at left back.
I think our passing was really good, and we were just really clinical when we got our chances. That's what Robbie does – he makes good passes and when he gets a chance to score, he scores. That makes it easier on all of us.
On the Galaxy's depth in attack, and how much that helps when the team plays three road games in just over a week:
Not just attacking-wise. We've got depth all over the field. That really helps. It's a credit to Bruce [Arena] and how he's put together this roster. We knew we were going to have a lot of games this year, probably more than most teams. You have to have a group of 25 to 30 guys who can play.
We're very blessed with the attacking talent that we have. If Robbie or myself can't play, other guys are hungry and ready to play. Those kids would probably start for a lot of teams in this league.
On getting such a decisive win after losing at Vancouver on Saturday and making the cross-country trip for a midweek game:
Well, we didn't play that badly in Vancouver, first of all, just to let you know. But it wasn't good enough for three points, for sure. A little bit better tonight, not great. I thought we were unbelievably sloppy in the first half, and still sloppy at times in the second half.
But obviously, some good goals, A little bit better performance, better concentration in the second half. We'll take the three points, but we certainly realize we've got to keep getting this team better.
On Landon Donovan coming into form:
My suspicion is that he's a very good player, and that it's just a matter of time where he's going to get his touch back, his confidence, his fitness on a more consistent basis. We'd like to believe that perhaps that's starting now.
On the high tempo of Donovan's performance:
His second half was real good. I thought he got a little tired in the first half, which is natural in these second games [in quick succession], but I thought his second half was spectacular.
On having Robbie Keane back:
Robbie's a great player – what more can you say? He makes us look real good. He was pretty good tonight, and I'm surprised he got through 90 minutes.
We thought we were going to have to take him out at around the 75-minute mark, but we had to keep him on the field, and he hung in there and did a good job toward the end as well.
On taking out starting left back Todd Dunivant in the 81st minute:
Yeah, he was dead. He needed to come out. His legs were shot. You can get away with it when one of your strikers is a little tired, but your back line has got to be a little bit more solid. So I think a change was good there.
On his team's depth, especially forwards Gyasi Zardes and Charlie Rugg, and how much that helps on this road trip:
Well, they've played a little bit. The minutes between those two maybe don't add up to 120 yet. But they're players with a lot of potential, and we've got to find the right ways to move them along so that they can be productive for us.
Ridiculous. What more can I say? We're the premier club in the country, and we're being shuffled off like that again. They're basically telling us the Open Cup is not important when they do things like that. It's really ridiculous. But it's life, what are you going to do?
They've got to figure out how to get it regionalized. Trips across the country midweek after a Sunday night game don't wory. It doesn't make any sense, it really doesn't in my opinion. I know someone has to do it, but it's odd that we're doing it every year. It's stupid.
And they want the U.S. Open Cup to mean more? The premier clubs in the country can't be shuffled around like that for an amateur team. That's life.
On what he has been able to bring to playing with the Galaxy from his experience with the United States Under-20 national team:
I'm just trying to work my hardest out there on the field, and just do what a young kid does: run around and challenge the older guys, and make it a nightmare out there on the field.
It's good to get experience with the U-20s at international level and bring it here with the club. It definitely gives you more confidence when you step on the pitch.
I talk to Luis [Gil of Real Salt Lake] a lot, and he's obviously one of the leaders for the U-20s. It's good to have him there. He has a lot of experience playing with the first team at Real Salt Lake, and when he brings it down to the U-20s, it just makes everyone a lot better. That's the type of player we need.
On Landon Donovan's performance:
We've been waiting for that Landon to come back. It's good to have him back and scoring a goal. We missed that guy. It's good to have that Landon back from last year.
On why the team has played well on the road, but has dropped a lot of points at home:
I think our mentality might be a little tougher on the road. We are trying to push things at home. Certainly, that game opened up a lot and that hasn't been something we have been good at. You keep a little tighter on the road.
We played probably the best 40 minutes we have played in that first half. I think we had the two-time defending champions on the ropes in a big way. We've just got to be able to sustain that.
On seeing the best and worst of Zac MacMath, and whether that is just because he is a young goalkeeper:
I think it's part of it and I think - I don't want to fault Zac too much for that game. The first goal, should he have done better? Probably, but he has got Omar González and [Bakary] Soumaré right in front of him.
I'll talk to him, we will look at video and we will see what happened. I don't think he saw [the play unfolding]. Literally I think it comes off his shoulder and his face. It's tough to deal with those guys and they are good that way.
He kept us in the game with a couple of good saves when it was still 1-1, and that is all you can ask. I don't fault him for the rest of it.
On his team appearing to have run out of gas in the second half:
I don't want to use that as an excuse, because I don't think our fitness is a problem. I certainly think that there were some lapses there, and I think that we made some glaring errors defensively as a group. You have to correct those. I am going to go back to the tape and try to evaluate all of that.
On the attacking substitutions in the second half that seemed to change the team's formation to a 4-3-3, and how much that affected the outcome of the game:
We didn't switch to a 4-3-3. We just straight swapped Antoine [Hoppenot] to play on the right side for [Danny] Cruz, so we were still playing a 4-4-2. That turned out not to be such a good swap in reality. Not because of Antoine, but we probably should have done something a little differently. I will take full responsibility for that one.
On going up against Landon Donovan when he's playing that well:
It was good. He's still rounding into form. I don't think we've seen the best of him yet. We kind of gave him a lot of time in the midfield, and he was finding those pockets underneath. If you give him time, he's going to punish you, and that's what he did today.
On whether the team can take confidence from the times when it played well in the game, despite the lopsided final score:
Yeah. They are the two-time defending champs, so the fact that we stayed with them in the first half, we did well. We kind of got away from our game plan in the second half, and if you do that, you get punished.
On the goal he scored, and how he saw it come together:
We know that when Sheanon's going to throw [the ball in], it's almost like a corner kick. Once I got free, the ball was coming to me and I just put it in. It was a great throw – he just put it right on my head.
On speculation that he might get called up to the U.S. national team this summer, and whether he has heard from Jurgen Klinsmann or anyone else on the national team coaching staff:
Oh, no. I'm just focused on the task at hand. I'll just let coach Hack and my agent – my dad – and my parents decide that. Hopefully I can get a call-up, but we need to be better here for us to get noticed.