Considering the opponent on Saturday, the Union played one of the most impressive first halves in their brief existence. One scoring chance came after another as the pressure they applied on Real Salt Lake's defense was as suffocating as the weather.

Both sides acknowledged that the Union could have had a sizable lead at intermission instead of a 1-0 edge.

The Union paid for their inability to put away Real Salt Lake in the first 45 minutes, settling for a 1-1 draw in a Major League Soccer game in front of a sellout crowd of 18,728 at PPL Park in Chester.

"We definitely had the chances," said Union forward Sebastien Le Toux, whose team is tied for first place (with a game in hand) in the Eastern Conference with the New York Red Bulls.

In only their second season, the Union (6-3-4) were frustrated by earning just a tie against one of the top MLS teams, albeit one that has been playing shorthanded because of injuries and national team duties.

"It's as good a half as we played, and it's disappointing not to have had three in the back of the net in the first 30 minutes," said Union defender Sheanon Williams.

Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis didn't mince words when describing the opening effort of his team, which is 6-3-3.

"We were pretty abysmal in the first half," Kreis said. "We weren't fighting enough, we didn't have that competitive spirit, we were second to everything."

Real managed just one shot in the first half, while the defense was constantly playing on its heels.

Shortly after a goal by Le Toux was nullified by an offside call, the Union took a 1-0 lead when Keon Daniel headed in a Michael Farfan cross for his first MLS goal in the 24th minute.

"I made a run and got it over the first defender, and Keon did a great job," Farfan said.

Daniel felt relieved.

"It eases my mind to get on the score sheet, contribute to the team," he said. "I think this will open more time for me on the field."

Later in the half, Union defender Carlos Valdes hit the post after receiving a throw-in from Williams, and Le Toux hit the crossbar. In between were some difficult saves by Nick Rimando.

The Union didn't come out with the same fire in the second half, while Real Salt Lake picked up its game significantly.

"We were fiery, we possessed the ball better, we were more aggressive with our decisions, we spent more time in their half of the field," Kreis said.

Salt Lake tied the score on a spectacular goal by Fabian Espindola in the 53d minute. Taking a long pass from Jean Alexandre, Espindola split two defenders, made one final cut to separate himself from Valdes, then drilled a low 20-yard shot inside the far post.

Union team manager Peter Nowak thought that Farfan was fouled around midfield by Alexandre before he made the pass to Espindola. Nowak voiced his displeasure at the officiating in the postgame news conference, but the real cause for displeasure should have been allowing a good team to hang around too long.

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