SOMETIMES ENDING a game in a draw is even worse than a loss, at least when a team is starving for a win. After earning its fourth tie in its previous five matches, the frustration is starting to set in for the Union.
Looking for its first win since March 15, the Union (1-2-5) was matched against a very beatable and offensively challenged Houston Dynamo (2-3-1) team on Saturday. After a 90-minute battle, both squads were held scoreless, with the game ending in a 0-0 tie.
The Union finished a tough stretch of three games in the span of a week and fatigue was a major factor in the team's play to start Saturday's game. In the second half, Philadelphia was able to gain some offensive momentum but it was not enough to earn three points despite the strong defensive shutout.
"Playing three games in 8 days is so hard," Union manager John Hackworth said. "It's not an excuse; we didn't play well in the first half at all and that's not the kind of soccer team we are. It's not what we do, but at the same time you look at the second half and we have a bunch of tired guys who are digging in and playing much better and creating a lot of chances.
"You look at the positives, too. After a shaky start in the first half, not only did we dominate the possessions but we defended very well. I think there is frustration from all of us that we didn't get three points today, but at the same time, there is a lot of positives that come from this."
The first half of Saturday's match featured a Union offense that did not record a shot until the 37th minute, as forward Connor Casey sent a left-footed shot from the right side of the box assisted by Amobi Okugo, but the shot went wide left.
The Union ended the first half with 11 fewer shots than Houston, which had 12 shots with two on target.
"We all looked ourselves in the mirror and we realized it wasn't good enough, especially at home," Okugo said. "I looked at the halftime stats and we didn't even have a shot on goal, and that's unbelievable to be at home and not even have a shot on goal."
The Union came out in the second half looking much stronger on both sides of the ball. Philadelphia recorded 20 crosses in the second half in addition to nine shots on goal, but was unable to squeak a shot past Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall.
"I think we need a little more desire to get the ball past the defender and start getting the results that we want," forward Sebastien Le Toux said. "We did have a lot of crosses today, but I think that depends on who is in the boxes and I think sometimes it's frustrating when you don't have somebody there to finish it in the box. But more than anything, we have to try to win every ball."
"It's important to start finishing plays in the final third, and at times we are a little bit predictable with the way we go about in the final third," midfielder Maurice Edu said. "We have to have that real urgency and that real desire to go out there and finish off plays in the final third and then the goals will start coming."
In the 82nd minute, Dynamo defender Kofi Sarkodie was issued a red card for time-wasting. With a one-man advantage for the remainder of the match, Philadelphia was unable to capitalize.
"It's tough because we are obviously in a little bit of a drought and to go up a man again with 10 minutes left and not come away with a win is hard," goalkeeper Zac MacMath said. "It's something that we need to start working on because ties are not going to get us to the playoffs."
For Hackworth, the positive came in the defensive shutout just 3 days after allowing two goals to New York. With eight points in eight games, the Union gets set to play on the road Saturday in Montreal.