THE OFFSEASON acquisitions and strong start to the season brewed optimism among the fan base. But since its home opener on March 15, the Philadelphia Union has gone seven matches without a victory and now is in need of making up points.
The quarter mark of the season passed on Saturday, when the Montreal Impact defeated the visiting Union, 1-0, on a rainy day at Stade Saputo. The match marked the second one in a row in which the Philly club failed to score, a 14th-minute goal by Felipe standing as the difference.
"It's frustrating because we gave them a couple opportunities early in the first half and they capitalized on one of them," Union manager John Hackworth told reporters after the match. "Then we did a lot of good things but didn't execute in the most important moments of the game, and then we walk away frustrated that we lose the game like that, 1-0."
The Union (1-3-5) mustered five shots on goal, a week after failing to register any against Houston in a 0-0 draw at PPL Park. It connected on 75 percent of its passes, possessed the ball 61.3 percent of the match and had nine corner kicks to Montreal's one.
But it couldn't capitalize on its chances, a theme that has emerged in several of the first nine games of this Major League Soccer season.
The Impact (1-4-3) scored off a turnover from right back Sheanon Williams. Patrice Bernier unleashed a shot, the ball bounced off goalkeeper Zac MacMath's hands and Felipe scored on the rebound.
"We were in a moment of transition, we weren't under any pressure and we had plenty of other options that were different from that," Hackworth said. "It's just a really bad turnover that results in us being unprepared for that kind of turnover."
The game was the Union's first against Jack McInerney, the 21-year-old striker it traded on April 4 for Andrew Wenger. Both McInerney, an original member of the Union in 2010, and Wenger played all 90 minutes against their former teams. McInerney recorded one shot on goal while Wenger had two.
"At the end of the day, it came down to me scoring," Wenger said. "It's disappointing it didn't happen, it's frustrating. I think once we got warm, we needed just one or two more [chances]. But that's just the way it goes sometimes."
Hackworth mixed things up with his lineup, starting Fabinho and Danny Cruz at forward instead of Sebastien Le Toux and Conor Casey. Antoine Hoppenot replaced Fabinho in the 61st minute, Cristian Maidana subbed for Cruz in the 66th minute and Casey came in for Williams in the 81st minute.
It doesn't figure to get any easier for the Union (1-3-5), eighth in the Eastern Conference standings. On Saturday, it visits Clint Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders (5-2-1), who have scored 18 goals and are tied for the best record in MLS. Two of the better teams in the East, D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City, await the following two matches.
"I think we just have to keep going," Wenger said. "We did some good things and we moved the ball around well [Saturday]. We just have to keep playing."