If it’s possible for a team to prove how good it is with a scoreless draw at home, the Union did that in a thrilling and dramatic contest against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday night at a loud and nearly full Talen Energy Stadium.
Seattle did not hide its intention to bunker all night, rolling out a five-back defensive line with three shuttling midfielders in front of them. The Union (7-3-3, 24 points) accepted the challenge, taking seven shots to the Sounders’ four and outpassing them, 273-118, in the first half. But there were no goals; only Brenden Aaronson came close, with a 20-yard drive in the 18th minute that Stefan Frei dove to parry away.
The moment seemed tailor-made for Ilsinho’s ability to break down opponents off the dribble. He arrived in the 57th minute, replacing Sergio Santos, who made his first Union start. The impact was immediate: A brilliant feint on the right wing left outside back Nouhou helpless and started a sequence that led to a sharp Kacper Przybylko header. Frei saved it well.
Ilsinho led the way as the onslaught continued. Just about every attacking player on the field for the Union had a look at the goal, though they didn’t always shoot when the opportunity was there.
Fafa Picault replaced Aaronson in the 77th minute, with the aim of causing trouble on the left wing. The Union had switched from their usual 4-4-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1 when Ilsinho entered, with Aaronson moving out wide. Picault’s entry was the right fit.
Seattle (7-1-5, 26 points) led the chess match by holding on to the stalemate up to then, and manager Brian Schmetzer decided it was time to go for the win. Out went starting striker Will Bruin, and in came big-money scorer Raúl Ruidíaz, who was on the bench after playing twice in the prior seven days.
The Union barely let Ruidíaz or any Sounder see the ball, though, until a defensive lapse gave Seattle a free kick and an ensuing corner kick in the 88th minute. But the Union got out of the jam and continued to search for a winning goal.