The biggest news in the Union’s 2-0 loss at FC Dallas Saturday night wasn’t the scoreline. It was Warren Creavalle starting at defensive midfielder, with José Martínez on the bench and Matej Oravec not on the plane.
Union manager Jim Curtin said after the game that the two new signings are “still getting acclimated to the team," and Oravec was “not quite up to” making the game-day squad.
Curtin said Creavalle “earned it in preseason,” and Martínez was “close to going in” as a second-half substitute for Creavalle. (Anthony Fontana went in instead, a good move with the Union seeking a late goal.)
It’s understandable that Martínez and Oravec are still getting used to the speed and physicality of MLS, a league with more of both than any other league the players have been in yet. They need to be ready soon — especially Oravec, who was signed to be a starter.
That said, Creavalle is due credit for a good performance. He had a team-high nine interceptions and three tackles, and created one attacking chance.
Some other observations on the game:
Matt Real answers the call
Real was under a ton of pressure in his first start for the Union since last July. The Drexel Hill native answered the call: four clearances, one tackle, one interception and no big mistakes.
His next game will be an even bigger test, as the Union visit star-studded Los Angeles FC for a nationally-televised game Saturday night (10:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes).
Last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners might rest a player or two because of a Concacaf Champions League game a few days later, but if they don’t, Real is likely to have reigning MVP Carlos Vela running at him.
Jakob Glesnes’ debut
Glesnes was a surprise starter over Jack Elliott at centerback. You saw what the Union see in him: one interception, two clearances and 30 of 39 passes completed, including 7 of 12 long balls.
But he didn’t look great on Dallas’ first goal, not closing down scorer Zdenek Ondrasek when he could have.
If you’re still criticizing Andre Blake...
Blake made three big saves and punched out two more balls that came his way. He also got caught flat-footed on Dallas’ first goal, which of course led to fans ignoring everything else he did on the night.
The score would have been a lot worse if not for those stops, though. In that way, Blake definitely looked like his old self.
Sergio Santos gives hints, but not answers
Santos put plenty of scares into Dallas’ defense with runs behind the back line. But while he created three chances, he took just two shots. That wasn’t enough, especially when the only forward on the bench was Michee Ngalina.
There was a case to bring on Ngalina anyway late in the game when Santos was running out of gas — and out of temper. Santos was fortunate to only get a yellow card when he tried to kick the ball out of the hands of Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez in the 83rd minute, then got into a shoving match with other Dallas players.
If you’re going to lose...
... lose because some really good, young American players had big games. Jesus Ferreira, Paxton Pomykal and Reggie Cannon showed you why so many people are excited about their U.S. national team potential.
Cannon was a beast all night, Ferreira set up the first goal, and Pomykal scored the second with a terrific run and give-and-go.
One more thing
If you watched the Nashville-Atlanta game after the Union game ended, you might have noticed something odd when Nashville scored their first goal. As the fans celebrated, Fox’s cameras found one fan wearing a Union jersey in what appeared to be a Nashville supporters’ section.
Congratulations on your bravery, whoever you are. And congrats to Nashville as a whole: the crowd of 59,069 was the largest ever for a soccer game in Tennessee.