Defense makes Union's case in win

The big headline is that the Union got its first shutout of the season in its 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire at PPL Park.

The small headline is that the back line deserves as much credit as goalkeeper Brad Knighton.

So many times this season, the Union have played 85 minutes of great soccer, and made one big mistake that cost them a win. This time, finally, there was no mistake. It took 23 games for it to happen, but at a certain point you had to wonder if it ever would.

I was most impressed by Danny Califf. Knighton made a few big saves, but Califf did just as much to keep the clean sheet. His positioning was solid and his tackles were strong without being too forceful.

Sheanon Williams also made an excellent impression in his first MLS start with the Union. He positioned himself well partnering Califf in the central defense, and also made a number of good attacking runs up the field. But he never left his space too exposed.

There is postgame audio from both teams below. I know that many of you will want to discuss the news that broke tonight about "preliminary negotiations" between the Union and Villanova's football program.

In addition to Kerith Gabriel's story, I have a post up on my college sports blog, Soft Pretzel Logic, with more quotes from Union president Tom Veit. I'd like to keep the discussion about Villanova over there, even though the Union clearly have a role to play in how the story progresses.

From everything I have read in the media and heard from my sources, there is still a very long way to go with this. I would not make any assumptions about what will happen until we get official statements, especially as regards the decisions about what facilities Villanova will use.

That is especially true regarding PPL Park. There are dynamics at play with the Union and with MLS as a whole that are very specific to soccer facilities. They are unlike any Villanova would have to deal with at Franklin Field or Lincoln Financial Field. In particular, the philosophical objection on the part of the Union and MLS as a whole to gridiron lines at soccer-specific stadiums will be very, very hard to overcome.

The move to soccer-specific stadiums is a large part of what has brought Major League Soccer legitimacy from fans in the U.S. and around the world. When soccer teams play on top of gridiron lines, there is a definite feeling of second-class citizenship. Even those of you who are new to soccer can understand why that is the case.

Having said that, PPL Park also presents advantages in terms of scale, amenities and availability that the Linc and Franklin Field do not offer.

So let's take the discussion from here to my other blog, and use the rest of this space to discuss the Union's first shutout of the season. I'll be back tomorrow with more thoughts on the game in Take Two.


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