The Union played a dull scoreless draw on Saturday.
That phrase hasn’t been written very often in the team’s nine-year history.
Of course, the lack of entertainment in their game against the Columbus Crew at Talen Energy Stadium will draw fair complaints. Union manager Jim Curtin lamented “two points dropped” for it not being a win, and a few fans were disgruntled at the final whistle.
(With emphasis on “a few,” because much of the paid crowd of 15,323 didn’t actually show up.)
In the grand scheme of things, though, the result showed progress. How often over the years have the Union (1-0-1, 4 points) given up late goals that turned wins into ties and ties into losses? The list is long.
Now Curtin’s team has delivered two straight shutouts.
“A point [for Saturday’s tie], haven’t conceded a goal yet, but there’s still a lot we can work on,” he said. “We’re not perfect, we’re not the complete finished product yet.”
Curtin said he sees “little flashes that get you excited,” and one came in just the sixth minute. C.J. Sapong trapped an inch-perfect pass from Haris Medunjanin, stopped the ball on a dime eight yards from goal and laid it off for Borek Dockal. The Czech playmaker had a chance to score in his Union debut. Alas, the shot went high.
Another good look came in the 53rd minute, when Alejandro Bedoya got his head to a Medunjanin corner at close range and forced a diving save from Zack Steffen, the Coatesville-born goalkeeper for the Crew (2-0-1, 7 points).
Dockal exited the game in the 77th. His day wasn’t stellar, but there were signs of chemistry with Bedoya and Medunjanin. He also showed a willingness to press high defensively that fits the Union’s tactical system well. He even won a foul for a nice run in the 21st, a privilege not always extended to MLS newcomers.
“My performance can definitely be better, but I have to start at some point,” said Dockal, who hadn’t played an official game since November and dealt with an ankle injury in late February. “It would be a miracle if I played an excellent game today, if I look at my preseason and the difficulties here with my injury.”
The Union’s best performance was turned in by centerback Auston Trusty, who was tasked with marking speedy Columbus striker Gyasi Zardes. Although Zardes got a handful of shots off, most of them weren’t high-quality. Those that came to Union goalkeeper Andre Blake were easily saved.
It was the second straight game in which Trusty stood out, a great sign of the 19-year-old Media native’s development. And the performance took on added significance when starting left back Fabinho had to exit the game at halftime because of a leg injury.
But the veteran Brazilian was seen walking around in the locker room after the game. With next weekend off because of the FIFA international window, he should be fine when the Union retake the field at Colorado on March 31.