Playing against the Orlando City Soccer Club, the local USL Pro side representing the host city in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, the Philadelphia Union put on a lackluster performance that nearly cost the side defeat. Only the sublime linkup between Union midfielders Roger Torres and supplemental draft selection Leo Fernandes prevented the loss as Orlando played a spirited match to earn a well-deserved point.
It marked the third time in three meetings that Philadelphia failed to gain a victory over Orlando. The home side was able to isolate the Union into one-on-one battles, breaking down passing lanes and preventing the MLS club from establishing any rhythm in possession. Philadelphia’s attempts to press forward, attacking with their defenders forward, backfired repeatedly as Orlando’s forwards avoided the offside trap to find space behind the back four. The only thing Orlando could not gain in the first half was a go-ahead goal, as Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath made several critical saves to keep things scoreless at halftime.
Less than ten minutes after the resumption of play, Orlando’s continued pressure and persistence paid off as Dennis Chin put the underdogs ahead. Chin, the 25-year-old striker who was the leading scorer at the USL Pro level last season, capitalized on another breakdown in the Union defense. Under pressure from Orlando’s midfield, the defense allowed Chin to swoop in and steal possession. The forward then sidestepped MacMath and nudged the ball inside the post in the 54th minute to claim a 1-0 lead.
Philadelphia seemed to respond to the deficit, playing more crisply and challenging Orlando goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo with an increased workload. Torres, the Colombian midfielder who has increasingly become a stalwart in the center of Philadelphia’s attack, was the catalyst for finally cracking through Orlando’s stout defenses. Torres chipped a perfect pass in to Fernandes, who with back to goal corralled it with his chest and then turned to fire the equalizing strike to beat Gallardo.
The Orlando keeper would have to fend off several other challenges before the final whistle, but as full time pealed the Cinderella side had kept the Union at bay for the point. Both sides take to the pitch again on Wednesday for the second of three group-stage matches in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, with Orlando taking on Toronto FC and Philadelphia pitted against the Columbus Crew.
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