The Philadelphia Union and Real Salt Lake played to a 0-0 draw in MLS league action Friday at PPL Park. Both teams appeared to be tired, and RSL had good reason to be fatigued, as they played a key match in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday and never showed any of the sharpness that has been a hallmark of their playing style. For both clubs, playing in a single striker formation meant neither side had many scoring chances on the night from their forwards.
The first half was dull for both sides. Real Salt Lake appeared to be the stronger side in the first 15 minutes, but the Union got back into the match and seemed to end the half as the brighter side. Still, neither team had much attacking intent, as the play continued was bogged down in midfield and neither side could keep possession for very long. In the 30th minute, Javier Morales sent a very good free kick into the box for RSL, but Philadelphia midfielder Michael Lahoud marked target man Alvaro Saborio well and cleared the ball. Then, in the 42nd minute, Michael Farfan showed a good bit of skill as he dribbled the ball through traffic, then sent a centering pass to Danny Cruz, who was making a run into the box. But Cruz slipped as he was taking the shot and the ball sailed well over the crossbar. Neither goalkeeper had much work in the opening half, and neither side really created much danger in the offensive zone.
In the second half, Philadelphia still controlled the run of play, and had plenty of corner kicks to try and get a goal on the board, but they couldn't capitalize. Both teams ramped up the physical play in the second half, and the game nearly got out of control on a few occasions. Carlos Valdes was confronted by several RSL players a few minutes into the half, in a measure to protect goalkeeper Nick Rimando. In the 57th minute, both sides got into a protracted scrum after a rough 50-50 challenge by both Michael Farfan and Chris Wingert, but the referee was able to calm matters down before issuing a yellow card to both players. And Michael Farfan elbowed Ned Grabavoy in the face 15 minutes later, forcing Grabavoy to come off.
Grabavoy was key to maintaining a clean sheet for RSL. In the 54th minute, Danny Cruz took a corner kick that looked like it would curl into the goal, but Grabavoy made a late run to the near post to block the ball, and he appeared to bump his head against the post in the process. Replays indicate that Grabavoy likely handled the ball, instead of heading it out of danger, as it appeared live, but the call was so tight that there were no calls on the field for a penalty on the play. The Union were a bit unlucky, but those are the breaks sometimes.
Meanwhile, for RSL, substitute Jonny Steele had a late chance to snatch a winner for the visitors, when he beat Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath in the 85th minute and appeared to have an open goal. But Steele's touch failed him, and MacMath was able to recover and pull the ball away. Amobi Okugo and Antoine Hoppenot appeared to have good chances in RSL's box in second half stoppage time, but neither could convert their chances and the match ended in a boring 0-0 draw.