Just after the halftime whistle sounded, a Philadelphia Union player launched the ball into the barren Bailey and it clanged against the empty aluminum bleachers.
Another promising buildup for the Union had dissolved into nothing just before the half, but the frustration would only grow for one of MLS’ top attacking teams. As would the swagger for Jaap Stam’s club.
“You can tell they have a lot of good players,” said defender Tom Pettersson, of the Union “But I never felt like it was really dangerous. They never bothered me too much. I think we can compete with them.”
And, compete they did, for the better part of 94 minutes.
Stam’s new-look FC Cincinnati has developed a knack for doing this to its opponents. You can call it parking the bus, and you can question the tactics. But Wednesday’s 0-0 draw was yet another sign of progress for FCC which recorded its second straight clean sheet and seventh of the season, two more than they had all of last year.
Philadelphia had scored 21 goals through its first 12 matches this season. In their two matches last season against FCC, the Union scored four goals. On Wednesday, they weren’t getting anything at Nippert.
“We defend with our heart,” Stam said. “We don’t want to concede. We created more chances than they did.”
Therein lies the rub, of course. FCC came away with a valuable point and a clean sheet against a quality opponent. But again, they could have had more. In fact, Stam believes FCC should have come away with all three points.
FCC has 13 points from 13 matches. They are out of playoff position only on goal differential. Don’t punish yourself by doing the math on where they’d be if they had turned the four scoreless draws into wins.
“Of course, there’s a little bit of frustration when you don’t score,” Stam said. The table looks a lot different if you do. Certain situations will take time to develop. I’m not banging my head on the steering wheel over it.”
FCC coming off a thrilling 1-0 win over Red Bulls in New York last Saturday, threatened for a winner again on Wednesday.
Locadia who came into the match with a 3.64 expected goals metric with seven shots on target but only one goal, showed some aggression in this match. He was active, engaged, and made an impact especially in the first half.
In the 10th minute, he took a pass from Joe Gyau, turned and whipped a shot with his left foot that went a foot wide.
FCC finished with seven shots, to the Union’s six. FCC had the only shot on target.
“Another day with the same chances, we win this game,” reasoned Pettersson. “It’s about quality. We need to show a little bit more.”
Later Locadia gambled and came inches from intercepting a backward pass in Union’s end that would have had him clear on goal. Near the end of the half, Locadia had a shot from decent position deflected for a corner.
“His hold up play was really good today,” said Haris Medunjanin. “He was active and created space for himself. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way. When the goal comes, he will be scoring many goals for us.”
FCC frustrated Philadelphia which had better than 60% of the possession in the first half. FCC had 16 clearances as the Union lived in the opponent’s final third.
Locadia got involved early in the second half when he took a cross from Gyau at the back post but his shot from about three feet out hit the side netting.
“We tried to be positive in our approach,” Stam said. “We wanted to play high up the pitch. We created some close opportunities, but we didn’t score them.”
Philadelphia just missed the match’s first goal when Sergio Santos’ shot came across the face of the goal but grazed the far post in the 78th minute.
In the 89th, Kendall Waston’s header off a corner from Medunjanin was cleared off the line.
In stoppage time, a great turn by Locadia created plenty of space helping him find Gyau whose shot was deflected wide for a corner, but nothing came of it.
Spencer Richey had his second straight clean sheet in place of injured Przemyslaw Tyton. He showed himself well again on Wednesday night.
“He was calm on the ball,” Stam said. “The saves he needs to make, he’s making them. That’s what we expect from all our players who get an opportunity.”
So, was Wednesday’s result a case of a glass half-full or glass half-empty?
“It was an important point,” said Stam. “We deserved to have three.”