By JOEY SAMUEL
CHESTER, Pa. — In a game with lots of fanfare over the last week, the Philadelphia Union and Vancouver Whitecaps produced quite the boring affair on Saturday afternoon.
On a frigid afternoon at PPL Park, the Union and Whitecaps played to a scoreless draw in front of 17,189 fans as Sebastien Le Toux returned to face his former team. While Le Toux had a few chances to score, the Union defense contained him. Philadelphia's attack, though, couldn't do anything either.
It was a disappointing result for Philadelphia, who are still yet to win a game on the season. The draw gave them their first point of the season, but the team's scoring woes continued. The Union has now scored only two goals in its first four games of the year.
Vancouver, meanwhile, picked up a solid away result. The Whitecaps remain undefeated through the first four games of the season, and they are yet to concede a single goal.
"It was a solid road perfomance. We played reasonably well, we kept decent possession," said Vancouver coach Martin Rennie. "We created a couple of good chances. We did pass the ball and possess it well at times."
With the Union's all-time leading scorer returning to PPL Park in a different uniform, Le Toux was always going to be the big story heading into the match. He almost sent a quick message to the Philadelphia faithful, latching onto a through ball in the 15th minute, but Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath came out of his box to sweep the ball clear.
Le Toux had another quality chance twelve minutes later when he gained control of the ball in the box but his low cross was scooped up by MacMath.
After absorbing a few early Whitecaps attacks through Le Toux, the Union found their feet, and created their own opportunities, especially in the second half. In the 47th minute, Carlos Valdes connected with a Keon Daniel corner kick only for his attempt to rebound off the upright. And then, Gabriel Gomez put in a cross of his own, but Brian Carroll's volley was too weak.
Six minutes later, Daniel unleashed a powerful shot that was parried by Whitecaps goalie Joe Cannon. And in the 75th minute, Danny Califf, on his return to the Union lineup, almost scored a winner when his header sailed just over the crossbar.
Those would end up being the closest chances either team would create, though, and the game ended in an anticlimactic scoreless draw.
While the result would seem to favor Vancouver, having traveled cross-country to earn a road point and preserve their undefeated record, both teams had different ways of interpreting the outcome.
"We do think we could've done a little bit more today," said Rennie. "I think that shows some progress with the club, that there's not satisfaction with a point on the road. But even though it's a long travel, four clean sheets in a row, those are all positive things but to build the kind of team we want to build, we've got to have higher expectations."
Philadelphia was left in the familiar position of creating many chances, and dominating stretches of the game, but not getting that one goal the team needs to earn three points. It was the team's first clean sheet on the year, though, and its first point. The Union even managed to keep the Whitecaps from producing a single shot on goal.
"There was not really a big chance for Vancouver, so from this perspective we're very happy to stop this series of mistakes and keep the zero for Zac [MacMath]," said Union coach Peter Nowak. "It's good for his confidence, and it's good for our defensive block as well."
While the story heading into the game was Le Toux, it turned out to be all hype as the former Union forward failed to produce anything for the Whitecaps. But in a way, it could be a positive for Le Toux to be done with PPL Park for now.
"I do think it's good for him to get this game out of the way and get on with the season," said Rennie. "It was obviously a big deal for him, he was a fantastic player for the Union and I believe he'll be a great player for the Whitecaps as well. He won't be playing Philadelphia for a while so he can get on with what he's good at."
Philadelphia will now have a two-week layoff before their next game, a home contest against Columbus on April 14. Vancouver, meanwhile, will look to remain undefeated as they travel to San Jose to take on the Earthquakes next Saturday.