By JOEY SAMUEL
CHESTER, Pa. — The Philadelphia Union created a good number of chances in the first half of Sunday's match against Colorado, but they ultimately paid the price for not being able to put any of those chances in the net.
Despite losing Jeff Larentowicz to a red card, the Colorado Rapids scored two goals in a six-minute span and held on with only ten men to defeat the Philadelphia Union, 2-1, in the Union's home opener at PPL Park on Sunday.
After a lackluster first half in which both teams, especially the Union, missed some quality chances, Colorado found their feet when in the 56th minute, Omar Cummings sent a deceptive cross over the Union defense to Jaime Castrillon, who finished for his first career MLS goal.
Things looked better for the Union, though, when two minutes later Jeff Larentowicz was shown a second yellow card for a harsh challenge on Keon Daniel. But instead of equalizing, the Union found themselves in a bigger hole when rookie Tony Cascio beat Chris Albright along the left flank and sent his shot past Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath to double Colorado's lead.
Philadelphia got a goal back when a good cross from substitute Roger Torres found Colombian forward Lionard Pajoy, who headed in a goal for the Union. But 10-man Colorado defended valiantly and held on for a 2-1 win, their second in two games to start the season.
"I'm very proud of my players. They got a result they deserve," said Rapids coach Oscar Pareja. "It's a hard place to play. Philadelphia did a good job of pressuring in the first half, taking the ball away from us. But the boys reacted well in the second half, all the credit goes to them."
Surprisingly, Union coach Peter Nowak left centerback Danny Califf on the bench to start the game. The result was a formation that was at times difficult to make out, with Gabriel Gomez dropping back into defense, Sheanon Williams pushing into attack, and newly signed Chris Albright starting at right back.
Philadelphia enjoyed a number of chances throughout the first half despite the lack of structure in its formation, but they failed to capitalize on a single one. Mwanga had the best opportunities, nearly drawing a penalty in the first minute. He also just missed latching onto a Michael Farfan pass in the 30th minute, surely leaving fans wishing the team hadn't dealt Sebastien Le Toux in the offseason.
After both teams went into halftime scoreless, Colorado came out strong in the second half, scoring two goals in quick succession. First, Jaime Castrillon finished an Omar Cummings cross in the 56th minute when MacMath couldn't clear the ball. And, despite going down to ten men, Colorado doubled their lead when rookie Tony Cascio burned Chris Albright along the right flank and beat MacMath six minutes later.
The Union made a strong push for a comeback, even scoring when Lionard Pajoy headed in a beautiful cross from Roger Torres in the 67th minute. But despite allowing the Union to get off 20 shots, Colorado held on for a valuable away win.
Colorado leaves Philadelphia with six points from two games, and may have found two gems in their goalscorers from Sunday, Tony Cascio and Jaime Castrillon.
"All of these experiences for these young boys are incredible," said Pareja of Cascio. "Sometimes you take the risk, because you have a guy playing his second game and the game is away in front of thousands of people, but this is want we want. We want to develop these players. (Cascio) had a great second half especially, in the first half he got through the adversity of not getting too much of the ball. I was very pleased with Tony."
"(Castrillon) had some difficulties finding the ball in the first half," said Pareja. "But in the second half, I thought he was outstanding, he did a great job defensively, and he scored a goal."
Meanwhile, the Union were left wondering how they couldn't finish all of the chances they created. It was a familiar feeling for the team, who suffered from poor finishing for most of the first half of the 2011 season as well.
"We're disappointed. I feel bad for the team," said Nowak. "In certain moments, we lost concentration here and there. Missing a touch, a final pass, it's the execution. I think we played much better than in Portland. We've got to stick to the plan and believe in what we're doing as a team."
Also left up in the air was the status of Califf, who had been serving as captain of the team since the departure of Faryd Mondragon. After the game, Nowak said Califf's knee was to blame for his absence Sunday.
"Danny still has a shot in his knee. The doctors, in the offseason, took a pretty big chunk of his meniscus," Nowak said. "When we started preseason, he didn't do anything until the first day. We went from zero to 100 in a pretty fast time. It's not only whether he's ready to play, it's whether he's going to be available for us, giving the performance we all expect."
Colorado, suddenly tied for first place in the Western conference with Vancouver and Real Salt Lake, will take on another East Coast opponent next week, as they travel to Red Bull Arena to face New York. Philadelphia, meanwhile, faces a near must-win situation next week as they travel to Toyota Park to take on the Chicago Fire.