The Union didn't win a game in two tries this past week.
And yet, it was still a very good week.
What did we learn from the Union picking up hard-earned draws against the L.A. Galaxy and the Montreal Impact in the span of three days? And what can we expect as they gear for a big Rivalry Week matchup against D.C. United on Friday?
Let's take a look in this week's Inside Doop.
Three thoughts about this past week
1. Let's be honest: When the Union fell behind by a goal in each of its last two games against top teams loaded with stars, many fans probably thought they'd lose - and by a wide margin too. But the Union proved once again they're different than in past years, showing a lot of grit and spirit to battle back for a pair of well-deserved points. Saturday's 1-1 draw against the Impact was an especially satisfying result since it came after falling behind by a goal less than three minutes into the road contest. And even though it was at home, Wednesday's 2-2 draw against the Galaxy was a solid outcome too considering L.A.'s loaded lineup looked more like an All-Star team than an MLS team. A win or two, of course, would have helped the Union boost its reputation as a top team this season. But two draws on short rest does little to hurt it - and the Union walk away from it with the highest points-per-game average in the Eastern Conference.
2. After not making a save against the Galaxy, Andre Blake did his thing against the Impact, coming through with a couple of huge stops against Impact star Didier Drogba, prompting Jim Curtin to say he's the kind of goalie "who makes a coach sleep well at night." There's nothing surprising about that, though. Perhaps the more exciting development was how Philly's young backline held up relatively well against a couple of star-studded attacks, specifically right back Keegan Rosenberry, who's quickly turning into an early Rookie of the Year frontrunner. Center backs Josh Yaro and Richie Marquez also deserve a lot of credit for fighting through a couple of hiccups to make some big plays, including a memorable Marquez open-field slide tackle on Dominic Oduro on Saturday. Having two rookies (Rosenberry and Yaro) and a second-year player (Marquez) on a backline is a tough thing in a league filled with big-time attackers, but these guys all seem to have the kind of poise and maturity to deal with it well.
3. Although he's dealt with injuries throughout his tenure in Philly, Vincent Nogueria has quietly been one of the team's most influential - and perhaps underrated - players when healthy. He showed that again this week, scoring a goal and covering a ton of ground in a full 90-minute shift vs. the Galaxy before starting and playing another 74 minutes three days later. Afterwards, Montreal captain Patrice Bernier said Nogueira is "the one who carries the team" - a nice sentiment that you might hear from some Union fans but rarely from others around the league.
Three questions for the week ahead
1. D.C. United is coming to town, which almost always means we're in store for an exciting, dramatic game filled with memorable performances and, often, a little bit of pushing and shoving. Rarely, though, have the teams been good the same season. It will be important, then, for the Union to show their fiercest rivals that they're poised to make the playoffs this season - and build a bigger lead in the standings over a D.C. team that figures to be in the postseason hunt too.
2. What will it be like for Union winger Chris Pontius to be on the other side of the rivalry? That will probably be a hard thing for even Pontius to envision, considering he played for D.C. even before the first-ever meeting between the two clubs in 2010. But he'll surely have something to prove against D.C. United, where he enjoyed a breakout season in 2012 but struggled with injuries before enjoying something of a career revival in Philly this year. And if he can keep his emotions under check, he could be in line for a big game against his old teammates.
3. Are we going to see more of Ilsinho and Roland Alberg? Two of the team's biggest offseason acquisitions have seen their playing time dip of late with Ilsinho dealing with some minor injuries and Alberg struggling to displace any of the Union's starting attacking players. It was a little surprising to see Alberg play a total of just seven minutes over the past two games after Curtin preached the importance of his bench during a busy week. And it was probably disappointing that Ilsinho didn't even make the trip to Montreal because of an injury after showcasing some of his creative moves against the Galaxy on Wednesday. Despite all that, though, the Union could certainly use both of them against D.C., especially if they fall behind.
Stat of the week
Sebastien Le Toux has three goals and an assist in his last three games against Montreal. He also has at least one goal or assist in every game he's played in Montreal while with Philly (three).
Quote of the week
"I think we showed we are a strong group. We didn't get nervous. … We showed our real face."
- Union midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta, on coming back for a tie vs. Montreal
Player of the week
Rosenberry's assignments could not have been any tougher this week - and he handled it almost flawlessly. He even scored his first MLS goal just for good measure. The hype train has left the station and is fully rolling along now with this kid.