The Philadelphia Union punished a wasteful New England Revolution side on Sunday evening, as Jack McInerney notched the late winner to give the Union a solid victory between two teams whose playoff lives hinge on matches like these.
The winning goal came in the 90th minute, as the Union applied pressure trying to get the extra two points that would help in the playoff push. Right back Sheanon Williams floated a curling cross to the back post area, and McInerney confused Kevin Alston enough to get up and head the ball down to the turf. The ball bounced past Matt Reis and into the goal to secure the victory.
The first half was a much different story for both teams. The Revolution had earned the one goal lead through a well-struck shot from Saer Sene. The left-footed forward, playing on the right wing, cut inside to his strong foot and drilled a knuckling shot from 30 yards. The ball dipped, and while Zac MacMath got a hand on it, it wasn’t enough to keep the laser from hitting mesh.
For Philadelphia, they lacked fluidity in their game in the early stages. They became frustrated by the clogged central areas created by playing Sene and Kelyn Rowe on their unnatural wings. This condensed space, and frustration led the team to try too many long through passes, a tactic which doesn’t suit the speedy and small Jack McInerney and Antoine Hoppenot well. Interim Manager John Hackworth commented about the troubles: “I felt like we got away from our game in the first half. We started dumping far too many balls, playing much too direct, which is not the way we play and it’s not the way we train.”
After the half, Hackworth went unconventional to try and pick off the three points a team expects to earn at home. He pushed Gabriel Farfan from left back into the midfield layer, and essentially played in a 3-5-2 style. It wasn’t all peachy – the defense looked very shaky in the first few minutes of the second half. Hackworth said after the match, “It left us a little vulnerable for sure, but what can you do? You’re down a goal at home and that’s unacceptable for us.”
While the switch didn’t lead to a goal in the run of play, it did force the New England defense into a decision which cost them a goal. It started from a little lob through from Gabriel Farfan. McInerney tried to run onto the ball, but he was tripped up by Alston. Referee Edvin Jurasevic pointed to the spot, though replays indicated that the contact occurred outside the area. Adu called for the spot kick and he nailed it past Reis to level the score.
The game got physical after that. Before the winning goal, New England defender A.J. Soares needed to be substituted out because of a hard challenge in the defensive area by Michael Farfan. Farfan appeared to be playing the ball as a shot, but he ended up striking Soares in the back of the legs. The 6th pick in last year’s SuperDraft, Soares tried to make a go of it but had to make way.
After McInerney scored, the Revolution had a golden chance to earn the point as starting center forward Ryan Guy was played in to MacMath’s right. He appeared to cross the ball low, but it eluded MacMath and looked destined to find the net. Carlos Valdes slid in and got the ball away from goal to prevent the equalizer.
Before the match concluded, Stephen McCarthy was hurt badly in an aerial challenge with late sub Josue Martinez. Their heads collided, and McCarthy came up bleeding above his brow. He finished the game, but this bruising affair will likely not be forgotten. These teams play each other two more times this season.
The Union will make their first trip to Stade Saputo on Saturday to face the Montreal Impact. New England, who drop below the Union based on goal differential as a result of this match, host Sporting Kansas City on the same Saturday evening. Fortunately for New England, Kansas City has hit a bit of a bump in the road, while the Union face an Impact team who seem to be gaining some momentum after the acquisition of Alessandro Nesta.