If the Philadelphia Union want to return to being in the 2013 Eastern Conference playoff picture, it figures that the partnership of Jack McInerney and Sebastien Le Toux needs to blossom.
On Saturday evening in the Delaware Valley, that tandem netted the lone goal of the match, as McInerney converted on a Le Toux corner kick to earn Philadelphia the three points against visiting New England.
The biggest shock out of either of the starting lineups was the exclusion of goalkeeper Matt Reis due to injury. Bobby Shuttleworth put on the padded shirt for the Revolution, a guy who has been waiting in the wings as Reis inches toward the end of a fine career.
The first half was a relatively zestless affair. Both teams were very concerned with maintaining their shape and not leaving themselves exposed. Perhaps the best chance was from Jerry Bengtson, played through down the left by Lee Nguyen in the 35th minute. Bengtson shot from just inside the 18 yard box, but the low attempt was turned away by Zac MacMath.
A scary moment came very early in the match. A free kick from the right-footed Nguyen struck Danny Cruz in the head and deflected over. The winger went down and the medical staff came out. In this day and age of concussion awareness, the Union staff took precautions with Cruz and brought on Michael Lahoud in his place.
The second half had more excitement as New England took a less aggressive approach with their pressing. As they sat in to absorb Philadelphian pressure, the Union began to dominate the possession. Coach John Hackworth responded to this change in approach by bringing in Antoine Hoppenot for Michael Farfan. This shifted the formation to more of a 4-3-3, heaping the pressure on the Revs to thwart more pure attackers.
The first sign of a breach came from Michael Lahoud, who found himself just inside the 18 yard area with the ball. He created space for himself and shot. The ball took a partial deflection, but also needed a fine diving save by Shuttleworth to keep it out of goal.
Two minutes later in the 76th minute, McInerney earned his second goal of the season. Le Toux smashed an in-swinger from the left corner, and Shuttleworth may have been better off attacking the ball – instead he retreated to his line. The ball fell straight to McInerney, who headed it directly at Shuttleworth. The keeper saved the effort, but the rebound was juicy and the young striker half-volleyed the ball off a defender and in.
Jay Heaps tried to reorganize his team to get the equalizer. He pulled off Kevin Alston for a fresh Chris Tierney, and had him play as a pure left midfielder in a 3-5-2. The Revs failed to register a shot on goal in the second half, though Bengtson barely missed the top left corner late in stoppage time from a golden chance.
New England (1-1-0) suffered their first loss of the season after their recent 1-0 victory over Chicago. The Revolution will open their home schedule a week from Saturday against Sporting Kansas City. The Philadelphia Union (2-1-0) have jumped to second place in the Eastern Conference on this current 2 match winning streak. Originally scheduled for a week off, the Union will host Pumas UNAM in a friendly on Saturday evening before returning to their MLS schedule at Red Bull Arena on March 30th.