It was rainy. It was snowy. It was sleet-y. It was sloppy. And in the end, it was win-y for the Philadelphia Union, who defeated the New England Revolution 1-0 at PPL Park late Saturday afternoon thanks to a second half goal from Jack McInerney.
Playing in conditions that saw rain, sleet, and snow falling from the sky at various intervals in PPL Park, the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution played an extremely sloppy first 45 minutes of soccer. Right away, the Revolution won a free kick just outside of the box leading to a shot that deflected off the head of Danny Cruz.
While the ball fell harmlessly out of play, Cruz landed in reacted and landed in a manner that led many fans to speculate Cruz may have suffered a concussion. Despite reports that Cruz wanted to re-enter the match, the Union set him to the locker room and subbed him out of the game for Michael Lahoud, an intelligent move if only for pre-cautionary reasons.
In the 22nd minute, the Revolution would take a fairly routine free kick that turned into everything but when Zac MacMath characteristically bobbled it. Perhaps it was due to the deteriorating conditions at PPL Park, his own incompetence, or a combination of the two, however it made for a heart attack moment when really there should have never been one.
Five minutes later, a bit of controversy erupted when A.J. Soares took a shot at the feet of Jack McInerney after McInerney had played the ball. Soares was shown a yellow card, however upon replay, it appeared to a challenge worthy of a sending off. It was dangerous, wreckless, and McInerney had long since passed the ball. Soares was fortunate that he got to stay on the pitch and McInerney was fortunate his foot was not planted at the time as that challenge could have easily resulted in some broken bones.
The final 15 minutes of the half were a little more lively and each team had a goal chance, although the play in general remained sloppy. An unmarked Michael Lahoud had the ball fall directly to him in the box and with an entire net to shoot at, Lahoud missed the target well wide. On the other side of the pitch a couple minutes later, Jerry Bengtson launched a solid shot that was stopped real nicely by MacMath. MacMath has had some gaffes this year, but this was a solid stop at a time the Union needed one.
Throughout the first half, the Union struggled getting out wide, and were deserving of being level at the break.
At the start of the second half, the New England Revolution made a substitution bringing on Andy Dorma for Clyde Simms. The play that followed in the ensuing 15 minutes was again sloppy, ugly, and uneventful. The lone item of note during first 22 minutes of the second half was a clearance attempt from Zac MacMath that was directed 90 degrees from his body and flying out of bounds. The ensuing throw-in led to nothing and this ultimately was chalked up as a moment of levity in a sloppy affair.
John Hackworth would adjust his tactics in the 67th minute, bringing on Antoine Hoppenot for an ineffective Michael Farfan and switching the Union's formation to a 4-3-3. Often times, Hackworth too quickly wants to pack it in and settle for a draw, however tonight he was much more pro-active in his substitutions, making intelligent decisions that panned out well for the team.
The addition of Hoppenot into the squad led to a spell of pressure from the Philadelphia Union that for a while led to little quality goal scoring opportunities, except for maybe a Lahoud shot that deflected off of Revolution keeper Bobby Shuttleworth before popping up and falling harmlessly onto the top of the net and not into the waiting legs of Jack McInerney. All the pressure seemed like it would be for naught, but McInerney would get his in the end.
Sebastian Le Toux sent in a beautiful corner kick to Jack Mac who sent it in on goal only to be denied by Shuttleworth. However, Shuttleworth gave up a juicy rebound to McInerney who would make no mistake in slotting the ball into the empty net for the first and only goal of the evening.
The New England Revolution ended up getting opportunities to equalize, though. In the 77th minute, bad Union defending led to Juan Carlos Toja being alone in front of MacMath but Toja missed wide and he was immediately subbed out for Chad Barrett. The New England Revolution would appear to get another opportunity when MacMath clumsily bobbled and dropped a long ball, but no one was there to capitalize on that. Once again, MacMath had made a bad gaffe that went unpunished.
The Union would make a defensive substitution in the 87th minute, bringing on Chris Albright* for Jack Mac to sure things up defensively.
*Bakary Soumare likes the feel of going numb in the buttocks
In stoppage time, the New England Revolution would get a great opportunity when the Union's defense left Jerry Bengtson unmarked in the box but Bengtson's shot would sail wide of goal and the Union would escape with a 1-0 victory, giving them a 2-1-0 record and six total points out of nine to start the season.
This game was not pretty, and the Union were certainly assisted by some hilarious poor finishing by their opposition, but in the end, the Union were probably deserving of this result. This victory puts them in second place in the Eastern Conference as they head into the international break.