If things could have gone any worse, the Philadelphia Union would rather not know. After a tight first 57 minutes, the wheels fell off the bus completely and the Union saw themselves suffer an embarrassing 5-1 defeat on the road at the hands of the New England Revolution Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
The Union started the match trying to press forward but were unable to come away with any goals. Despite pressing, the Union were unable to even get many shots off and eventually the Union paid for it.
In the 26th minute, Kelyn Rowe blasted the ball from 30 yards out and snuck it inside the post past ZacMath for the first goal of the game and the only goal of the first half. The goal was set up by the Union midfield, namely Michael Farfan and Keon Daniel, not paying much attention to Rowe who was permitted all the space in the world and MacMath was left pretty helpless to stop a well-struck long-range drive.
In immediate response to the goal, John Hackworth subbed off a hobbled Daniel for the defensively poor defensive midfielder Michael Lahoud. Following the substitution, the Union were able to draw multiple corner kicks but were unable to do anything with any of them.
"I think we had six corner kicks in the first half and several crosses and entries into the box," Hackworth stated post-game, "but the quality was missing."
The Union had a scare during first half stoppage time. An errant Lahoud pass found Diego Fagundez who streaked down the field and found a wide open Juan Agudelo in the box who missed a complete sitter. It was a fortunate break for the Union, and one they desperately needed after falling behind 1-0.
The second half was certainly one to forget for the Union, although it did not initially start out that way. The Union scored the half's first goal and evened the ledger when Conor Casey found Danny Cruz who had an inspirational first touch, juked goalkeeper Matt Reis, and slot the ball in a gaping net.
The Union had tied the game and would continue to pressure for another. It appeared as if the Union would take the lead in the 53rd minute. Sheanon Williams fired an absolute howitzer off the woodwork and Sebastien Le Toux appeared to have scored on the rebound, however he was half a step offside and the linesman correctly nullified the goal.
A couple minutes later though the officiating crew would incorrectly nullify a Union goal. With the ball loose between the goalkeeper Reis's legs, Casey banged it home for what should have been a game-leading goal. Unfortunately, the officiating crew erred in a big way, falsely believing Reis had possession of the ball when he never had, and waved the goal off in what could only be described as an egregious wrongdoing.
It is at this time that I need to remind people of the fallacy of the pre-determined outcome. It is a logical fallacy to assume that if Event A had not happened, Event B would not have happened or the outcome would have ultimately been different. If one thing changes, everything changes, and the ultimate outcome is forever a mystery. In this instance, you cannot promote the correlation of the defensive breakdown that followed with the officiating mistake to causation. If the officials correctly allowed Casey's goal, it will forever be unknown how this game would have turned out. Mistakes happen, and the Union should continue to play to their game and not dwell on them or completely have a meltdown.
Unfortunately, a meltdown is what the Union had. It started in the 58th minute. Diego Fagundez passed to Juan Agudelo who fired it on net and Amobi Okugo provided a little extra deflection on a ball probably slotted for the net anyway. Minutes after the Union felt they should have been up 2-1, the Revolution were the ones with a 2-1 lead and firmly in control of the match.
Seven minutes later the Revolution would add to their tally. The Union defense had oddly decided to not close down on a long range threat who had already beaten them from long range earlier in the game and surprise, surprise, look at what happened. Rowe notched his second goal of the evening with an absolutely brilliant strike from range landing in the top corner to make it 3-1.
After that, goals started to blur together, as did the number of beers I was downing to make it through the match. Fagundez notched the fourth with no defender around him and Agudelo found himself unmarked for a fifth.
As if the end of the match could not get any worse, Okugo picked up a yellow card in the 75th minute, ensuring he would miss next week's vital home match against Montreal Impact due to accumulation. And then for good measure, Allen Chapman showed him a second yellow card on a foul by Williams because who really gave a crap in stoppage time of a 5-1 blowout. Okugo took an unceremonious hike to the locker room minutes before the game ended that was all a bit more ceremonious than the hike the rest of the team took once the final whistle blew.
"We are just left wondering how, at this level, some of that can happen," Hackworth mused of the second half events. And while some of the proceedings could be explained by player personnel failure, Hackworth also shares some responsibility with some curious managing decisions. While Hackworth's hand was forced with the Daniel injury and while it made some sense to start McInerney on the bench for tactical reasons, ultimately Hackworth handled this match poorly. Michael Lahoud is a defensive midfielder who cannot play defense, added nothing but misery to the squad, and should have remained on the bench while Kleberson entered for Daniel instead.
On top of that, Hackworth also decided to wait until it was 5-1 Revolution before making the second substitution of the game, where he took off Cruz for McInerney, a sub that could be called ten minutes too late if you feel like being ultra kind. At the absolute latest, the Union should have boasted their attack at 3-1, while the game was still plausibly within reach.
As it was, Hackworth failed. The players on the pitch failed. And the end result was the Union suffering a humiliating 5-1 loss.
Up next for the Union is another huge Eastern Conference match-up on Saturday. The Union will head back to PPL Park to host a Montreal Impact side with many a struggle away from Saputo Stadium.