After taking a three-week break from MLS play to focus on the World Cup, the Philadelphia Union returned to league action tonight and, led by Sebastien Le Toux, notched a much deserved 3-1 victory over their hosts, the New England Revolution.
The match had a bit of a cagey start. With both teams coming off long World Cup breaks, perhaps this was to be expected. Add to the fact that the game was shortly following two dramatic World Cup matches, and tonight's game became no less easy to watch at the start. The first real action of the match came in the 10th minute when Patrick Mullins had a shot saved by Zac MacMath only for MacMath to cough up a rebound that led to a scramble in front of goal that ultimately ended with Diego Fagundez whiffing on an attempt and Le Toux clearing the mess away.
The Union's first opportunity came in the 27th minute when a Le Toux left-footed shot rang off the post and went away from goal. Though all of Chile felt Le Toux's pain, the positive signs shown there from Le Toux would be the real harbinger of things to come, and not the hard luck bounces. And those signs manifested themselves in the 42nd minute, although not in the way many may have suspected. Pressure from Danny Cruz forced a dreadful header from Jose Goncalves intended for Brad Knighton but landing in the middle of the 18-yard box in no man's land instead. The ball went to Le Toux who easily poked it into the net past the former Union goalkeeper to make the score 1-0. For Le Toux, it was a lucky break followed by precise capitalization, and for Goncalves, it was the kind of header you awake in a cold sweat from immediately following the worst of nightmares.
The second half began with the Union sitting back a bit and the Revolution dominating possession. However, with Maurice Edu and Sheanon Williams in central defense, the Union were able to remain compact enough while still having the speed to keep up with the Revs attack, prohibiting them from mounting a serious attempt at MacMath's goal. The failure of the Revolution would come back to bite them* in the 69th minute when Danny Cruz sent a screamer from outsidethe 18-yard box whizzing past a helpless Knighton to put the Union ahead 2-0 on the road.
*The Revs did more than just lose their balance.
In the 73rd minute the Revs finally broke free thanks to a great run from Kelyn Rowe who was able to find a regretfully unmarked Saer Sene alone. Sene finished the shot no problem and just like that the Revolution found themselves back in the game with 17 minutes plus stoppage time remaining. Three minutes later the Revs cam that close to tying it. A New England corner kick rattled around to A.J. Soares in the box who got off a nice shot but MacMath reached out and stopped it with his arm, denying New England the much sought after equalizer.
The Union had a great opportunity one minute later to put the game away for good. Cristian Maidana was alone with an open shot but instead elected to pass it to second half substitute Andrew Wenger but the pass was unable to find him. If ever there was a sign that things could continue to fall apart late for the Union this was it, however, that did not happen. Instead one minute after Maidana's mistimed pass, Seba made amends. Le Toux played Wenger out wide then after receiving the ball back from the former Impact player, Seba took a couple of touches and launched it past Knighton to put the Union up 3-1, ending the match as a contest and securing three points for the Union.
Up next for the Union is another road affair, this time an Independence Day Friday night dance in Dallas. But before that, the United States will be faced with slightly more import matters, as Tuesday marks the day of their World Cup Round of 16 showdown with the youthful Belgians. Go go USA!