In a match marred by poor defending, bizarre officiating, and lots of goals, the Philadelphia Union came back from a 4-1 deficit to earn a point at home against the last-place New England Revolution. And while their strong display in the second half allowed the Union to battle back to 4-4, the draw extended the team's winless streak to seven games.
Four different players got on the scoresheet for New England, who gave a surprisingly good account of themselves in the first half despite their position in the standings. A.J. Soares, Rajko Lekic, and Monsef Zerka all put goals past Union backup goalkeeper Zac MacMath within the first 25 minutes to put the Revs up by 3-0 early. A beautiful strike from Philadelphia's Roger Torres in the 28th minute cut the lead to 3-1, but Benny Feilhaber restored the three-goal advantage for New England in the 33rd minute.
Two substitutions made by Peter Nowak at the break gave new life to the team in the second half, and they attacked with no mercy. Controlling possession for minutes on end, the Union quickly cut it to 4-2 in the 54th minute when Freddy Adu scored his first goal for the team. A Sebastien Le Toux penalty kick in the 79th minute made it 4-3 before a dramatic stoppage time goal, again by Le Toux, tied the game at 4-4.
Philadelphia had several chances to come all the way back to win the game during the rest of the seven minutes of stoppage time, but were denied on a few occasions by Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis. In the end, the draw probably felt like a win to many fans and perhaps players, but the reality is that the tie extended the Union's winless streak to seven games and the team remained only in third place in the East. More after the jump.
Nowak used a much-changed lineup at the start, bringing in two defensive midfielders to play together as he did last season in Stefani Miglioranzi and Brian Carroll. Roger Torres and Freddy Adu started together at attacking midfielder while Le Toux and Veljko Paunovic were the strikers. Of course, captain and starting goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon was out with a broken finger, replaced by MacMath, and perhaps the two defensive midfielders were intended to provide more cover for the rookie goalie.
Regardless of the intentions of Nowak, the lineup appeared to be a disaster as the team went into the break down 4-1. The nightmare started when Soares was left free in the box on a free kick situation and headed the ball past MacMath in the ninth minute. Twelve minutes later, Miglioranzi was whistled for a foul on Lekic just inside the penalty area, and Lekic scored the spot kick to make it 2-0.
Monsef Zerka would stretch the score to 3-0 in the 25th minute when a cross from Chris Tierney made its way to the unmarked Moroccan winger, who headed it past MacMath. Torres got one back for Philly in the 28th minute with a lofted shot past Reis, but Feilhaber brought it back to 4-1 when he received a pass from Lekic near the penalty area and his shot beat MacMath.
Nowak brought in Michael Farfan for his brother Gabriel and Danny Mwanga for Miglioranzi at halftime, and the changes appeared to do wonders. The Union dominated the second half and their three goals were well-deserved. Adu made it 4-2 ten minutes into the half and Le Toux netted a brace during the final 15 minutes of the game to tie it up.
The officiating was an interesting issue to follow throughout the match. Referee Jorge Gonzalez did not appear to have much control over the players, and a number of decisions he made were questionable, besides the penalties. He would frequently make players stand what looked like much more than ten yards away during free kick situations. In fact, on one late New England free kick, the Union players apparently decided they were fed up with the strange policy and refused to stand behind the line Gonzalez had drawn. In a bizarre display of lack of authority, Gonzalez actually gave in to the Union players and redrew his line two yards closer to the ball, where the players had been standing their ground.
In the end, while the Union were able to muster a point from their home game against the last-place Revolution on Wednesday night, they are still without a win in seven games. They will look to buck that trend this Saturday when they host the Portland Timbers at PPL Park. Philadelphia now sit in third place in the Eastern Conference with 35 points from 26 games. They are five points behind leaders Columbus and two behind second-place Kansas City, but the Union do have a game in hand on Sporting.