March 15th, 2014 PPL Park Chester PA
For the third time in 5 seasons Sebastien Le Toux scored in the Philadelphia Union's home opener. The seemingly impossible to deploy correctly attacker loves PPL and has a knack for opening his account there. The biggest difference this year is that many are already pointing to this team as potentially the best version of the Union ever.
John Hackworth named a side nearly identical the one one he used in Portland. The biggest exception was that Brian Carroll was left out of the matchday line up due to flu-like symptoms. The captain's playing responsibilities were assumed by Leo Fernandes, and the captain's armband found its way, very deservedly, to Amobi Okugo.
If the first match against Portland raised the expectations of this team, this match did nothing to check that. The first ball was kicked with purpose at PPL in 2014 and the Union did anything but channel their inner Rocky. This team did not behave like the underdog and they wen about their work with anything but reckless abandon.
The Union came out a bit slow, whether due to travel or the midweek guest chef spot at Jim's Steaks, is uncertain. This turned out not to be a bad thing at all. In Portland, which is really the only actually competitive match we have seen this team partake in and thus the only instrument of measurement thus far, the teeming rain dampened the short passing game of both teams equally. Today the pleasant sun and lack of the presence of any significant weather made for ideal footballing circumstances. The Union set up in their new formation, call it what you will, I call it effective. This Union did all the things that other versions did not. They were building from the back very patiently and our Man of the Match, Vincent "Noggy" Nogueira, was everywhere. I counted him as a false 9, left winger, right winger box to box mid all in the first 12 mins.
There were tears of joy from the crowd as pass after pass found its intended target and not only was possession held but territory was won and the Union rolled forward reliably. Maurice Edu and Jack McInerney both had shots saved by Bobby Shuttleworth that very likely would have found the back of the nest against most keepers. But the save of the day goes to Zac MacMath for saving the Diego Fagundez's shot by what appeared at first to be bending the laws of physics and turned out to be a knee and a kick back into the onrushing player and out for a goal kick. The now obligatory Sebastien Le Toux season opening goal happened and the Revs all but shut down. The omissions of Jose Goncalves and Kelyn Rowe left the Revolution feeling a bit light and willing to sit back and absorb pressure, and pressure they received. With the Union shooting on site and hitting the target and maintaining 59.8% of the possession, the Revs had to be glad to hear the whistle.
New England came out after the half with a new attacking impetus. Apparently no one informed Edu or Nogueira who both destroyed and created with very little interference. The Revolution saw a lot more of the ball in the second half but to no greater effect than in the first half.
I wanted to add a quick word about the refereeing team for this match. Kevin Morrison and company blew a few calls but none that changed the game. Well done for stand in referees and we here at The Brotherly Game will pray that they get to catch up on whatever they were doing before they were called in very soon.
The second half remained uneventful with the Union comfortable enough to sit back on a 1-0, confident that they can close it out. Close it out they did, with the obligatory Hoppenot substitution coming late because of the Wheeler for Berry swap. Four minutes of extra time and the Union not only achieved three points in the books but went a long way to restoring the faith of the fan base.
March 22nd 6pm Crew Stadium