The Philadelphia Union put together one of their best performances in club history, with a 3-0 beat down on the New England Revolution that could have easily been 5-0 or 6-0. How were the Union able to pull it off?
1.) If it ain't broke, don't fix it. With the exception of switching out Leo Fernandes for Roland Alberg, Jim Curtin left the Union's lineup exactly the same as the one that manhandled the Columbus Crew SC last week. This week, it worked even better against the New England Revolution. The defensive unit looked more together and shut down Teal Bunbury, and the offensive unit put up their first three goal performance since last August. Bonus points to the defensive pairing of Ken Tribbett and Richie Marquez, who are probably the best center back pairing the Union has had since Carlos Valdes and Danny Califf.
2.) No Charlie Davies for the Revs. Would the Union looked as good against Charlie Davies as they did against Teal Bunbury (and later, Juan Agudelo)? It's possible, but Davies is always a handful for any defense. Having him out for Bunbury allowed the Union to focus their defensive efforts on the play makers - Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, and Kelyn Rowe. With Brian Carroll and Warren Creavalle partnering well with the back four, New England was held to just two shots on goal.
3.) Fabinho had a good game. While he was much maligned (and deservedly so) for his play in the first two matches, everything clicked for the Brazilian left back. He seemed to focus more on defense than offense, and when he did make runs forward they were smart and timely. Check out the Union's first goal.
First, Richie Marquez made a great play to intercept the New England pass and then get it up to Creavalle. Creavalle waited for Fabi to make a run along the sideline and hit him with a great pass. Once Fabinho saw that he had an open field in front of him and that Creavalle was behind him to cover on defense, he was off to the races against Gershon Koffie. Fabinho then hit a great cross over to CJ Sapong, making Andrew Farrell miss a diving header to clear the ball. Sapong's first touch was absolutely perfect, and he was able to beat Jose Goncalves and fire the ball into the net.
4.) Warren Creavalle continues to impress. Jim Curtin is going to have a tough decision when Vincent Nogueira comes back from injury - who sits between Creavalle and Carroll? Creavalle was absolutely lights out against the Revolution. He ate up space in passing lanes and was a physical presence. He grabbed an assist on Sapong's second goal with another great pairing from Fabinho.
The key to this one was Kelyn Rowe, who will no doubt find himself on the wrong end of a Jay Heaps lecture in the video room. Rowe didn't realize that Creavalle continued forward almost to an offside position until Fabinho passed it up the flank to him. Once he did, he did well to break to Creavalle but inexplicably pulled up as Creavalle broke toward goal. Once he did that, he had acres of space and it was just a matter of CJ Sapong losing Goncalves and hitting Creavalle's cross into the back of the net. If Creavalle continues this level of play, he may supplant Brian Carroll at central defensive midfield when Nogueira comes back.
5.) Lee Nguyen pulls an Andrew Wenger (or Saad Abdul).
This is the sort of thing that in any other year happens to the Union - or goes in. Today it was someone else's turn to get that feeling in your guts that you just know you're screwed. That had to demoralize New England, and better yet it helped keep the score at 2-0.
6.) Je-Vaughan Watson's red card was dumb.
Seriously, there's no need for Watson to do this. He was upset that Alberg's hard foul on Gershon Koffie wasn't called - and perhaps deservedly so. But you can't go in straight-legged with both feet and studs up on a guy. Ever. Expect Watson to get a call from the MLS Disciplinary Committee and an unpaid vacation for this one.
7.) It wasn't all roses for the Union. Not one but two missed penalties could have sealed the match, but Bobby Shuttleworth kept the Revs in it until the third goal. Still, the Union have to learn to convert those chances and finish their opponent off.
8.) Sebastien Le Toux off the bench is a difference maker. The Union have never had a bench player that could come in and make the impact Le Toux makes. Antoine Hoppenot had a brief run, but his modus operandi was figured out quickly (work the offsides, get in deep, dive when touched) and neutralized. Le Toux's not the one-trick pony that Hoppenot was. He's an offensive threat, he gets back on defense, he makes runs at the goalkeeper any time the ball is played back, and generally just makes life miserable for the opponent who has to deal with his speed and awareness on tired legs.
9.) Andre Blake was solid. It may not be anything new, but it bears repeating - Andre Blake is a game changer. Even though he didn't face many shots, he was calm and collected all game. When a club plays in front of a goalkeeper like him, they should radiate confidence - and the Union certainly seemed to do that today. Blake is headed off to be with the Jamaica National Team for World Cup Qualifiers, and luckily the Union are off next week and will not miss his services.
Was there anything else that was noteworthy of being a game changer? Let me know in the comments below!