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Game Changers: Heroes of the Revolution

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Here are the key moments that helped breathe some life back into the Philadelphia Union’s season.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at New England Revolution Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

1.) Alejandro Bedoya - The debut of the Alejandro Bedoya era in Philadelphia couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. While I wasn’t sure he’d get the start, Bedoya’s presence on the field was huge if for no other reason than other players could be played in position. It’s hard to understate that fact. The 8 is such a balancing act. You have to know when to act like an offensive player and you have to know when to act as a defensive player. You have to be able to split your focus on both sides of the ball and be able to shift from one to the other at less than a moments notice. It’s why Tranquillo Barnetta - a world class 10 - had such difficulty with it. It’s also why Warren Creavalle - a decent 6 in his own right - did as well. With Bedoya in the lineup, Barnetta and Creavalle were free to do what they do best. Bedoya’s ability to read the field and play what the situation dictated was the difference.

2.) New England’s lack of focus - The first Philadelphia Union goal was the result of the New England Revolution’s defense forgetting one of the first things their coaches ever taught them - always play to the whistle. Fabinho made a great run down the sideline, and had one heavy touch that got away from him. The ball went over the line but not completely out, which is rightfully still in play.

The Philadelphia Union’s Fabinho dribbling on the line against the New England Revolution.
The Philadelphia Union’s Fabinho dribbling on the line against the New England Revolution.

Two of the three Revs defenders who had pursued Fabinho down the line turned to yell at the referee, however when Andrew Farrell and Teal Bunbury turned their back Fabinho kept going, whipping in a cross to CJ Sapong, who went around Jose Goncalves and put it home past Bobby Shuttleworth to give the Union the lead before two minutes had expired.

Sapong did great to maneuver past the hulking Goncalves and get a good touch on the ball, but all credit on this should go to Fabinho. He made a great run and perhaps more importantly, he kept running until he heard a whistle.

3.) Andre Blake is Andre Blake - We are spoiled. Union fans are just accustomed to Andre Blake making superhuman saves week in and week out. This week he stopped a Lee Nguyen rocket that would have put the sides level early. It could have been a very different game if it wasn’t for this:

Yeah. I’m sure Joe Bendik will somehow win Save of the Week (he always seems to despite whatever Blake does), but this was magnificent.

4.) Jim Curtin’s subs were all offensive-minded subs - Usually at least one of the subs that come on late for the Union are somewhat defensive in nature. Often we’ll see Warren Creavalle come on for Brian Carroll or Vincent Nogueira when he was here. Perhaps because the options at defensive midfield were so limited (read: none beyond Creavalle) that Curtin went with two forwards (Fabian Herbers and Charlie Davies) and an attacking midfielder (Roland Alberg), but it paid off in spades. Davies had an assist, Alberg had a goal, and Herbers was instrumental in two of the four goals. Great job by Curtin and the coaching staff smelling blood in the water and throwing more sharks into the pool.

5.) Licensed to Ilsinho - This was the culmination of the Union doing everything right and the Revs doing everything wrong on the same play. Fabian Herbers starts by making a decent run toward the box. He tries switching the field up to Ilsinho, but his pass is intercepted by Chris Tierney. Tierney tries hoofing it upfield, but he kicks it straight into Tranquillo Barnetta, who deflected the ball out to Ilsinho.

Tierney tries making a tackle on Ilsinho, but he’s a mere mortal going up against a guy with superhuman touch on the ball, and Ilsinho makes him fall down with a slick move inside. Jose Goncalves comes up to try and challenge him, but he to is no match as Ilsinho does the soccer equivalent of holding something over a child’s head and making him jump for it. Finally Scott Caldwell tries to put a body on Ilsinho, but since he gives up almost 40 pounds to Ilsinho he just bounces off of him. Caldwell was able to poke the ball away from Ilsinho, however unfortunately for him it went straight to Chris Pontius. Andrew Farrell was supposed to be marking Pontius, who at the time lead the team with nine goals, but had fallen too far back and was ball-watching while Pontius got himself open. Once the ball got to Pontius, he one timed it in past Bobby Shuttleworth, making him the first Union player to go into double digits since Sebastien Le Toux did it in a match against the Montreal Impact on August 9, 2014.

6.) Fear the beard - Usually it’s the Union being punished off of set pieces, but this time they were able to repay the favor. Just minutes after the Pontius goal, Tranquillo Barnetta was fouled pretty needlessly by Jose Goncalves. Barnetta blasted the free kick from long distance right at Bobby Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth pushed the ball over the bar, conceding the corner kick.

Barnetta took the corner, and struck it hard toward the center of the six yard box. Keegan Rosenberry got a head on it, putting the ball back toward the left of the goal. Richie Marquez came in like a bull in a china shop and headed the ball past Shuttleworth and into the net to bring the Union up 3-0.

7.) Charlie Davies - You knew it was coming, and it was as good a moment as you could have hoped for. No more commentary from me is necessary on this - enjoy a class moment in sports.

8.) Don’t forget about Alberg - Roland Alberg was subbed on for Alejandro Bedoya in the 72nd minute, but it wasn’t until Davies was on and it was deep in extra time that the midfielder made his presence known. Keegan Rosenberry did a little give-and-go with Fabian Herbers that drew the defense downfield and away from Rosenberry. When he got the ball back, Rosenberry dribbled it in toward the center of the pitch. Tranquillo Barnetta used himself as bait to draw Zach Herivaux off of Alberg, and Rosenberry’s pass went to Alberg, who deftly backheeled the ball to Davies and away from the onrushing Jose Goncalves. Goncalves ran clear past Alberg and when Davies one-touched it back to him, he was all alone. Alberg took one touch to settle the ball and then fired a rocket past Bobby Shuttleworth, who hopefully earns hazard pay for working behind that defense. That backheel is absolutely perfectly played though.

Anything else you thought was game changing? Let us know in the comments section below!

(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had said that Ilsinho had passed the ball over to Pontius on his goal. It has been corrected to reflect that it was indeed Scott Caldwell.)