Two goals equaled three points and an elusive win away from home for the Philadelphia Union on Saturday afternoon.
For the first time this season, the Union found the back of the net on the road and preserved a clean sheet in a 10v10 match to pick up their first victory since May 13, 2017 over the Montreal Impact on Saturday afternoon.
After a demoralizing 1-0 loss in Columbus on Wednesday night, head coach Jim Curtin came out as promised with four changes to his starting lineup — Mark McKenzie for Jack Elliott, Ray Gaddis for Fabinho, Marcus Epps for David Accam and Cory Burke for CJ Sapong — looking for a spark.
One nearly came in the opening minutes through the Union’s high press, which flustered a Montreal backline that has been the most porous in the league so far this season. In the first minute, it was Marcus Epps setting up Borek Dockal for a shot in the box that sailed over the bar and minutes later Fafa Picault played Cory Burke into the box, where Impact goalkeeper may have gotten away with a penalty to clear the danger.
While the Union offense looked bright, Montreal Impact was finding chances of their own the other way and had a legitimate penalty shout of their own on the other end when Andre Blake made a poor pass to Alejandro Bedoya that was easily taken by Ignacio Piatti just outside the 18. Bedoya applied pressure — and plenty of contact — from behind to shut down the opportunity but the Union were fortunate not to find themselves in a familiar situation, failing to finish and then going down a goal.
The long-awaited breakthrough came from an unlikely source when Dockal collected the ball near the corner of the 18 and sent a simple ball to Ray Gaddis streaking down the left. Gaddis, who earlier registered a rare shot on goal, crossed the ball first time with his left foot and found the head of Burke, whose booming header hit off Evan Bush and into the back of the net.
The goal was the first on the road in 479 minutes and the first of Burke’s MLS career in his first start.
Not a bad way to make your first MLS start.— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 12, 2018
Cory Burke puts @PhilaUnion ahead 1-0. #MTLvPHI https://t.co/HXrWIsdAMQ
The Union took the 1-0 lead into halftime and were doing well to keep Piatti in check — credit to Keegan Rosenberry and McKenzie with help from Haris Medunjanin — but all of that hard work appeared to be heading toward another letdown when Medunjanin played a poor ball to a Montreal player, who Burke unwisely decided to take down. The Jamaican international didn’t even bother to debate the call, it was so obviously a red.
Up a man, Montreal had all the momentum in their favor but all of that went away thanks to relentless pressure from Fafa Picault and a little thing called video assistant referee.
Daniel Lovitz, a Philly area native who played for Lower Merion SC in his youth soccer days, initially got away with his take down of Picault after he deflected the ball into the box but it was later ruled a straight red for a denial of a goal-scoring chance.
Playing 10 vs 10 from the 67th minute on helped relieve some of the pressure for the Union trying to hang onto their lead. More sloppy play at the back relieved even more when a heavy touch in the box turned the ball over to David Accam, who used his strength to hang on to the ball and get it to Medunjanin, who scored a rare goal with his right foot with a calm finish past an off-his-line Bush.
Medunjanin capitalizes on an Impact mistake and @PhilaUnion are up 2-0. #MTLvPHI https://t.co/AVgwK2K0Uf— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 12, 2018
The goals conceded were the 25th and 26th on the season for the Impact (3-8-0), which increased their league worst goal differential to -12. The goals scored by the Union (3-5-2) were No. 7 and 8 on the year, which now puts them in a tie for last in the league with D.C. United.
“We needed to have fresh legs on the field and a lot of guys stepped up in a big way from our teenage center backs at the back to Cory Burke up top,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “I felt every guy on the field left everything they had out on the field.”
The blue and gold return home Saturday to play Real Salt Lake on military appreciation night.