With eyes on the bigger prize of the Concacaf Champions League semifinal on Thursday in Mexico City, Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin rewarded three of his young homegrown players with starts against first place New England Revolution.
And while they didn’t deliver a result, Paxten Aaronson and company did reward the decision. Aaronson scored his first MLS goal in the 31st minute to cancel out a 10th minute goal for Matt Polster but a penalty called against Leon Flach ended up being the decisive play of the day with all three goals scored before the break.
Buzzing from Aaronson’s jaw-dropping equalizer, Tajon Buchanan was on the edge of the box when Flach tripped him up to draw the penalty from referee Armando Villarreal. Gustavo Bou nearly had the same result on the ensuing penalty that Yeferson Soteldo had on Wednesday night for Toronto FC when he hit the ball too close to Andre Blake but this time Bou was able to put back a rebound to make it 2-1 in the 39th minute.
The Revs had several chances in the second half to extend the lead but it was the Union with the regulars who were rotated in off the bench that tested Matt Turner in their search for an equalizer that ultimately didn’t come.
It wasn’t the worst result considering there are bigger fish to fry with a trip to face Club America on Thursday, but it’s still a disappointing one for a Union team that hasn’t won away from home since May 23.
Getting Aaronson his first goal and a 90-minute run out for the first time were positives from the night along with a different formation with three at the back (Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes and Stuart Findlay) but the chance to leave Foxborough with a point was there for the taking.
Simply put, the Union need to do better than three losses and four draws in seven straight games on the road but they’ll get their chance to end that streak at the end of the month when they visit DC United on August 28.
Until then, it’s time to set aside the league and focus fully on putting in a respectable performance at Azteca to be in position to advance to the final on the return leg in September.