Going into Friday night’s match, the Union fans knew that they were going to see an unusual line due to the multiple Union players out on international duty. The fresh faces in the starting XI needed to have stand out performances against the New England Revolution, the current top team in the East. But the Union’s run of back luck continued as they failed to stage a comeback against the Revs, even after they went down to ten men.
As expected, the Union needed to make plenty of changes to make up for the players out on international duty along with Jack Elliott, who was out due to yellow card accumulation. Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, and Jack McGlynn got another chance to start in the midfield while Nathan Harriel got his first opportunity at right back.
It was an especially young lineup overall, but the exception was in goal. Rather than using homegrown Matt Freese at keeper, Curtin elected to give Joe Bendik the start.
Of course, the Revs were depleted too. Matt Turner is away with the USMNT and Tajon Buchanan was out with the Canadian team. Gustavo Bou, who scored the winner during the game in August, was also unavailable.
The Union’s young squad got off to a fast start as they made several runs on the wings to whip crosses into the Revs box. It didn’t result in any shots at first, but it kept the Revs on their heels for most of the first fifteen minutes or so.
Even though the Union were on the front foot, it wasn’t translating into chances. A low cross to Przybylko in the 17th minute was sent wide for a goal kick. A more dangerous chance came in the 23rd minute as Aaronson tested Brad Knighton from a tight angle. Knighton had the near post covered, but the ball spilled out for a corner that the Revs defense easily cleared away.
The next good chance for the Union came in the 30th minute as an excellent pass from Quinn Sullivan found Leon Flach with some space. Flach was able to unleash a powerful left footed shot, but it was right at Knighton.
The Union would regret those missed opportunities as it was the Revs who opened the scoring in the 33rd minute. New England had a free kick in the attacking third and a New England cross found an open Matt Polster who was able to tap the ball in at the far post. Just like in the August match, the Union would be playing from behind.
The Union didn’t hang their heads and they tried to find an equalizer within the first half. Sullivan and Flach in particular kept their energy up, but the final finish still wasn’t there for the Union. The Revs nearly found a second at the end of the half, but a deflected shot went right into Bendik’s gloves.
The Union returned to the pitch attacking the river end and looking to successfully battle from behind for a win for the first time this season. It was the captain Alejandro Bedoya who had the first good opportunity as he fired a low shot from outside the box in the 51st minute. But Knighton was in the right position to get low and scoop it up.
Aaronson had an opportunity of his own just a few minutes later. His shot off of his right foot was spilled by Knighton but there was no one available from the Union to pounce on the loose ball.
Shortly after this the Union got a lifeline because of a mental mistake by the Revolution’s Arnor Traustason. Traustason was already on a yellow because of a foul in the 55th minute when Harriel won the ball in front of the Revs midfielder. He blatantly held onto Harriel to stop his run and the ref didn’t hesitate to give a second yellow card to end his night early.
With the new man advantage, the Union quickly hit the gas. Aaronson lashed a shot from distance in the 61st minute that Knighton had to stretch to save. The Union won a dangerous free kick after the resulting corner, but the ball ended up hitting the referee and the attack was stopped.
The Revs were quick to make some changes, bringing on Scott Caldwell and Carles Gil for Edward Kizza and Wilfrid Kaptoum. The Union held off until the 72nd minute to make their subs, bringing on Anthony Fontana and Davo (making his Union debut) in exchange for Harriel and McGlynn. The Union shifted into a three man backline after the subs.
The Revs never bunkered down after going down a man, and they continued to have attacking opportunities. This nearly paid off for them in the 75th minute as Caldwell had an opportunity to pounce on a loose ball right in front of the Union goal. Fortunately for Philly, he skied his shot over the crossbar instead.
Davo got his first shot on goal in the 79th minute, but the Union attack didn’t look any closer to a breakthrough. Just after that, Bendik was called into action to push away a close range shot from Gil to keep the deficit to one.
The Union earned a corner in the 84th minute and that gave the opportunity for Cole Turner to make his 2021 debut replacing Quinn Sullivan. The resulting corner led to a few nervy moments for the Revs, but it was eventually cleared away.
With almost no time left, the Union became desperate for an equalizer. Bedoya had a good look at the near post following a sweet give and go with Aaronson, but he tried to square it across the goal instead. But his pass was cleared away by the Revs and Aaronson earned a yellow card slowing down the counter.
The Union were given four minutes of added time to work, but they failed to put together
Within added time, the Revs’ Henry Kessler engaged in some especially blatant time wasting by kicking a ball out of play and then chucking the waiting sideline ball up into the stands. He earned a yellow and some especially loud boos from the River End for his actions. Shortly after that, he went to ground in the box after a light touch from Glesnes.
The tension of the moment got the better of the players and the final seconds of the game were burned away with small skirmishes and shoving contests. A few minutes were wasted, but little additional time was added on. The Union were unable to put together another attack and the 0-1 scoreline would hold.
- Tonight’s loss was a different kind of disappointment for the Union compared to the 3-1 defeat against DC United. While the Union frequently looked out of sorts against DC, they really looked to be the better team for the majority of tonight’s match. It makes the failure to find an equalizer all the more frustrating.
- It was tough to catch at the end of the coverage, but it looked like there was even more extracurricular activity with Kessler as he walked off the field.
- Tonight’s match was an opportunity for younger players who don’t get many minutes to make a splash and I would argue that none of them really did. Some had solid performances, but no one really staked their claim to a larger share of minutes going forward.