While we have spoken on air and off about the depth the Philadelphia Union now have after a few recent acquisitions, we actually saw the evidence on Saturday vs New England.
Trailing 1-0 to the Revolution at halftime, and going nowhere offensively, Manager Peter Nowak and his staff made one change at the break and two others later that not only changed the game but, in essence, won the game.
His first move was the insertion of 19-year-old Roger Torres, who replaced Eduardo Coudet. It’s not that Coudet wasn’t getting the job done, but it seemed like between he and Stefani Miglioranzi, they were just duplicating each other's efforts. It’s one thing when it’s 11 versus 11, but Philadelphia had a man advantage after the late first half send-off of defender Cory Gibbs.
What Torres brought to the game was fresh legs, fresh ideas, and a hunger to get back some playing time that he recently lost, partially due to injury, partially due to a lack of experience.
Roger sees the game well, maybe even better because he sat out the first half. From the sideline he could watch the way the Revs played defensively. He could see where the seams were, so once he came in it was a matter of executing. When Torres did enter, Philadelphia played differently and with a lot more creativity.
In the 65th minute Justin Mapp came in for Kyle Nakazawa, and immediately the team had some flank play that was missing from the opening kickoff. Mapp’s speed on the ball is incredible, and so was his desire to have an impact on the game. Taking players on is one of his specialties, and also one of the things missing from the first half of play.
Shortly after the Mapp substitution, Nowak made one more move, replacing defensive midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi with 18-year-old forward Jack McInerney. This wasn’t as big of a gamble since you were playing 11 against 10, but you were still taking out an experienced player and replacing him with a rookie forward.
[inline_node:286827]So while the Torres substitution immediately changed the tempo of the game, the moves to bring in Mapp, then McInerney combined to also change the dynamics and the tactics.
Mapp, with his speed and moves on the ball, was able to break down the Revs' tiring defense, and Mapp was able to assist on a nice goal from McInerney.
Later in stoppage time, with the Union pressing for all three points, Mapp was able to get his left foot on a pass from Sebastien Le Toux and one-time it past New England’s Bobby Shuttleworth.
It was a sweet comeback for the Union. The 2-1 road win vs New England was just their second win away from home this season. The victory also snapped a six-game winless streak.
Now, can they take this and build some momentum? Following the friendly on Wednesday vs Chivas Guadalajara, the Union will take on a Kansas City Wizards team that is coming off of a 2-0 win vs the LA Galaxy, and two straight wins overall. We’ll take a closer look at that game later this week.