If Union interim manager John Hackworth had tried to write a script on what his first MLS win would look like, I'm not sure that he could have come up with something like what we saw on Saturday at PPL Park.
The way this season has gone, a 1-0 win, even if ugly, would have been cause enough to celebrate. Instead, another crowd of 18,000-plus and our Comcast TV audience witnessed one of the most entertaining games in the Union's near three-year history. A 4-0 win vs. Sporting Kansas City only tells a part of the story. Remember, this was a victory against not just one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, but one of the best teams in the entire league.
On the plus side, Jack McInerney continues to reward Hackworth for putting him in the starting lineup. In his second start, the 19-year-old scored twice, once very early (first minute) and once very late in the first half (42nd minute).
The team did a great job with their finishing, connecting for four goals on their six shots that hit the target.
Brian Carroll was his steady self, helping to shut down star midfielder Graham Zusi, who is the creator for Sporting Kansas City. Without Zusi being able to supply the ball, offensive weapons like Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong were nearly invisible. The Union three-man midfield was superb, with Carroll getting plenty of help from Michael Lahoud and Michael Farfan.
The Union back four was steady all night. Raymon Gaddis did well filling in for the injured Sheanon Williams, while Carlos Valdes played his finest game this season, and in my opinion, his best game in his two seasons in Philly.
SKC had an advantage over the Union in terms of size and speed, and Hackworth had mentioned his concern about some of the potential matchups. Those matchups were won by the Union because of hard work both individually and collectively.
I liked the fact that the Union went for it in the second half instead of trying to protect a two-goal lead. The insertion of the energizing Antoine Hoppenot as the Union's first sub showed that the team was more interested in getting that third goal and winning the game than they were about packing it in for a hopeful result.
Unlike the D.C. game where they played well but lost, the Union were rewarded mightily for their effort on Saturday. The win snaps a six-game winless streak and gives the club some momentum in the sense that they have now played two straight solid games. Up until now, they really hadn't done that all season.
The next two MLS games will be very challenging, with both coming on the road, at Houston and LA.
They'll be facing the intense heat of Houston and an angry Dynamo team next Saturday. Houston will be bothered by their 4-2 loss on Saturday at Montreal.
I'll have more on the Houston-Philly matchup later this week.
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