It was a game that started off as nasty as the weather it was played in.
But you know the old cliché: it’s not how you start it’s how you finish.
It was a finish for the ages as the Union surged to a 1-0 victory over Eastern Conference foe New England courtesy of game winner from Jack McInerney. McInerney scored his second goal in as many games and was the catalyst on a second consecutive win over New England at PPL Park. The Union improved to 5-0-3 all-time and Jack Mac notched his third game winning goal against the Revs.
“I don’t know what it is with [the Revolution], but I know I get in good spots against them,” said McInerney after the game. “They sit high up [on defense] and I like it because I can get balls played back in behind them in the box that amount to good goals.”
It was a physical contest between these two unlike any seen against the Revs all-time. Whatever was in the air from the whipping wind, flurries and freezing rain that funneled through PPL Park made this one resemble a rugby match on a few occasions. In all, referee Jose Carlos Rivero dished out four yellow cards – two apiece to each team in a match that saw 28 fouls in total.
“When you get weather like that, with the rain and the hail before the game, it kind of throws [traditional] soccer out of the window,” said Union defender Sheanon Williams. “We tried as best as we could to get it down and play. Sometimes, that failed and that’s when the battles happened. I think we stepped up well to the occasion today and we did what we needed to do.”
There was a turning point towards the end of the match where the Union shifted momentum in their favor and pressed the Revs defense, finding gaps down the flanks into the box. Although the Union scored on a set piece, it was a constant flurry of scoring chances within the last 30 minutes of the match that made it seem as if Philadelphia was destined to notch one.
Both Keon Daniel and Michael Lahoud had one of the biggest chances to put the Union ahead in the 74th minute. Daniel created space took a shot that offered a rebound which he chased down and laid off to Lahoud. Lahoud danced around a couple of defenders at the top of the box, created space and hit a drive that forced Revs goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to make a save which he tipped over the bar for a corner kick.
It was one of many plays in a late surge from the Union; one manager John Hackworth will noted was more systematic than one might think.
“I think that when we moved Michael Farfan out wide left, he started out on the ball [New England] didn’t have a great way to defend that,” Hackworth said. “We just wanted to see if we could put [Antoine Hoppenot who came in for Farfan in the 67th minute] in that situation. Now Antoine is going to stretch the defense with a lot of energy and a lot of pace and he did that. That allowed Jack McInerney to move out there and you are basically playing a 4-3-3 at that point and that opened the game.”
“We felt like that was a little risky to do when the game is 0-0 in these kind of conditions, but we want to make sure our players know that we are going to do all we can to get three points at home and I thought that was a tactical change that ended up working out.”
Smart decisions now have the Union holding six points after three matches heading into a break from MLS play this week, thanks to a pair of FIFA international match dates. The Union host Mexican League club Pumas UNAM in an exhibition match next Saturday (5 p.m., buy tickets). Then it’s a return to MLS play on March 30 with a nationally televised match against New York at Red Bull Arena (3:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network).
For now, savoring this win is on the agenda.
“I don’t remember who I was talking to but I was saying that last season we started 0-4 and put ourselves in a deep hole,” said Williams. “This year we are starting off well and putting ourselves in a good position to have a good season. I think that will be big going forward so obviously again [today] we were at home, so getting points at home for us are huge – and if they are three, they are even better.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org
Philadelphia Union 1, New England Revolution 0
Saturday, March 16; 5 p.m.
PPL Park, Chester, Pa.
PHI: McInerney (Le Toux), 76
NE: Soares (caution), 27
PHI: Okugo (caution), 42
NE: Shuttleworth (caution), 84
PHI: Parke (caution), 90+
UNION STARTING LINEUP
MacMath, Williams, Parke, Gaddis, Okugo, Daniel, M. Farfan (Hoppenot, 67’), Carroll, Cruz (Lahoud, 8’), McInerney (Albright, 87’), Le Toux
NEW ENGLAND STARTING LINEUP
Shuttleworth, Soares, Farrell, Goncalves, Alston (Barrett, 79’), Caldwell, Nguyen, Rowe, Simms (Dorman, 45’), Toja (Tierney, 79’), Bengtson
Referees: Jose Carlos Rivero, Kermit Quisenberry, Adam Wienckowski, Hilario Grajeda