Philadelphia's shutout win against the New England Revolution improved the Union to 3-2-0 all-time in home openers.
The club is now 1-0-1 on the season and has yet to trail over the course of 180 minutes.
Strong performances from the midfield and defense helped the Union control the tempo for the majority of Saturday's game. There were quality outings from a number of players making their debut at PPL Park.
Here are a few things that stood out from the win.
1. First Half Possession
The first half of Saturday's game featured some of the best passing and possession that a Union team has put together in more than four seasons of play.
Figure 1: A look at Ray Gaddis' afternoon in particular Saturday against the New England Revolution
Philadelphia controlled the possession battle 72 percent to 28 percent in the first 45 minutes.
The Union outshot the Revolution eight to three, put more shots on goal, and earned more corner kicks during that opening half.
No one had a better afternoon passing the ball than Maurice Edu. He completed 47-of-54 pass attempts, which is an 87 percent average over the entire 90 minutes. You always want your defensive midfielder to play safe and simple balls and Edu was rarely off the mark against the Revs.
Vincent Nogueira attempted more passes than anyone on the field. He was 85 percent on the afternoon and completed 66-of-77 tries. Surprise starter Leo Fernandes went 33 for 40 for 82 percent success and got the assist on the game-winning goal.
Edu, Nogueira, and Fernandes completed 146 of 171 total pass attempts, combining for an 85 percent completion rate.
They were a big part of why the Union was able to dominate the first half.
2. Right Side Lockdown
Ray Gaddis and Amobi Okugo are probably the best one-on-one defenders on the team and they locked it down on the right side of the backline.
Gaddis' numbers were excellent: five tackles won, four interceptions, two clearances, nine recoveries, and just one foul conceded.
The first diagram shows just how active Gaddis was with both his defense and distribution on the right flank.
Okugo was just as solid: two tackles won, seven clearances, seven recoveries, eight headers, and zero fouls conceded.
The pair did well against left back Chris Tierney, and left sided midfielder Donnie Smith. Smith was replaced at halftime as Jay Heaps added another striker and changed his formation.
3. Slower Second Half
Here's what manager John Hackworth had to say about the second half performance.
“The best way to close out games is to get the second goal. I’ll be honest; I don’t think we played well the second half. My expectation going out of halftime was that we were going to do the same thing like gain possession and have the highest number of passes. It’s hard but we were really determined to rectify the situation last week. The whole time [in the second half] I was urging us to step it up and pick up the pressure."
The second diagram shows the possession intervals over the course of the game.
Looking at minute 65, you can see that New England started to even out the possession battle and began to threaten more as the Union conceded more of the ball.
The game finished with the Union winning the overall possession battle 60 to 40 percent, but you saw the difference in the second half when the proverbial foot came slightly off the gas.
Figure 2: Breakdown of possession intervals
What was insightful was Hackworth's postgame comments. He recognized and wasn't pleased with his team's inability to keep full steam ahead for 90 minutes. It's something you want pointed out early so that going forward, there are contingencies put into place whether in formation or personnel to ensure that the Union continue to give maximum effort game in and game out. If the collective can do that, you're going to see a lot of smiling faces as a result of three points gained.
What do you think of these three points? Leave your comment below.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org