All week the talk was getting after the New England Revolution right out of the gate.
A team already reeling from a season opening loss in Houston looked to show it was a fluke in a trip to PPL Park to face a new look Union side looking to prove that a disappointing letdown at the end of its otherwise near flawless season opener was also an untimely mishap.
The Union proved it with authority. As for the Revolution, well, they'll just have to wait one more week.
Courtesy of a 31st minute goal from talismanic striker Sebastien Le Toux, the Union celebrated its first win of the season in front of a sellout crowd after a 1-0 final.
Le Toux coolly finished off a great run and pass from midfielder Leo Fernandes, as he slotted a one timed shot past New England goalkeeper Bobby Shuttlesworth. The goal marked Le Toux’ sixth goal in a home opener as the forward/midfielder has provided either a goal or an assist in all five (and a half) Union home openers.
“We wanted start well at home, and to get a shutout is really important too,” Le Toux said postgame. “We take the 1-0 [lead] and it was a great performance by everyone today. I feel like we got off to a good start and I felt relaxed as the game went on. It’s fun to score goals. Hopefully I can score more goals later on, and help more the team more. Starting off the season with three points [at home] entails a great start to the year and I want to do everything I can to make sure it continues.”
Pregame jitters were evident in the open of this match, but once they dissipated, the Union attacked a chasing Revs side from all angles, creating a bulk of the chances in the first half and just narrowly putting a few away. One of note arrived in the 24th minute when Shuttlesworth mishandled a low driven ball into the box that fell to the feet of Le Toux just outside the six-yard box. However, defensive pressure from the Revs didn’t allow for Le Toux to get a clean hit.
It should be noted that in his first start of 2014, the play of Fernandes was extremely impressive and mimicked much of what he displayed during preseason. The former Reading United product comfort on the ball was a plus in creating chances and his ability to pull the trigger from distance kept the Revs on their toes defensively. His inclusion into the match was due in large part to a late scratch for Union captain Brian Carroll, who was left off today’s lineup due to “flu like symptoms,” disclosed postgame by Union manager John Hackworth.
“I think you saw in the first 10 minutes of the game it was a little shaky,” said Hackworth. “The guys haven’t trained with those players in those positions all week long but Leo has been in some of preseason activities with these guys. I told Leo that you don’t have to be the best player on the field; all you have to do is your job, play your role, manage your minutes and I thought he did a good job with that today.”
In all, the Union dominated the stat sheet, holding edge in possession (60-40), attempts on goal (13-5) and shots (10-5). However, postgame it was Hackworth that said in many ways his team could have done even better. The manager sees room to grow and with the talent on this roster, the possibilities are limitless.
“The best way to close out the games is to get the second goal,” Hackworth said. “I’ll be honest; I don’t think we played well the second half. My expectations going out of halftime was that we were going to do the same thing like gain possession, 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. But I feel confident in this group in that will be the next step for us.”
Rest assured however that this game assuredly builds confidence heading into another Eastern Conference clash next Saturday, when the Union travel to Columbus to take on the Crew (6 p.m., The Comcast Network) before closing out the month of March with a return to PPL Park to host the Montreal Impact (4 p.m., purchase tickets).
What did you think of Saturday’s match against the Revs? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com