WALLINGFORD, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union reserves had the look and feel of a well oiled machine.
Philadelphia played an uptempo, attacking game for 90 minutes on Monday at Chester Park, putting four goals past New England in a comprehensive 4-2 win to kick off the 2012 MLS Reserve League schedule.
"I thought it was very good," said reserve team head coach Brendan Burke. "From start to finish, in terms of the tempo we played, we didn't see anything that good as a group last year. I think if anybody was keeping track of it, or if you went back and looked at the film, we probably had about 80 percent of the possession for the game. That's the important part to us. These games are about development for the guys who are going to step on the field for the first team. From a development and confidence standpoint, I think we had at least eight to 10 guys who took big strides forward."
The Union played a flexible and fluid 4-4-2 against the Revolution. Antoine Hoppenot and Josue Martinez formed a strike partnership ahead of Roger Torres in central midfield. Zach Pfeffer started wide right and Jack McInerney started wide left with Amobi Okugo pulling the strings from his holding midfield role.
The smaller but faster Union sprung several first half counterattacks, beating the Revs back line with clever forward runs and quick decision making in the midfield.
"It's something (coach John Hackworth) always tries to push," Burke explained. "We talked about it in the locker room today: tempo. We talk about tempo all the time, and finding a rhythm. Everyone (was playing) one or two touch passes in our middle third and our defensive third, and it was just about connecting the dots and moving the pieces around defensively. That's where you see the windows start to open up and we can use a guy like Antoine, a guy like Chandler (Hoffman), a guy like Josue. They all did well today."
New England opened the scoring through a controversial first half penalty kick. Chase Harrison appeared to reach the ball first before a heavy collision with Revs forward Blake Brettschneider, but the Union reserves answered with four straight goals - two from Martinez, one from Hoppenot and another from Cristhian Hernandez.
"We have a lot of young pieces who can do a lot of different jobs," added Burke. "Because of the personnel we had available, we had four or five forwards on the field at times. But they were playing through the midfield and they understood their roles. Antoine's pace changed the game in the first half. Josue's work rate was phenomenal and he got rewarded with two goals and an assist. So those guys obviously on the stat sheet are going to stand out. But Jimmy McLaughlin I thought played like a seasoned right back. Ray Gaddis at center back, Greg Jordan read the game well. I really can't single a guy out because I'm so pleased with the group on the whole, barring the last minute."
New England scored a late consolation goal after the Union failed to clear a long ball into the box, but the makeshift Union back line shut down a more experienced Revs side that included Brettschneider, Kenny Mansally, Jeremiah White, and Diego Fagundez.
Ray Gaddis paired Greg Jordan in central defense, while natural midfielder Hernandez played left back and Jimmy McLaughlin slotted in at right back.
"Cristhian showed calm behavior on the ball," said Burke. "That comes from being a good central midfield player. He's natural on the offensive side of the ball, so it was an easy transition for him. Jimmy's trained at right back a little bit more. And he trains with the first team at right back, so he's really gaining confidence there. You can see his pace coming out of the back. He's another guy who's a converted midfielder. The modern game asks for a lot out of your left and right backs and I think Jimmy's shaping up to be a good one."