After a three week break from MLS play, the Philadelphia Union came out firing against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the New England Revolution. The win was the first MLS victory for interim manager Jim Curtin and came on the road at Gillette Stadium which both made the three points so much sweeter. An improved Union defense and transition offense highlighted the match and giving Philadelphia the edge in the end.
The Union have looked like a new team in recent days with shots finally finding the back of the net. Coming into the match against NE, Philadelphia had scored 19 goals in their last 8 matches, and the scoring onslaught would continue as the Union would account for three goals.
Sebastian Le Toux continued his success with two goals in the match, following his two goal performance against NY Cosmos in the U.S. Open Cup. Le Toux displayed some great balance and skill with his first goal as he used his classic speed to put pressure on a miscue by the Revolution defense. The situation came through a bad backfield pass to defender Jose Gonclaves who in turn decided to attempt to head the ball back to a hesitant GK Brad Knighton, but Le Toux came from behind at the right second to lift his foot into the air and gently flick the ball up and over the goalkeeper while it was in flight. A display of grace coming from the Union winger. Le Toux's second would come from a pass by Wenger into the box which he would slice into the corner netting. The teamwork in the situation was a microcosm of the great communication and cooperation throughout the match by the Union players.
The other goal came from Danny Cruz who surprised everyone with a long shot from beyond the box. The knuckle ball shot would curl around a diving Brad Knighton and into the right bottom corner of the net. A brilliant goal coming off the quick transition of the Union which was displayed all night.
Despite the great offensive performances, a nod of acknowledgement must be given to the strong defense. Jim Curtin preaches a great defense foremost in his coaching philosophy as he also was a defensive player in MLS. A key switch was the placement of Amobi Okugo at a holding defensive midfield spot, while Maurice Edu was placed at center back; the same positions came in U.S. Open Cup play against NY Cosmos last Tuesday. Curtin's new defensive system seemed to work against one of the fastest offenses in MLS in which they were held to one goal. The Revolution came in through a precisely timed through ball which led to a cross that MacMath in goal could do little to stop. However, the lone goal did not prove lethal thanks to the production of Philadelphia's offense.
Michael Lahoud was awarded a start once again in a Union defensive midfield spot. The Sierra Leone international put on an excellent display of speed to keep possession up with Philadelphia's attackers. His increase in playing time comes from his involvement in the Union comeback in their last MLS match against Vancouver in early June.
After his recent switch back to the forward spot, Aaron Wheeler came on for Connor Casey in the second half to offer the Union a tall and lengthy threat downfield to keep the ball up and away from their goal. Wheeler came up big in annoying the defense of New England in which he continued the same threat that Casey provided.
Spotlights also are given to Ray Gaddis and Fabinho who both played great at the wide defensive spots to hold back the youthful and quick wingers of the Revolution including runs consistently from Fagundez and Tierney.
The hope of many Philadelphia fans is that this win against one of the finer teams in the MLS will propel the Union on a winning streak as they continue play. The strong defense that went on display tonight will surely aid the cause for three points each match; the missed chances for New England also developed into quick transition offense for the Union which led to two goals (Le Toux's second, Cruz's). MacMath is always there to lend a helping hand, but it was nice to see not as stressed out as he normally would be because he had a confident and skillful defense in front of him in the match. This is the type of team that can be built into a winning form each match and then a title contender. With talented reinforcements coming (according to manager Curtin), the team could peak and come into great form at the perfect moment in the season.
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