Looking to close out their three match home stand on national TV, the Philadelphia Union came out guns blazing in their 3-0 victory over the New England Revolution.
With both teams on the fringes of MLS playoff contention, this eastern conference battle between the Philadelphia Union and the New England Revolution was vitally important to start the 2nd half of the regular season on a positive note for either side. Philadelphia set out quickly against an attacking minded Revolution side to pick out the spaces in the midfield and get behind the defense. And only three minutes into the game, it looked to be the Union’s night for the taking.
C.J. Sapong chipped a cross from the left which ended up hitting the arm of New England’s Benjamin Angoua on the very edge of the box in the 3rd minute. It was called in the Union’s favor and Sapong was awarded a penalty kick despite it appearing that the Revolution man was not completely inside the 18-yard area. The Philadelphia striker stepped up confidently and smashed the attempt straight down the middle of Cody Cropper’s net for his 9th goal of the season.
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New England quickly responded by pressing hard and pinning the Union back for a substantial part of the first half. Passing mistakes from Giliano Wijnaldum and Haris Medunjanin led to counterattacking chances but Andre Blake stood tall in his net as he usually does whenever called into action. Philadelphia had its chances to create a wider margin in the goals column but the recent finishing woes of Fafa Picault carried over on a couple chances being one-on-one with the keeper.
Known for their inconsistency in holding onto one goal leads, head coach Jim Curtin was aware of how the opposition would come at Philadelphia in the second half and implored his team to continue making positive runs and not settling into the game too comfortably. Their efforts were rewarded only three minutes into the second half. Brazilian midfielder Ilsinho make a sharp move into the box and cleverly chipped the Revolution keeper off an excellent ball from the winger Picault to extend the lead to two goals.
Ilsinho’s play was influential in the buildup for Philadelphia as they controlled the game for most of the second half. While it’s been heavily debated as to who should play in the number 10 role for the Union, the experienced Brazilian was effective in drawing in multiple defenders and beating them with his quick moves.
The other man in question however was going to have his say in the matter when Roland Alberg was subbed on for Ilsinho in the 78th minute and produced yet another moment of wonder. Fresh onto the pitch and longing to make an impact, the Dutch midfielder fired a one-time effort from just over 25 yards out into an unreachable part of the net which sealed the 3-0 victory for the home side.
Philadelphia now find themselves only one point behind the New York Red Bulls and three points out of a playoff spot currently held by Columbus Crew who have played two more games this season than the Union. Taking six out of a possible nine points in a three game homestand certainly signals an upwards trend for the boys in blue. However, the impending CONCACAF Gold Cup brings about the difficulty of being without Andre Blake and Alejandro Bedoya for at least a couple of weeks.
The task is certainly daunting, especially with the next three matches taking place on the road against Sporting KC, Montreal, and Columbus. Resiliency and depth will be key going forward for the Philadelphia Union, but today has shown that anyone on this team can step up at any moment when called upon and produce the result needed for this team to thrive and succeed.