New England: another good opportunity for points

After taking care of business in DC last weekend, the Philadelphia Union heads north on I-95 this time for a road match with the New England Revolution (7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, TCN), another club that’s been scuffling and presents yet another opportunity for points. Not only is New England just 1-3-2 on the season, they may be without defender A.J. Soares who limped off the pitch last week at Red Bull Arena with a hamstring injury.  The Revolution has able replacements, but the injury likely means someone without as much recent seasoning is going to have fill-in somewhere.

New England is also casting a weary eye toward Jack McInerney who surged into the MLS scoring lead (6) with a pair of goals last weekend.  McInerney was already on the Rev’s radar; the young forward has had perhaps more success against the Revolution than any other franchise in his young career.  McInerney has scored the game-winner in the last three Union victories against the New Englanders, including the March 16th 1-0 decision at PPL.  But knowing the threat doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, as the Rev’s coach Jay Heaps told MLS reporter Jeff Lemieux this week. Full article.

“The reason why Jack is so dangerous is because the less he’s involved, the more dangerous he is,” Heaps said. “He doesn’t average a ton of touches, but when he gets them, they’re dangerous. He’s not someone you mark out of the game. He could be on the opposite side of the ball and he just kind of sneaks in and finds the areas to be in.”

The point is a good one and is backed-up by some interesting statistics.  A check of the MLS leaderboard shows that while McInerney is at the top in goals (6) and 4th in shots on goal (11), he’s nowhere to be found among the leaders in total shots taken.  New York’s Thierry Henry leads the way there with a whopping 36.  In other words, the Union forward may not always be on the ball, but when he is, he’s absurdly effective.  You may have also done the math and noted that of Jack Attack’s 11 shots on net, more than half have gone in.  He’s had a couple of gimme’s off solid feeds, but most of his goals have been works of art, none more so than last week’s one-on-two rush at RFK, an absolutely brilliant display of footwork and striking ability.

Statistics don’t always tell the whole story heading into a match like this, but they can sure paint a telling picture.  Like DC United, New England comes into this one having only scored twice in six games.  Meanwhile, they’ve given up 6.  Their win was a 1-0 contest in their first game (at Chicago), which means they’re actually winless in five straight.  And during that stretch, they managed to set a new club record with 394 scoreless minutes (that’s four consecutive shut-outs including the loss to the Union).  They finally got a goal in their last match in New York.  The problem?  They gave up 4 in that contest.  So how do you feel, Union fans?  Confident, right?

The problem, of course, is that the Union plays in the unpredictable MLS where parity is the catchword.  As we learned last week, even a club as punchless as DC United can wake-up and smell blood.  It will be important for the Union to catch some breaks and play a little tighter on the defensive end to seal a victory this weekend.  Offensively?  The key is to continue doing what they’ve been doing for the last three halfs: recovering the ball in the midfield and pushing it cleanly forward.  With Conor Casey, Jack McInerney, Antoinne Hoppenot and possibly Sebastian Le Toux up front, there’s plenty of blossoming fire power at the ready.  A couple of more throw-ins from Sheanon Williams near the goal-line wouldn’t hurt, too.

THANKS, NO THANKS, NEW ENGLAND: New England did Philly wrong by losing to the Red Bulls last week; the New York win kept the Bulls even with the Union in the Eastern Conference at 11 points.  On the other hand, they helped the growing McInerney legend by holding Henry to just one tally which kept him behind McInerney in the MLS goal-scoring race.

LOOKING EVEN FURTHER AHEAD: A win this weekend is important, because even though a home match against another one-win club is on the schedule next week, the Seattle Sounders will arrive at PPL Park with their rigorous CONCACAF Champions League appearance in Mexico finished, their first MLS victory against Colorado just under their belts and a 2-game MLS unbeaten streak.  The Sounders may be ready to get things back on track.

CORRECTION: A big shout-out to a couple of astute Union fans who pointed-out to me an error in Monday’s blog.  I’ve since corrected it, but for the record: the correct order of Union goals against DC United was McInerney-Casey-McInerney. 

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