Last week, I described this past weekend’s Philadelphia Union road match against the New England Revolution as very winnable on paper, but I added that with so much parity in the MLS, the club would have to play tighter defense and get a little luck to pull it off. Neither happened and the Union fell 2-0.
John Hackworth called it possibly the worst performance of the year by the club. Personally, I’d vote for the second-half collapse on opening day to KC, but either way, the loss puts the squeeze on Philadelphia (3-3-2), which now badly needs points out of some weaker opponents over the next couple of weeks to maintain a healthy position in the MLS Eastern Conference.
So far, the Union has only bagged half of the 6 points that were there for the taking over the last nine days. 6 more points are waiting over the next two matches with low-win opponents Seattle and Chicago in line, but the loss to lowly New England puts more pressure on the Union to win those games and Seattle is recently showing signs of life.
THE GOOD: It was not a complete failure against the Revs. The Union pressed the ball several times and had some good scoring chances, two by Jack McInerney and one by Michael Farfan. Danny Cruz also had some success near the goal. There were four shots on net, three wide and 11 total attempts which reflects that the Union again had some things going on near the opponent’s end for another week. Honestly, they would not have been shut-out were it not for a pair of beautiful fingertip saves by big New England net minder Bobby Shuttleworth.
THE BAD: For the second straight week, the Union managed to allow a team that had barely kissed the back of the net all season a pair of well-executed scores. In this case, it was probably even more embarrassing since one of New England’s two previous tallies was actually an own goal (the other team put it in their own net). New England looked crisp on its two scoring drives, too, rushing on net with multiple players, forcing the Union back on its heels and either passing expertly behind the committed defenders, or being in the right position for rebounds. For those of you who care about these things, the Union also waved goodbye to an undefeated lifetime record against the Revs with Saturday’s loss.
THE UGLY: In the closing minutes, well after a two-goal comeback could be reasonably ruled-out, Union midfielder Michael Farfan took out his frustration on Rev’s rookie defender Andrew Farrell with a hard shoulder that knocked Farrell to the ground. Farrell, the first pick in the January MLS SuperDraft, had to be helped from the field and left the game. On the replay, it looked like a bit of a cheap shot. I can’t find any word on the extent of Farrell’s injury in the Boston Media this morning.
Manager John Hackworth began with virtually the same winning line-up from last week’s DC United match, but made faster substitutions, putting-in Sebastien Le Toux for Conor Casey with nearly a half-hour to go. Antoine Hoppenot followed about 6 minutes later and then World Cup veteran Kleberson. Only Hoppenot got a shot on net. Kleberson was around long enough to pick-up a yellow card. With so little luck going their way and Shuttleworth standing so tall in the New England net, it seemed like nothing the Union tried was destined to do much good this time around.
TOUGH TO SWALLOW: The loss drops the Union back in the standings. They now sit in the 6th position in the East. More painful: a gaggle of other Eastern rivals (Columbus, New York, Montreal and Chicago) all won this week, so the distance between Philadelphia and some of these other clubs grew by 3 gaping points. A quick turn-around seems almost essential.
The soft spot in the schedule continues for two more games before a big test against L.A. at home on May 15th, but this weekend’s opponent, Seattle, may prove more of a handful than its 1-3-2 record would otherwise indicate. More on that match later in the week.