By: Todd Kurpel
In a match that featured two teams with outside chances of making the playoffs, both the Philadelphia Union and the New England Revolution were looking for a victory to salvage what have been disappointing seasons and to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The Union, who were riding a six-game winless streak, headed to Gillette Stadium to take on the Revolution, who had dropped their previous two matches. The teams’ previous meeting this year at PPL Park in Chester, PA resulted in a 1-1 tie. Prior to the match, the Union were trailing the Revolution by four points in the standings. Late drama provided by second half Union substitutions resulted in a 2-1 victory for Philadelphia.
In goal, the Revolution started seldom-used goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. Shuttleworth showed little signs of inexperience in the first half, as he was able to handle the Union’s pressure. Shuttleworth’s only first half issue came when he misjudged a Kyle Nakazawa free kick and was forced to make an awkward cover of the shot. Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz also had little difficulty in the game’s opening minutes, as both teams’ offensive attacks seemed to take a while to get into the flow of the game.
The Revolution were the first team to get on the scoreboard, as they were able to take advantage of another Philadelphia miscue in the 30th minute. Union Captain, Danny Califf had the opportunity to clear a corner kick by Marko Perovic, but his attempt was sent directly into Shalrie Joseph. The loose ball found its way to the foot of Ilija Stolica who was able to send a shot through three Union defenders and past a helpless Seitz. Califf argued that his clearance hit the arm of Joseph, but his plea was ignored. In a season marked by solid efforts wasted by careless mistakes, it seemed that the Union were heading to another disappointing finish.
The Union caught a break; however, as a red card was issued to Revolution defender Cory Gibbs whose aggressive challenge sent Eduardo Coudet into the turf. While it was a clear foul, it did not appear that a red card was necessary as replays showed that Gibbs appeared to have been attempting to make a play on the ball. The Union were not able to take advantage of the man-down Revolution for the rest of the first-half, however, and they headed into the locker room down a goal.
In an effort to create a spark, while also giving assistance to Union attackers Stephen Le Toux and Danny Mwanga, the Union made three key substitutions in the second half. The Revolution did a good job in frustrating Le Toux and Mwanga for most of the game. Le Toux and Mwanga are responsible for a majority of the Union’s goals on the season. Team manager Peter Nowak inserted Roger Torres, Justin Mapp, and Jack McInerney into the game in the second half in hopes of mounting a comeback.
Even though they were playing a man-down, it appeared that the Revolution were going to be able to protect the 1-0 lead. It was not until the 81st minute that the Union were finally able to get a shot past Shuttleworth. Substitutes Mapp and McInerney hooked up on a play that saw Mapp chipping a perfect pass into the box that McInerney was able to catch full stride and redirect into the corner past Shuttleworth to tie the score at one. It was McInerney’s second goal of the season. In limited minutes this season, McInerney has been impressive when called upon and has shown that he could possibly become the third scoring threat that the Union have so desperately needed all season.
With time ticking away, it appeared that the teams were going to have to settle for another 1-1 tie, which would have been a frustrating result as both teams need the three points earned with victory if there is to be any chance at making the playoffs. In the second minute of stoppage time, Seitz scooped up a Revolution corner attempt and quickly cleared the ball down the field. His kick found the foot of Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney who then had a clearance attempt intercepted by Mwanga. Mwanga carried the ball up to the box and dumped a pass off to Stephen Le Toux whose run was stopped by Tierney. The ball bounced back to the edge of the box, but Le Toux did not give up on the play. Instead he hustled to the ball and found Mapp who was alone at the top of the box. Mapp was able to get his left foot on Le Toux’s pass and chipped a shot past a diving Shuttleworth to give the Union lead and the victory as there were only a few more moments left in the game.
The victory puts the Union just a point behind the Revolution in the standings. Next up for the Union is a friendly match versus Chivas de Guadalajara at PPL Park. Their next MLS match is on Saturday, September 4th against the Kansas City Wizards, which is also at home at PPL Park. The Revolution play on September 4th versus Seattle Sounders FC.