By Ben Seal
CHESTER, Pa. – Just a few feet separated Philadelphia Union (photo) from its first clean sheet and first winning streak of the season. The Union held a second-half lead and looked ready to close out the New England Revolution, but Marko Perovic’s free kick from 32 yards dived into the grass, a yard in front of Philadelphia keeper Chris Seitz. A few feet farther and Seitz would have preserved the win with a leaping save to his right side, but Seitz could only watch from his back as the ball took a strange hop off the ground and right into the top of the net. Perovic’s 71st minute skip-score ensured a 1-1 draw at PPL Park between two teams scrambling for points toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference. “The ball basically jumped on something that was in front of Chris and really went high,” said Union manager Peter Nowak, who characterized the shot as a “routine save.” “I was telling myself hold this ball, put this ball back in the middle, and it just took a big bounce,” said Seitz. “It just went straight up on me and at that point I didn’t have enough time to react.” The Revolution goal nullified another sparkling goal from Sebastien Le Toux and an improved effort from the Union, which threatened late but were unable to regain the lead.
Le Toux (photo) put Philadelphia in front with his eighth goal of the season 25 minutes into the action with a spectacular finish. A series of short passes shredded the New England defense and put the ball on Danny Mwanga’s foot just at the edge of the 18-yard box.
Mwanga cut to his left, where Le Toux was racing in to take the ball and fire a tight bender that dipped under the crossbar high to the far post. Revolution keeper Matt Reis had no chance on the play.
“It was a fantastic build-up,” said Union defender Danny Califf. “A lot of one-touch play and some interchanging.”
The game settled until Perovic drew a foul in the second half and pocketed the ensuing kick past Seitz.
“Sometimes you need a bit of luck,” said New England manager Steve Nicol of the goal. “That’s exactly what (Perovic) does. That’s what he’s been doing since he came here.”
Bad breaks like Perovic’s goal have been part of the usual growing pains for the expansion Union through the first half of the season. Though the final score didn’t show it, Philadelphia (4-8-3) played with an impressive attacking energy in the second half, especially after allowing New England (4-9-3) to even the score.
Le Toux nearly scored again in the 88th minute when the ball pinballed around in the box and landed at his feet. The dynamic French forward quickly released a shot, but Revolution defender Darrius Barnes went to the ground to deflect the ball to safety. The Union’s engine driver had another chance moments later, as Alejandro Moreno flipped a header to him in the box, but Le Toux was called for fouling Shalrie Joseph in a fight for positioning.
“Today was another example of how we’re never going to give up on a game,” Califf said. “If you get played out of the park then you can put your hand up and say that the other team did a better job.
“But we should have walked away with three points. I think a tuft of grass was the only thing that kept us from that.”