By: Tom Drisdell
The Philadelphia Union came from behind to defeat the New England Revolution 2-1 at Gillette Stadium thanks to goals from substitutes Jack McInerney and Justin Mapp in the final eight minutes of the match. The loss was a cruel blow to the Revs following their brave defense of a one-goal lead while playing a man short for 50 minutes.
New England started as the brighter team, with winger Sainey Nyassi combining dangerously with midfielder Shalrie Joseph on both flanks. Joseph was the class on the pitch throughout the match, displaying poise, intelligence and strength whenever in possession.
Forward Ilija Stolica threatened early by nutmegging his Union marker in the penalty area, but he went down under minimal contact and failed to draw a penalty call.
Philadelphia had good spells of possession, with Sebastien Le Toux floating just behind lone striker Danny Mwanga and Andrew Jacobson bombing down the right wing.
The game lapsed into a scrappy period midway through the first half, with both teams applying heavy pressure in midfield. The aggressive nature of play resulted in a series of reckless challenges, the first of which earned Emmanuel Osei a yellow card for chopping down Le Toux.
Philadelphia’s Kyle Nakazawa made the Revs defense and young backup goalkeeper Kyle Shuttleworth uneasy with his set-piece deliveries. The Union looked more composed while in possession, while New England wasted a couple counter-attacking opportunities. Another break for the Revs led to the game’s second yellow card, as Stefani Miglioranzi scythed Nyassi to the ground after the Revolution player had anticipated and intercepted his pass.
New England earned a corner from the ensuing free kick, and Stolica eventually swept the ball into the net after Joseph blocked an attempted clearance. It was the Serbian’s second goal of an injury-plagued campaign.
The goal clearly boosted the team’s confidence, and Marko Perovic released Chris Tierney down the left side with a delightful heel-flick. Tierney did well to turn his marker, but his cross was cleared.
Nyassi continued to threaten, lashing a half-volley off the post with his left foot and then heading just over the bar when the ball was crossed back into the box.
The game’s pivotal moment arrived in the 40th minute when Revolution defender Cory Gibbs was given a straight red card for a late challenge on Eduardo Coudet. Referee Hilario Grajeda opted to send Gibbs off rather than face the risk of losing control of the match.
Union coach Peter Nowak signaled his intent to go for a result with his halftime substitution of attacking midfielder Roger Torres for defender Coudet. Philadelphia patiently kept the ball and waited for chances to develop against the Revolution, who had dropped Tierney in to cover at right back in a 4-4-1 formation.
Joseph exerted his influence in the middle with some deft touches, weaving past opposition players and distributing the ball well. He seemingly willed the Revs forward on his own.
After half chances from Nyassi and Joseph, Shuttleworth produced a strong save to deny Le Toux at the other end. Nowak then made two ultimately decisive substitutions, bringing on McInerney and Mapp.
Mapp immediately changed the dynamic of the Union attack with incisive runs cutting in from the right flank. He first set up Jacobson in front of goal only for his teammate to sky the ball. McInerney did not make the same mistake, taking Mapp’s cushioned pass in stride and burying the ball at the near post in the 82nd minute.
The Revolution did not give up, with Perovic winning a free kick after a nice turn. Joseph flashed a header wide from a corner kick with what proved to be his final chance for a deserved goal.
In a stoppage-time counter attack, Tierney did well to block Le Toux’s shot, only for the Frenchman to lay the ball back for the onrushing Mapp to side-foot into the far post.
The game certainly would have been different had Gibbs stayed on the pitch, but credit goes to Nowak for making the changes that decided the outcome.