The Philadelphia Union have been on a slump. Winless in their last four games, they seemed to lack creativity in the middle of the midfield. More importantly, Philly had a hard time stoping opponents moving through the midfield to set up scoring chances. Often times the Union could create goals, but not sustain leads. Last night in New England that changed; in what is the Turning point of 2016!
Last week Alejandro Bedoya signed with Philadelphia. The US Men’s National team player brought a Philly tough attitude, and was excited to contribute to the Union. Coach Jim Curtin told the media during the Bedoya signing press conference that he Alejandro will fill one specific role but he would not say what role that was. As the Union faced New England in what many predicted as a “must win” game the Lineup showed Bedoya’s role.
Bedoya is Philly’s newest number 8. A holding midfielder, who looks to help break up opposing attacks and take it the other way in transition. This position recently had been filled by the more, attacking minded Tranquillo Barnetta. Bedoya’s presence allowed Barnetta to go back to his normal attacking role, and helped the Union dominate the game.
Right from the get-go the Union dominated the Revs. In the first two minutes the two players who scorched New England back in March hurt them again. Fabinho found space down the left sideline, and sent in a cross towards a wide open Cj Sapong. Sapong hit it first time and it went past the defenseless Shuttleworth into the net; 1-0 Union after 2 minutes! After the goal, the Revs found the game; they had the majority of possession in he first half. A few good chances were stifled by the defense, and keeper Andre Blake who made some big saves! The Union’s defense bent but didn’t break against New England’s attack, and Philadelphia took the 1-0 lead into halftime!
The Second half opened the way the second half closed. New England looked determined to find a goal, but the Union’s defense did just enough to prevent them. After the first five minutes, Philadelphia woke up. The high press was on, and produced turnovers. In the 51st minute, the Union was gifted an opportunity from the Revs.
Fabinho found Herbers, who came in for an injured CJ Sapong. Herbers did a good job, running at New England’s back line; he saw Ilsinho on the right and tried to play him through. Rev’s defender Chris Tierney cleared the ball away from the Brazilian, but hit it right into Barnetta. The ball ricocheted off Quillo and fell right to Ilsinho. Then the winger worked his magic. A cut into the box, made Tierney miss; some more weaving drew two Revs defenders to him. The pressure did cause Ilsinho to lose the ball,but in came the run of Chris Pontius. Pontius hit it first time with his left foot, and placed the ball past Shuttleworth. 2-0 Union, and there was more to come!
three minutes later, The Union scored again. This time it was off a corner; Tranquillo Barnetta sent a good ball into the top of the six yard box. Keegan Rosenberry lost his mark, and tried to head the corner on goal. Instead he ended up pushing the ball wide. Luckily for Philadelphia, Richie Marquez was there to head the ball home. Marquez also lost his mark but since his run wasn’t near the ball he drifted to the near post, and the ball found him; A 3-0 Union in their most dominant performance of the season, and there was still one more goal to come.
In second stoppage time the Union produced a beautiful goal that is up for goal of the week: VOTE HERE. In the second minute of stoppage time, Keegan Rosenberry had the ball on the right wing. He played the ball into the middle of the field and the Union’s two offensive subs made some magic. The ball was played to Alberg who made a magical turn to get around a defender and into the box. His touch was a little heavy, and the ball was found ex-Revolution player Charlie Davies. Davies touched it back to Alberg who blasted a shot past shuttleworth. That kick proved to be the last one of the game, Union win 4-0. In the Union’s dominance, it was easy to pass over some major story lines from this game. All of these storylines show why this match was the turning point of 2016 for Philadelphia.
1.) This was the second road win of 2016.
This was the Union’s first road win since march… MARCH! They hadn’t won in eight games on the road, which proves how important this match was. The Union were 1-4-4 on the road before Saturday, and recently have been falling in the playoff picture. This result helps right the ship, and could set the tone for future road games. If the Union want to make a playoff run, they will need to know how to win on the road. This match provides the blueprint for road success, let’s see if the Union get good road results in this later half of the season.
2.)Chris Pontius continues to score.
Pontius has to be in the running for signing of the year right? He was a player who’s career was defined by how he was injury prone. At DC United he was a great player, but always got hurt. This season with the Union he has brought veteran leadership, amazing toughness, and the ability to find ways to score. With his goal on Saturday night, Pontius reached double digit goals on the season. With 10 goals, Chris became the highest scoring American in MLS in 2016. He also sits eighth in the golden boot race, only five goals behind co-leader Giovinco and David Villa. If Chris can keep scoring could we possibly a Union player win the golden boot?
3.) Bedoya is Nogueira 2.0.
When the Union had Nogueira they were able to look great. Amazing team defense, and great transition play. With out Nogs, the Union looked lost. Throwing Tranquillo Barnetta, a natural number 10, into a more defensive role didn’t pan out well. Enter Alejandro Bedoya. Bedoya started at the 8, and played a very sound 72 minutes for Philadelphia. He wasn’t too flashy; Bedoya only had once shooting chance and he blasted it over the bar, but he was exactly what Philadelphia was missing. He was able to sit deep, create for others, and help break up New England’s play in the midfield. He is going to make his team mates better. The players were thrilled about his arrival, and now it’s paying dividends on the field.
4.) Charlie Davies returns to New England.
Former Revolution fan favorite, Charlie Davies returned to New England, and made a ark for the Union. Davies came into the game after the Union were already up three nothing, and he came in to a standing ovation…from the entire stadium, thanks Sons of Ben! Davies was only on the field for 8 minutes, but made an impact. His quick touch back to Alberg gave him his first Union assist, and how how he will be used for this year. Davies is going to be a Union supper sub. Think of him as a less big and physical Connor Casey. Davies is going to come into games late, and will be dangerous. He’s going to produce for the Union, and could create late goals that help the Union get results. He is a key piece in this playoff push for the Union!
The Union got their best result of 2016 last Saturday. This New England result should prove to be the turning point of 2016 for Philly. Bedoya’s play opened up the Union play makers, and gave them the piece of mind that they had a quality player behind them. Pontius, and Sapong’s ability to score will only benefit from this fact. Bedoya will find Barnetta and Ilsinho, who will find Pontius and Sapong. This team looks poised to make a run for the top of the Eastern Conference, and the playoffs.
Now the Union shift their focus to Toronto FC. Giovinco, Micheal Bradley, Jozy Altidore & Co. come down to Philly this Saturday in a game that will affect the Eastern Conference table. Toronto at 37 points sits in second place two pots and three points ahead of the Union. If Philadelphia can beat the hot reds they will be tied on points and jump them because of head to head wins. It should be a great game! Catch it on The Comcast Network (TCN) or on MLS Live Saturday at 7pm. Also look for a preview of the match later this week from me on Philly Sports Network!
Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports