MLS Matchday 1 Recap: Philadelphia Union 2 – 0 New England Revolution


The Union opened their 2018 MLS season with a huge win over the New England Revolution. On a bitter cold night, Union fans were warmed by their team taking the pitch for the first time in 2018. The result is exactly what Jim Curtin wanted from his side. Here’s Philly Sports Network’s MLS Matchday 1 Recap of the 2018 season.

1st half:

Swirling winds off of the Delaware river met Philadelphia and New England as their 2018 MLS campaigns began. The Union rolled out a lineup with homegrowns and veterans, while New England played few of their returning players. Both teams looking to wipe their disappointing 2017 seasons from their minds.

The game began with back and forth play. Neither team dictated the play; each side given opportunities to create chances on goal. Some good Saves from Andre Blake, and missed chances from CJ Sapong summed up the beginning of the game. That all changed in the 24th minute. CJ Sapong was played in behind the New England defense, and was grabbed and pulled down. Antonio Delamea denied the goal scoring opportunity, and was shown red for transgression. The Union were now up a man for the remaining 66 minutes of the game.

As the half went on the Union were on the front foot. They had chance after chance but couldn’t find the back of the net. Then an extraordinary moment came. Alejandro Bedoya made an amazing run wide to get into open space. He was found, and moved into the box. Drawing defenders towards him, he played a ball across the six yard box. The ball found the foot of teenage homegrown Anthony Fontana. With a cool little poke of the foot, he slotted the chance home giving the Union the lead. His first ever goal on his MLS debut will be a moment to remember.

The Union were up at halftime, and looked to kill off the game in the second half!

2nd half:

Philadelphia picked up where they left off as the second half started. New England found little of the ball due to being down a man. The Union looked to beat the Revs by out possessing them. A lot of the possession came from building the play from the back. The Union executed their style of play. Haris Medunjanin came deep splitting Jack Elliott and Auston Trusty. The center backs moved wide, and the outside backs pushed forward. This allowed the wingers to tuck in to overload the shorthanded New England. This was helping the Union keep possession, but didn’t get them a second goal.

The second goal would come thanks to very aggressive substitutions from head coach Jim Curtin. At the 66 minute mark, Curtin called for Striker Jay Simpson, and Striker/winger Cory Burke to come into the match. They replaced Anthony Fontana and Fabian Herbers, after good shifts from them. Simpson played the 10 role, while Burke went on the right-wing spot. This move is very uncharacteristic from Curtin, who usually tries to sure up his team when holding a lead. This surprising move paid dividends quickly.

Three minutes after coming on for his first MLS minutes Cory Burke found space on the right side. He burst down the sideline onto the ball, wrong footed the New England defender, and turned into the box. He ran at the keeper, drawing his attention, and then squared a ball to CJ Sapong. The veteran blasted the effort into the net, giving the Union a commanding 2-0 lead. Late on in the match, Burke found more space on the left side, and drew a foul from Claude Dielna, who picked up his second yellow. New England ended the match with nine men, and lost to the Union in the opening night of the 2018 MLS season.

The Union benefited greatly from their young players. They were a driving force in making this match what it was.

Youthful contributions:

Anthony Fontana made a splash in his MLS debut. He got the opening goal and was very active in the number 10 role. His ability to press and be a menace in the middle of the field helped create some turnovers and offense. This was exactly the type of output that the Union’s staff want out of their number 10. Now that Fontana has proven himself to be a good option, we may see more of him off the bench as Dockal gets acclimated to MLS.

Auston Trusty was great in his first MLS start. The teenage homegrown, made great recovery runs when New England was able to break. He also showed good chemistry with Jack Elliot and Haris Medunjanin when he dropped deep. The one let down was his distribution, which was shaky at times. Overall the young center back looked comfortable shutting down Juan Agudelo and Diego Fagundez. He could be the next big thing for the Union’s defense!

Cory Burke turned heads when he stepped on the field in the second half. In his first MLS minutes he was dangerous and determined to help the team secure the win. His runs were direct and deadly. His ability to wrong-foot defenders makes him a valuable asset. With Fafa Picault out for the next two matches, Burke could now be in the running for that starting right-wing spot with Herbers and Epps.

The youth balling out was part of four major takeaways from this first match of 2018.

Major takeaways:

Young players took a huge step forward:

While the Union were up for the majority of this match, the younger Union players showed their quality. Fontana, Trusty and Burke balled out in their debuts. Second year center back Jack Elliot had a great game. Derrick Jones came on late to help shut the game down, and did well clogging up the middle of the field. Third year players Herbers and Rosenberry showed well also. The Union’s young guns make up the majority of this team. With this showing the youngsters will have a boost of confidence, and will help the team grow moving forward.

Accam is mesmerizing on the ball:

The Philadelphia fans got to see a glimpse of what David Accam can do. Every time he touched the ball he was instantly a problem for New England. Players would flock to him whenever he would get the ball. He made some electrifying runs into dangerous positions. While he didn’t make it on to the score sheet he was a nuisance, and will be a great addition to this team.

As Sapong goes so to go the Union:

CJ Sapong may have missed four great opportunities to score, but he still dictated how the offense flowed. He did get his goal in the second half, but his movement and style of play still dictate how the Union’s offense moves. Whether he it’s his hold up play, his ability to make runs behind defenders or his movement off the ball. Sapong seems to be the focal point of the offense. Unlike last year, he’ll have some help with Accam and Dockal drawing defenders from him. Sapong could be on the verge of a career high in goals and assists.

Andre Blake saves this team when they switch off:

There were times when the Union’s play was sloppy and disorganized leading to New England chances. Luckily the Union have Andre Blake. Blake made amazing saves when called upon, which is no surprise, but it’s worth noting since he kept the Union in the game early on, and helped keep the shutout.

Box Score:

Philadelphia Union:
Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Fabinho; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Fabian Herbers (Cory Burke 66’), Anthony Fontana (Jay Simpson 66’), David Accam (Derrick Jones 85’); CJ Sapong

Substitutes not used: John McCarthy; Raymon Gaddis, Richie Marquez, Eric Ayuk

New England Revolution:
Matt Turner; Andrew Farrell, Antonio Milnar Delamea, Claude Dielna, Gabriel Somi; Scott Caldwell, Wilfried Zahibo; Teal Bunbury, Cristian Penilla (Jalil Anibaba 27’), Diego Fagundez (Kelyn Rowe 76’); Juan Agudelo (Brandon Bye 55’)

Substitutes not used: Brad Knighton; Chris Tierney, Brian Wright, Krisztian Nemeth

Scoring plays:

PHI – Anthony Fontana (CJ Sapong, Alejandro Bedoya) 43’
PHI – CJ Sapong (Cory Burke) 69’

Disciplinary Action: 

NE – Antonio Milnar Delamea (ejection) 24’
NE – Claude Dielna (caution) 36’
NE – Andrew Farrell (caution) 59’
PHI – CJ Sapong (caution) 63’
NE – Claude Dielna (second caution, ejection) 86’
NE – Wilfried Zahibo (90’+1’)


Next Match – 3/17/2018 – Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew

The Union now have a bye for the second week of the MLS season. Their next game is week three when Columbus Crew come to town. The Crew beat the holding MLS Cup champions Toronto FC 2-0 in Toronto. The extra week will give the Union time to prepare for the Crew, and integrate Dockal into the team!

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports