After a first half in which 20 total fouls were called and four total yellow cards were dished out, the Philadelphia Union escaped with a road result after Kacper Przybylko grabbed the game-tying goal in the 84th minute.
Head Coach Jim Curtin expressed his concerns about the first of three straight road matches Tuesday afternoon and it seems his concerns were warranted. Curtin mentioned he and his staff placed a lot of weight on making sure his clubs earns a result at New England Revolution to begin the stretch.
Thankfully, they did.
The first half may have reminded some of their early soccer days. Turnovers. Fouls. Yellow Cards. More Turnovers. And more yellow cards. It was sloppy from both sides, leaving most viewers a bit uneasy heading into the second half.
The uneasiness may have been more a result of Sergio Santos missing a clear goal scoring opportunity from inside 10 yards during the 27th minute only to be followed up by Auston Trusty being shown a yellow for a very soft foul. A missed chance away from home made worse by a center back yellow card.
Just four minutes after that one-two punch to Philadelphia’s gut, New England notched the first goal of the contest. Spanish import, Carles Gil stood at the corner flag with his hand raised and eyes peering toward the box. Brandon Bye managed to lock eyes with Gil as the Union began to defend a curling ball in. Gil surprised everyone by slipping a soft hit ball to the near post and onto the foot of Bye who darted toward net. He hit it straight into the net leaving Union back-up goal keeper Matt Freese with little chance of a save.
The halftime whistle came as a relief for Philadelphia. The turnovers in the central midfield were devastating. New England’s game-plan aimed to clog the middle of the pitch and it worked to near perfection, leaving nothing but the sidelines available for Philadelphia to utilize – which didn’t create much possession in the attacking half.
To make the most of the wide areas granted to Philadelphia, Curtin swapped center attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson for the Brazilian playmaker Ilsinho. Aaronson ultimately worked hard at all times like usual, but failed to threaten in the central areas.
The second half featured a more subdued match. Players managed to refine their approaches and touches didn’t seem so chaotic.
Freese became a hero of sorts in the 56th minute with a phenomenal save to keep Philadelphia in the match. Unfortunately his efforts didn’t spark much momentum as the game moved on.
A 62nd minute swap saw Santos exit and the speedy winger Fafa Picault emerged from the bench. Picault and Ilsinho were all over the attacking half for Philly and created numerous dangerous opportunities for New England’s backline and defensive midfielders to deal with.
Time continued to tick away as Philadelphia scraped and clawed for chances. The offensive efforts paid off in the 84th minute when Picault used his wheels to blow through New England’s backline toward the touch line before sliding a centering pass toward Przybylko. New England center back Andrew Farrell stuck his leg out in a desperate attempt to clear the ball but tap it toward goal, where Przybylko slammed it home before crossing the goal line.
With an equalizer in the bag, Philadelphia remained content with the road draw as the 90 minute mark approached. But they didn’t stop trying all together. Some beautiful combination play atop the box set up a crossing opportunity from the left which found a sliding Ilsinho at the back post. However, Ilsinho was unlucky and couldn’t create solid contact on the sliding shot attempt and keeper Brad Knighton snatched the soft attempt.
Moments later the final whistle blew and Philadelphia achieved one of the main goals they set to accomplish prior to beginning this stretch of three road matches in seven days.
Next up is the always dangerous New York City FC Saturday night at 7PM from Yankee Stadium. Rumor has it that Marco Fabian will make his first appearance in 10 straight matches. Curtin will hope Fabian can inject some life into what will be a tired club this weekend.
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports