Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz
Jack McInerney grabbed all three points for the Union on Sunday night at PPL Park, nodding home a 90th minute winner to steal a 2-1 victory against the New England Revolution.
McInerney’s goal marked the Union’s first comeback victory of 2012, after Saer Sene’s 12th minute blast had thrust New England into the lead. When Kevin Alston hauled down McInerney, Freddy Adu stepped to the spot and dispatched the equalizing penalty kick, beginning the comeback.
In a wide open match, both sides had ample opportunity to claim the victory, but it was not until the final minute of regulation that McInerney latched onto Sheanon Williams’ cross at the back post, sending the Union to their fourth consecutive win at PPL Park.
Adu returned to the starting lineup, taking his place alongside McInerney up top, but the night’s big story was Antoine Hoppenot earning his first MLS start for the Union after impressing as a late game substitute. In the midfield, Gabriel Gomez rejoined Brian Carroll and Michael Farfan while the back four remained constant in front of Zac MacMath.
While the Union were looking to rebound from a lackluster performance at Red Bull Arena, they nearly got off to the worst possible start when a miscommunication between Carlos Valdes and MacMath nearly gifted the Revolution an early advantage. In the 6th minute, the two got their signals crossed when MacMath raced off his line to claim a New England through ball. Thinking the play was too close, Valdes headed back to his unsuspecting keeper, sending the ball to the feet of Saer Sene. Despite rounding MacMath twice on the play, however, Sene could not muster a shot before Gomez eventually cleared the danger.
The Union put plenty of early pressure on the New England back line through the lively runs of McInerney and Hoppenot, but it was Sene who would snatch an early lead for the visitors.
Bouncing off bodies in the midfield, Kelyn Rowe picked out Sene’s run. When the Union failed to close down the striker, Sene unleashed a powerful, swerving, dipping drive that wrong-footed a helpless MacMath.
The Union had been pushing bodies forward in attack in the early minutes and, despite conceding, they were immediately back after it. Gabriel Farfan soon earned a Union corner following a smart interplay between Adu and Michael Farfan, giving the Union a chance to bring bodies forward. The initial delivery was cleared, but on the resulting long throw-in, the ball rattled around, falling to Michael Farfan. Picking out Carlos Valdes at the back post, the Union skipper got power on his header, but not direction, with Reis claiming it comfortably.
McInerney and Hoppenot continued to give Stephen McCarthy and A.J. Soares a workout at the back. Hoppenot nearly broke away clean in the 21st minute, but McCarthy’s well-timed tackle snuffed out the opportunity.
With the danger posed up front, the Union abandoned their traditional possession game in favor of a more direct approach, but New England was organized and continued to press high up the field. The pressure from Sene nearly resulted in a second tally for New England after he dispossessed Michael Farfan in the 23rd, but his shot went straight at MacMath.
Another positive run from Hoppenot saw him leave the New England defense in his wake, and the Revolution were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men after Soares clattered through Hoppenot with a late, violent tackle that earned the game’s first caution.
As both teams threw numbers forward, New England began to find gaps in the wide open midfield. First Lee Nguyen had a long run at goal, only to be stood up by a strong tackle from Gabe Farfan. Next Rowe found his way past the Union offside trap. While his shot beat MacMath, it rolled wide of the far post, and the scoreline remained at 1-0.
At the other end Hoppenot continued to look the most likely for the Union, but he could not find a handle on the ball after he was twice played into space.
It was end-to-end stuff, and Michael Farfan was the next to find himself with an opportunity on the break. Before he could play in McInerney, however, Benny Feilhaber drove through his back, setting up a free kick 25 yards from goal. Farfan stepped up to take the set piece himself, hitting the ball well, but without enough venom to beat Reis, who easily claimed the curling effort.
Minutes later, Hoppenot had the Revolution’s other center back in the book when McCarthy cut him down when he raced into the corner.
Neither side made changes during the halftime break, but the Union took the interval to change shape. Pushing Gabe Farfan into the midfield opposite his brother, coach John Hackworth asked Williams to swap flanks, with the Union’s new 3-5-2 setup attempting to combat New England’s midfield dominance over much of the first half.
The Union looked disorganized, however, and the Revolution nearly made them pay quickly. Kelyn Rowe cut past Valdes and played in Sene, who had found space in the box. With the goal gaping, Williams slid in to save his side before Sene could add to his opener.
On the resulting corner kick, MacMath came off his line but flapped badly, allowing the ball to fall behind him. In the ensuing scramble, Nguyen found possession but blazed his effort over the bar.
It was all New England and Williams was again called on to make a sliding intervention on Sene before Ryan Guy came inches from adding a second goal in the 55th minute.
But with New England failing to capitalize on their opportunities, the Union clawed back into the match following a controversial refereeing decision in the 58th minute. Pressing forward into midfield, Gabe Farfan spotted McInerney racing in behind the Revolution defense and hooked a curving ball over the top into his path. Trailing the play, defender Kevin Alston tripped up McInerney, who slid down in the box. The foul was unquestioned, but after a moment’s hesitation, referee Edvin Jurisevic pointed to the spot, despite replay’s showing clearly that the contact had occurred outside it. Adu stepped up to take the spot kick and buried a powerful drive beyond Matt Reis, who had guessed correctly.
New England nearly got the goal right back when Alston raced in on MacMath, but the Union keeper got enough of a touch on the ball to satisfy Jurisevic.
At the other end, Brian Carroll picked the pocket of substitute Shalrie Joseph, setting off a move that sent Williams into space on the right flank. Putting his head down, the Union fullback split two defenders, dashing into the box and unleashing a rasping drive that Reis had to beat away.
Reinvigorated by the goal, the chances were flowing for the Union and Michael Farfan nearly latched onto a cutback in the 67th minute. But when Soares beat him to ball, the Union playmaker crunched into the New England center back, earning himself the Union’s only caution on the night.
Both team’s looked to fresh legs as they both felt capable of grabbing a late winner with the wide-open, end-to-end play continuing.
Newly-signed Dimitry Imbongo then earned a free kick for the Revolution after a physical challenge from Valdes, but MacMath got comfortably behind Chris Tierney’s left-footed effort.
New England began to pour on the pressure looking for a winner. In the 79th minute, Joseph evaded the attentions of Okugo, finding space in behind the Union defense. Between the onrushing MacMath and recovering Okugo, the pair did enough to put off Joseph, who lofted his chip onto the roof of the net. Next, Imbongo raced clean through an alarmingly ragged-looking Union backline. Valdes recovered quickly however, and before Imbongo could get his shot off, the Union captain nipped in to save the day. Moments later, the Union failed to properly deal with Tierney’s teasing ball into the area and Feilhaber found space in the box, smashing his shot narrowly over the bar, much to the relief of the sellout crowd at PPL Park.
Relieved to be let off the hook, the Union countered. Michael Farfan’s through ball put substitute Lionard Pajoy into space, but his return pass was poor.
The Union nearly had a chance to take the lead with a second penalty on the night, but when Darrius Barnes handled the ball in his own box, neither Jurisevic nor his assistant were moved.
With time winding down, Sene bulldozed his way through Okugo and Valdes, but MacMath stood strong, saving the shot, despite being bowled over in the process.
Stoppage time seemed all that separated the teams from a share of the points after McInerney squandered a dangerous breakaway, but the Union No. 9 was quick to atone for his mistake.
Switching the field of play with three quick passes, Carroll released Williams up the right wing. Taking a touch up the line, Williams whipped his service to the back post. Ghosting inside of Alston, McInerney rose to meet the ball, powering his header down into the turf and beyond Reis, igniting celebrations across PPL Park.
There was still defending to do however, and Ryan Guy nearly canceled out the Union’s advantage in the first minute of stoppage time. Racing towards the endline, Guy cut his sharp-angled shot past MacMath and the sliding Okugo, but Valdes arrived at the right moment, sliding the ball clear of danger to preserve the victory.
Next up, the Union make their first trip to Stade Saputo where they take on Montreal Impact on Saturday, August 4 at 7:30pm.
Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan, Brian Carroll, Gabriel Gomez (Michael Lahoud ’59); Freddy Adu (Josue Martinez ’82), Jack McInerney, Antoine Hoppenot (Lionard Pajoy ’78)
Unused substitutes: Chase Harrison, Keon Daniel, Raymon Gaddis, Porfirio Lopez
New England Revolution
Matt Reis; Kevin Alston, Stephen McCarthy, A.J. Soares (Darrius Barnes ’71), Chris Tierney; Clyde Simms (Shalrie Joseph ’59), Ryan Guy, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe (Dimitry Imbongo ’69), Benny Feilhaber; Saer Sene
Unused substitutes: Tim Murray, Fernando Cardenas, Florian Lechner, Blake Brettschneider
12 – NER: Sene (Rowe)
59 – PHI: Adu (penalty)
90 – PHI: McInerney (Williams)
25 – NER: Soares (caution)
39 – NER: McCarthy (caution)
67 – PHI: M. Farfan (caution)