Finding the goal has not been a problem for the Union this season. Rather it has been finding the opposing goal more than the Union have been letting balls into their own net. Once again the Union found themselves behind through a series of unfortunate events defensively and through a missed hand ball inside of their own 18. Lucky for the Union, a major refereeing decision went their way and changed the entire flow of the game. Being winless for what seems like an eternity makes securing full points all the sweeter. Everything from previous games – even the current game – is immediately forgotten after an unforgettable win.
After last week’s infuriating clean sheet loss to DC United, the Union put a smile upon the faces of the Philadelphia faithful tonight. The majority of the game left a lot to be desired but there were some true bright spots for the Union.
The first half, as previously mentioned, was something that left a lot to be desired. Stefani Miglioranzi was carded, the first important event in the first half, in the 29th minute for a poor, heavy and late tackle. Following his caution, the New England Revolution struck with a goal by Ilija Stolica from almost inside the Union six. The 31st minute goal seemed to predict a nasty end for the Union, as they have been highly unsuccessful in coming back from behind with a 1-9-2 record when conceding first, per Ben Feldman of The Brotherly Game.
The lucky referee call came on a rough tackle by Revolution player Cory Gibbs. Union midfielder Eduardo Coudet was thrown into the air by Gibbs’ seemingly lazy and late tackle, which prompted the referee to produce a red card for Gibbs. The Union found themselves in an unfamiliar situation – up a man instead of down one.
Prior to the card and goal, the Union and the Revolution had been afraid to do anything that would allow the opposing side to score. This rational made the flow of the game go into an almost stand still with little consistency in the flow of game. Then the Union conceded the first goal of the game and were forced to start to press to find a goal of their own. Even with an effort to score having the Union become overly aggressive, they could find little room to find the back of the net. The red card for Gibbs changed that.
Justin Mapp had done little up until tonight’s game to prove to Union supporters that he was worth the package that was traded for him. Interjected into the game in the 64th minute for Kyle Nakazawa, Mapp began to increase the width of play for the Union. Billed as an outside threat because of his speed, Mapp showed why so much was thought of him during his early years in the MLS. A slick flick with his left foot produced a through pass that allowed young Jack McInerney (substituted for Miglioranzi in the 74th minute) to put a shot on net.
To the young go the spoils should be the clichéd idiom. McInerney put his foot to the ball and slotted home a clinical finish through the feed by Mapp. Back when he scored his first goal versus the LA Galaxy, McInerney had already received a yellow card and this time around he was cardless; taking the opportunity presented to him, McInerney ripped off his jersey and ran around like Ryan Giggs in the 1998-1999 FA Cup Semi-Final Replay extra time versus Arsenal.
Mapp again struck when, in the 92nd minute, Sebastian Le Toux brought the ball deep into the New England 18 but found himself under pressure from the Revolution defense. After losing the ball for a moment, Le Toux gathered himself and pushed the ball to the back of the box and Mapp used his left foot yet again…
The ball ended up in the back of the net, curled with his left into the bottom of the right side of the net. The only thought going through my head at the time was a quote that Andy Gray screamed when Steven Gerrard scored a wonder goal in a Champions League match against Olympiacos: “Ohhhhhhhh ya beauty, what a hit son, what a hit!”
No matter how frustrating the Union are for 90 minutes, it’s how it ends that counts. Frustration turns into utter joy in the flick of the wrist or rather the flick of an ankle in this case. Three points all the sweeter.