Yesterday the Union ended their record-breaking nine game winless streak against Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City who haven’t lost on home soil once this season.
It’s no secret that Philadelphia was the underdog for this match, infact every editor for MLS predicted an unfavorable result for them. However, the Union won 2-1 and proved that no matter what the circumstance they are capable of getting a result they want. This win came at the perfect time; it seemed to have renewed many fan’s faith in not only the club but coach, John Hackworth. The squad is able to leave Kansas with confidence heading into their home match on Saturday against the New England Revolution which will be another crucial game.
With the absence of Maurice Edu due to symptoms of concussion and captain Brian Carroll due to a groin strain, Hackworth had to make major adjustments to the starting lineup. The central defense consisted of Sheanon Williams and Austin Berry who made his first start since April 12, in place of Aaron Wheeler. Raymon Gaddis played right back and Fabinho played left back.
Amobi Okugo captained the match and shifted up to a defensive midfield position. To the right of Okugo was Leo Fernandes and to the left was Vincent Nogueira. The forward line consisted of Andrew Wenger, in the middle, Christian Maidana to the right and Danny Cruz to the left.
There was little action in the first half although there were notable chances taken by Nogueira and Maidana as well as Sal Zizzo and Graham Zusi of Sporting Kansas City.
The action kicked off in the second half with a goal from Danny Cruz in the 49th minute. Although Maidana was the real playmaker of the goal. Leo Fernandes intercepted a ball and passed it to Maidana who was making a run down towards goal. He took it all the way to SKC’s goal line and passed it into the box. SKC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg pushed the ball right to the feet of Danny Cruz who followed through with the ball and put it into goal. To celebrate the goal, the entire team ran over to the bench and hugged coach John Hackworth to symbolize the team’s unity and faith in their manager.
It wasn’t until the 80th minute SKC were able to equalize. Dom Dwyer scored an amazing goal in the top corner, far post from outside the box off a give-and-go play between him and midfielder, Paulo Nagamura. There wasn’t much goalkeeper, Zac MacMath could have done to save it.
It is typical that the Union play with strength, hold onto their lead up until the late minutes of the game until they concede a late goal and drop points. However, this game was different. It was only a minute later, in the 81st minute when the Union took the lead again. For the first time in weeks, there was a real sense of urgency from the Union to win. Cruz did a fantastic job carrying the ball up the field and playing it into the box to the feet of Andrew Wenger. Wenger maneuvered his way around two SKC defenders and passed to Maidana who was left open in the box and scored his first MLS goal.
After being subbed on for Nogueira in the 89th minute, Corben Bone received a red card for a late slide tackle committed on Jacob Peterson. Tensions were running high for the Union with five minutes of stoppage time added while playing down a man against MLS Cup Champions.
But this was the Union’s game and they managed to hold off SKC for the final five minutes of the game and earned arguably their biggest win of the season. For John Hackworth, this win means everything. Fans were quickly turning against him, his philosophy as a coach, and his tactics. It came as a surprise to all when he wasn’t fired after the Union’s loss to DC United (their fifth of the season) this past weekend.
The problem lies not within the team, it is obvious this is a very talented Philadelphia Union squad, but within the leadership and management of it. Going nine games without a win is unacceptable for such a skilled roster. Keeping John Hackworth as head coach sends out a message to the fans that this kind of record is acceptable and it in no way is, not with the money spent on acquisitions this offseason.
This potential turning point in the season gives fans hope that Hackworth will be able to turn this season around. One win does not justify the poor record held by the Union so far this season but it is a step in the right direction. The real test will be this Saturday when the Union take on the New England Revolution at home who are the only other team the Union have won against this season. The Union should be able to get a result.
A win for the team means a renewal in faith of Hackworth’s style of coaching because at the moment it is still questionable. A loss puts Hackworth in the same position he was in going into the game against SKC.
(image courtesy of David Eulitt/The Kansas City Star)