New England Revolution: Philadelphia Union

Rapid Reaction: Union 1, Revolution 0

October, 6, 2012
Jack McInerney's 73rd-minute goal was all the Union needed to stake a 1-0 win over the Revolution at PPL Park on Saturday.

Union keeper Zac MacMath made three saves to earn his eighth shutout of the season and help the eighth-place club notch their third win in their last four.

With the loss, the Revolution's record dropped to 7-17-8 (29 points) while the Union upped their mark to 10-15-6 (36 points).

Feilhaber sent off: Benny Feilhaber earned a red card dismissal after he was cautioned in the 86th and 88th minutes. Saturday's ejection marked the second time in as many seasons that Feilhaber received an early exit against the Union. On July 17, 2011, the central midfielder was awarded yellows in the 49th and 66th minutes before he was sent to the locker room.

McInerney to the rescue again: McInerney's goal was his second game-winning goal against the Revolution this season. On July 29, the 20-year-old striker scored an 89th-minute goal at the far post to lift the Union to a 2-1 win.

Scary moment: The Revolution averted danger in the 12th minute when McInerney applied a heavy challenge on a ball that Kevin Alston tried to shepherd to Bobby Shuttleworth. But as McInerney converged, Alston and Shuttleworth collided, and both appeared shaken up in the immediate aftermath. Both remained in the game without any lingering aftereffects.

Union tough to break: The Revolution will have to wait until 2013 at the earliest to find their first win against the Union, who entered the league in 2010. With Saturday's loss, the Revolution's mark against the Union stands at 0-4-3 all-time.

Soares gets early exit: Center back AJ Soares came out in the 61st minute after he was on the receiving end of a few hard challenges. Soares was substituted for midfielder Fernando Cardenas, which forced a few positional switches for Alec Purdie and Ryan Guy.

Shutout mark set: The Revolution's 1-0 loss set a franchise record for attacking shutouts in a single season. The previous record was 11, a mark originally set in 2010 before the club tied the record last week after a 2-0 loss to the Dynamo.

Purdie sees first MLS start: Rookie midfielder Alec Purdie earned his first start of the season, featuring on the left side of the midfield for the Revolution on Saturday. He racked up his first MLS shot on goal in the 42nd minute and later dropped back to play right back after the hour mark. Prior to Saturday's start, Purdie had made four cameo appearances, his last coming on May 12 against Vancouver.

Next up: The Revolution will close out their 2012 home schedule on Oct. 20 when they host the Chicago Fire at Gillette Stadium. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m.

Ailing Revs poised for Philly clash

October, 6, 2012
For the first time since they were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention in early September, the Revolution aren't in a position to play the role of spoiler this weekend.
But that doesn't mean that ninth-place New England will be lacking for motivation against the eighth-place Philadelphia Union on Saturday at PPL Park.

For starters, there's always the matter of improving the on-field product. As the first season of Jay Heaps' head-coaching tenure comes to a close, Saturday's game, despite the absence of playoff implications, carries with it just as much weight as a midsummer game.

And it's easy to see why. Heaps has successfully incorporated the concept of "accountability" since he was given the coaching reins during the offseason. As a result, Heaps hasn't been hesitant to drop proven veterans and untested rookies alike from the lineup at the first sign of apathy.

To think that'll change Saturday -- or in the club's final two games following their clash with the Union -- would be foolish, especially with the number of casualties on Friday's injury report.

If you counted four defenders listed as "out" on the injury report, then you'll know there will be renewed competition for playing time, even if it requires some ad-libbing on the part of a rarely-used rookie or two. While they may be attacking players by trade, fresh-faced midfielders Alec Purdie and Michael Roach have seen time in the back during training and reserve league action to help shore up a banged-up back line.

As if the defensive unit didn't create enough problems, there's also the issue of the midfield. There was a time earlier this season when the roster contained a surplus of players for the middle of the park. That time, however, has come and gone.

With Sainey Nyassi (concussion), Clyde Simms (calf) and Lee Nguyen (shoulder) all listed on the injury report, Heaps may be forced to squeeze every minute out of a partially fit Juan Toja. In the Revolution's last three games, the Colombian midfielder's role has been limited to that of late substitute as concerns about his fitness level linger.

One positive development for Heaps this week is the return of Ryan Guy, who was half a world away with the Guam national team last Saturday. Guy, the classic midfield engine who could, should give Heaps some extra peace of mind when putting together his starting XI on Saturday.

With Saer Sene out for the season, it's been a carousel of strikers lining up with Jerry Bengtson in the last four weeks. Diego Fagundez has gotten the majority of the starts alongside Bengtson, but last week Dimitry Imbongo got the nod up top. The results weren't spectacular -- a 2-0 shutout loss in Houston to a team that hasn't lost at home -- but Heaps isn't looking for the spectacular at this juncture. He's looking for progress.

Speaking of progress, Saturday may yield some more insight on where second-string keeper Bobby Shuttleworth stands in Heaps' plans. After getting the start over 15-year veteran Matt Reis in the team's last two games, Heaps was noncommittal about whom he'll tab on Saturday.

Yes, it may be a game devoid of postseason drama. A clash of underachieving conference rivals, perhaps. But if you want to witness real tension, Saturday's contest will be brimming with it, as players on both sides vigorously battle for jobs before the clock strikes midnight on the regular season.

Revs won't underestimate Union in Philly

July, 28, 2012
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was a lesson that could only be learned one way: the hard way.

In a July 18 contest against the Impact at Stade Saputo, a careless and lax Revolution XI were taken to task by the plucky expansion side, who used the 2-1 win to leapfrog the guests in the conference standings.

The lesson: Don't fall victim to underestimating an opponent whose point total is lower than yours -- especially on the road.

With a trip to PPL Park to face the Union on tap for Sunday, you can bet the Revolution won't be lacking in the respect department against their eighth-place hosts.

"I don't really see Philly as a being a team (near) the bottom of the standings," Revolution center back AJ Soares said after Wednesday's training. "We're definitely not taking them lightly. They've gotten some really good results."

Since taking over for Peter Nowak as head coach on June 16, interim Union head coach John Hackworth has turned the struggling club into a team on the rise. And the results don't lie.

By winning four of their past six -- including a 4-0 stunner over Sporting K.C. on June 23 -- the Union have turned the tide, something that hasn't gone unnoticed by Revolution head coach Jay Heaps.

"Philadelphia has shown that they've gotten some really good results," Heaps said after training Wednesday. "They were going for four in a row (prior to the 2-0 loss to New York on July 21).They're a tough team to play. We'll have our hands full."

Although credit is due to Hackworth for the team's resurgence, the Union wouldn't be mounting a midseason run without the help of their defense.

Thanks to the improved play of their backline -- anchored by Carlos Valdes and strengthened with the promising performances of Gabriel Farfan and Amobi Okugo -- the Union have conceded only four goals in their past six matches.

With that in mind, Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph believes the key to breaking Philadelphia's back four can be summed up in one word: movement.

"It's going to start with us," Joseph said after training Wednesday. "If we move the ball, we'll create chances (by) getting it to Lee [Nguyen], Benny [Feilhaber] and Saer [Sene] and these guys who are offensive threats. We have to get them touches in dangerous situations. If we can do that, then it's going to lead to a goal."

But the attack won't be the only area where the Revolution will have to be sharp. While the Union aren't exactly lighting up the scoreboard this season (20 goals in 18 games), Joseph knows that he and his teammates have to stay defensively sound for 90 minutes.

"Defensively, we just have to be like we were in K.C.," Joseph said. "(By) digging in deep, working hard together, (keeping) our shape and staying together."

In other words, the Revolution have to adopt the exact opposite attitude they brought with them to Montreal last week. Three points is never guaranteed -- something Soares and the rest of the Revolution are now very well aware of.

"You can't take any team lightly," Soares said. "Everyone has to defend, everyone has to attack and that's just soccer. You can't play with a few guys defending and a few guys attacking. It just doesn't work."