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2-1 victory over Red Bulls wraps up home season

It was a night for Philadelphia fans to remember. The team they fought so hard to get, playing the final match of the season in the stadium they’ve filled with noise and energy all year.

And who better to close out the season than the team with the best chance to become Philly’s arch-rival: New York Energy Drinks

New York had something to play for. A win would have wrapped up the Easter Conference title, but Peter Nowak clearly felt that PPL Park deserved a better closing scene than a team of designated players celebrating in the middle.

Philadelphia came out in a 4-4-2 that transformed into a 4-3-3 when Mwanga drifted wide and Le Toux charged up the wing. Alejandro Moreno, showcasing his usual mix of aerial prowess and Olympic-level diving, stayed central and tried to play in the two speedier offensive threats. In the center, the Union countered New York’s strong midfield pairing of Rafa Marquez and Toni Tchani with the defensive-minded Miglioranzi and immobile distributor Coudet. The back line remained stable.

The pressure was on New York’s goal from the beginning, and the team was clearly feeding off of the energy of the fans. Danny Mwanga’s early involvement often seems to be a major determinant of his effectiveness in a match, and the talented rookie popped up all over the pitch in the early minutes.

The breakthrough came in the 7th minute when Moreno won a header off a Le Toux corner. The ball bounced around the goalmouth before Fred smashed it in from two yards out. A triple-baby-rocking celebration followed and PPL reminded MLS what soccer should sound like.

The pressure continued and, in the 19th minute, Sebastian Le Toux’s free kick was only haphazardly cleared from the New York box. Both sides having defensive midfielders in the center, wing play was at a premium. Dane Richards and Lindpere got more involved as New York got back into the match, with Le Toux making his usual energetic moves for the Union.

Sheanon Williams showed his skillset with a long throw in the 21st that Danny Califf headed just over. The Energy Drinks were pinned back, and two minutes later the Union moved the ball from the left wing to the right only for Le Toux’s cross to be knocked clear.

In the 28th minute, the fans were treated to the type of goal that makes the Union so fun to watch. Miglioranzi’s long half-volley was deflected wide right and Le Toux collected the bouncing ball before crossing low through the box. Not one but two Union players were crashing at top speed, and although Mwanga couldn’t get a foot in, Michael Orozco-Fiscal slid through to blast it home.

For the remainder of the first half, the Union dropped into their shape and the match became a series of long crosses.

The first ten minutes of the second half were always going to be a stern test for the Philadelphia defense. New York has firepower and a great distributor in the Marquez, so after the break the pressure was immense. Unfortunately it only took three minutes for the Energy Drinks to bring the raucous PPL fans back to Earth. A low cut back from the left wing found Borman with tons of space at the top of the box. The fullback’s finish was as brilliant as the run that got him in position, and New York had life again.

The next ten minutes were back and forth, with Mwanga trying to thread a ball to Le Toux before Angel was shown yellow for popping Williams with a knee to the head. In the 57th, Mwanga and Le Toux combined up the center, with Mwanga dispossessed at the final moment by a great challenge in the box.

Moments later, New York had a great chance to tie the match but the free kick from 22 yards out was just left of Knighton’s goal. The energetic Mwanga was involved again in the 71st when he was given acres of space up the middle. He drove the ball low and hard from distance and it took a diving save to keep the game close.

The Energy Drinks’ last chance to tie came in the 94th, when a near post header was cleared off the line by Fred to preserve the Union win. It was the type of quick thinking that makes you wonder why Fred normally needs 12 touches to make a decision.

After the final whistle, the Union thanked the fans. PPL Park will go dark for now, but many of the same faces will take the field again next season and it was clear that they will all welcome the fantastic home atmosphere their rabid supporters provide.

13 Comments

  1. I have not been the biggest fan of Fred this season, but the last couple of weeks are quickly changing my mind.

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      Not me. I’m grateful for the two goals he recently scored (and the one he saved on Saturday), but I’ll be happy to see him go. Surely the Union has the young talent to establish themselves in his role for years to come.

    • I agree, Mike. When Fred gets the chance to play centrally, he typically plays well. And lately, he’s been very good. It’s nice to see. I just wish he would’ve gotten more time in a proper central position flanked by actual wingers throughout the year, instead of being stuck as a fish out of water most of the season in this 4-2-2-2.

      • I really like the formation on Saturday. At first I thought it would be lopsided with migz/coudet deep lying, le toux on the right, fred centrally and the two strikers up top, but man did the Union look good. Although it seemed at some points that it was more of a 4-2-3 lol. Are you guys planning any type of expansion draft preview? I think I need the emotional preparation already for when we lose one of our young guns or when nowak protects Harvey…

      • Yeah, I’ll be writing one sometime next month probably. So you have time. Take slow, deep breaths, Mike.

  2. Thanks everybody ..
    You give more power to play

  3. Fine more power to play

  4. Yeah, I thought that was Fred’s best game of the season. I think Nowak sees he is a veteran, that he comes back and plays D. However, through much of this season his passing has been negative.

  5. Pingback: The Philly Soccer Page » Season review: Fred

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