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Reaction and recaps from home opener win, league results wrap, more news

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union

Well, that was pretty satisfying.

On Saturday, the Union opened their home season at PPL Park with a win on what was, after a brutal winter, a gloriously sunny and mild day by the Delaware.

Before the game, it was already known that the Union would be without regular starting right back Sheanon Williams, who continues to recover from a quad injury he received during the preseason. Shortly before kickoff came word that team captain Brian Carroll would miss the game after coming down with flu-like symptoms.

Carroll’s absence became an opportunity for second year midfielder Leo Fernandes, who went on to have his best game ever in a Union jersey, recording an assist on Sebastien Le Toux’s game-winner.

John Hackworth said, “Leo found out about the possibility about two hours before the game and he literally found out that he was coming in about three minutes before warm-ups. You try to give a guy the time to prepare for it [but] I always tell the guys, you never know when the opportunity is going to come.”

Hackworth added, “That’s why I want you to work hard during the week, that’s why I want you to prepare. That’s why I want you to know what your role is on the defensive re-start, just in case your number is called. Leo has been a guy that for the last year and now the start of this year has been good in that regard.”

Fernandes said, “I wasn’t expecting it but when I walked in the locker room I saw my name on the board and I was really happy. I didn’t even tell my family, I wanted them to be surprised.” He continued, “I’m a professional, I’ll be ready no matter what. Even if coach tells me one minute before the game, I’d be ready, always”

How did he feel after the game? Fernandes said, “It’s a great day. One of the best days of my life.”

Carroll’s absence also became an opportunity for Amobi Okugo, who wore the captain’s armband for first time in his professional career. Okugo said, “We came in and BC wasn’t in the lineup and I was like, ‘What the heck? He was practicing yesterday. So then I talked to BC and Coach Hack sat me and Mo (Edu) down and he said it was going to be either one of us. They went with me and I was just honored to lead the group to the win.”

Okugo explained how his teammates helped him get past some early nerves. “It’s just a whirlwind of emotions. The pregame speech, right before we went on the field, I didn’t even know what to say. I was stuttering, all the guys were making fun of me. So it was good. It’s just an honor.”

Maurice Edu said of being without Carroll, “Normally BC, he’s our rock. He’s the guy that protects the back four, he starts the attack for us by breaking up plays. I play alongside him, but it allows me to get forward more. Today, with him out, I kind of assumed his role and had to be a little bit more disciplined and really just hold back and defend the back four so that Vincent (Nogueira) and Leo could get forward and get into the attack. And they did well.”

Le Toux’s goal was the fifth he’s scored in a Union home opener, including the hat trick against DC at the Linc in 2010 and the tally against Kansas City at PPL Park in 2013,  and he also scored in Vancouver’s home opener on March 10, 2012 after he was dealt away by Peter Nowak. Le Toux, who said after the game, “It’s fun to score goals,” explained, “Most important is those three points. We wanted to start well at home and getting a shutout was very important. Just 1-0, but we’ll take the win. It was a great performance from everybody today.”

Le Toux also explained what was behind his goal celebration. “During all the preseason, we play lots of cards with all of us in that group – Chaco and Vincent and Leo. We always play cards after every meal during the preseason. It’s one of those things that we have all together. Before the game, we said that – because we all played today starting – if one of us scores, we were going to do that. Luckily it was Leo who turned the ball to me, so we did that to just have good fun all together and this is how we build chemistry. So it was just a fun time.”

In the 38th minute, Zac MacMath came up with a MacMassive save to keep New England off the board. MacMath said, “They got in there and played the ball across. I just tried to make myself as big as possible and thankfully it hit me. Those are the kind of saves I have to make this year to keep the team in the game. If we need to hold on to 1-0 leads, we’ll hold on to 1-0 leads.”

Another unexpected change happened when Aaron Wheeler was called in to fill in for Austin Berry, who left the game in the 54th minute with what Matthew De George reported at the Delco Times was a left hamstring issue. Wheeler wasn’t surprised that New England targeted him after he entered the game. “I would expect that. That’s what we would do. Anytime, you want to check to see if the guys are mentally in the game already. It was nice because I was ready to go.”

John Hackworth said after the win that, while the team is making progress, it still needs to work on closing out games. “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think we played well the second half. My expectations going out of halftime was that we were going to do the same thing like gain possession, and have the highest number of passes that we completed in the first half. My expectations was that we have to do that again. It’s hard but the players wanted to rectify the situation last week. The whole time I was urging us to step it up and put them under pressure but that will be the next step for us, to finish that off. We had a couple of chances this week and last week to put the ball in the back of the net. It needs to come.”

Recaps from PSP, Philadelphia Union, MLSsoccer.com, Philadelphia Inquirer, CSN Philly, Delco Times, Burlington County Times, South Jersey Times, Delaware Online, Philly Soccer News, Brotherly Game, New England Revolution, Boston Globe, New England Soccer Today, New England Soccer News, The Bent Musket, ProSoccerTalk, SBI, Goal.com, iSportsTimes, The Canadian Press, The Sports Network, and The AP.

Checkout our video of John Hackworth’s postgame press conference and locker room interviews with Ray Gaddis, Amobi Okugo, Aaron Wheeler, and Leo Fernandes. You won’t want to miss Sheanon Williams’ epic photobomb during the interview with Gaddis. Also, provided we can continue to find a signal to upload video from outside of PPL Park, we’ll be posting video before the kickoff talking to fans about their expectations before the game. Here’s a look at what fans in Lot A were thinking before Saturday’s win.

At Goal.com, Ives Galarcep names the Union the Team of the Week.

At the Union website is a Storify stream of gameday-related tweets from players and fans.

At Brotherly Game, Barry Evans looks at game-changing moments in Saturday’s win.

In a look at how USMNT players fared in MLS in the season opening weekend, ASN gives Maurice Edu an A-.

At SI, Grant Wahl has released his third annual “ambition” rankings, placing the Union at ninth in the league. They’re as nonsensically subjective as power rankings but make the undeniable point that the lack of a training facility holds the team back.

Remember Gilberto? He is now the “marquee signing” for USL PRO side Sacramento FC. Republic FC technical director Graham Smith said of the midfielder, “He has the usual Brazilian flair, but is able to align this quality with a steely resolve and a toughness that will endear him to our fans.”


The Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association recently presented its yearly award winners at the association’s annual reception on March. 8. Former Haverford men’s soccer head coach Joe Amorim and former Drexel men’s soccer head coach Lew Meehl received the annual Excellence in Coaching award. Harrisburg’s Sharon Gregg-Bolognese and Downingtown’s David Hatt of Downingtown received the  Service to Youth Award.

Tom DeMatteis, formerly a soccer player at Delaware’s St. Mark’s High School and now the head coach, will be inducted into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame on May 15.


In the Eastern Conference, Houston is in first place on six points after a 1-0 win over Montreal, who are in eighth place after two losses in two games. In second place on four points is Philadelphia Union after the 1-0 win over New England, who are in tenth place after two losses with no goals scored in two games. With three points in third place is Columbus, who had the weekend off ahead of next Saturday’s game against the Union. Toronto, whose season opened with a bye, are in fourth place after defeating Seattle 2-1 on the road in their season opener. Jermaine Defoe scored two goals in seven minutes before Clint Dempsey got a goal back in the 68th minute. Chicago is in fifth place with one point from two games after drawing 1-1 on the road with Portland on Sunday. Kansas City is in sixth place with one point from two games after conceding a 90th minute equalizer to Dallas nine minutes after Aurélien Collin opened the scoring for a 1-1 draw in their home opener. In seventh place with one point is New York, who drew 1-1 in their home opener after a controversial penalty kick was awarded to visiting Colorado. Ninth place DC, winless after one game, had the weekend off.

In the Western Conference, first place Vancouver (4 points) came from behind on the road with an 81st minute equalizer to draw 1-1 with second place (4 points) Chivas USA. FC Dallas (4 points) is in third place after their draw with Kansas City. Real Salt Lake (4 points) is in fourth after squandering a two-goal road lead and conceding a 95th minute equalizer against seventh place San Jose (1 point), who were starting their season at home. Seattle (3 points) is in fifth place after losing at home to Toronto. Portland (2 points) is in sixth place after coming from behind to draw with Chicago. Colorado (1 point) is in eighth place after drawing on the road with New York in their season opener. Los Angeles, who had the weekend off, is in ninth place with zero points.

Place your bets now on how long the Clint Dempsey crotch knock will figure as a talking point this week.

At MLSsoccer.com, Simon Borg wonders if Michael Bradley can become the best US player of all time.

At Herald.net, John Boyle calls on the league to crack down on persistent fouling. Settling the ref lockout might help.

The AP reports on the involvement of federal mediators in the ongoing talks to resolve the lockout of referees. “The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service said Friday that acting director Scot L. Beckenbaugh and Jack Sweeney, its director of mediation services for the northeast sub-region, had held several lengthy sessions with the Professional Referee Organization and the Professional Soccer Referees Association.”

At SI, Brian Strauss looks at the arguments for and against the league’s implementation of the away goals rule for the playoffs and concludes, “it seems MLS has kowtowed to an archaic foreign tradition for the sake of ‘authenticity’.”

At MLSsoccer.com, Jonah Freedman looks at how 2014 will prove to be a turning point for the league.

Voxxi wonders if Latinos will help turn Los Angeles “into US’s number 1 soccer town.”


Kevin Silva (PDA; Bethlehem, Pa.) and Christian Pulisic (PA Classics; Hershey, Pa.) went the full 90 in the US U-17 MNT 0-0 draw against “Seattle Sounders FC U-17/18/Reserves” on March 10 in the first game of a three-game tour of the Pacific Northwest. In the 3-2 win over University of Portland on March 12, Pulisic came into the game as a 60th minute substitution.


The Press Association reports, “A decision on the timing of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will not be made before the start of 2015. FIFA had said an announcement could be made later this year but Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the head of the task force that is making the decision on the timing of the tournament, said it would be not be taken before next year.”

The AP’s Tales Azzoni looks at the lack of a goalkeeping culture in Brazil.

I don’t know how much he knew about it, but it sure was nifty:


  1. I really liked Wheeler’s game on Saturday. He was winning a ton of 50/50s. His distribution could have been a bit better but impressive spot duty.

  2. That goal. I think he actually did know about it. Not sure if he meant to score, but wow, that’s gotta be in contention for FIFA goal of the year, no?

  3. I am overall impressed by the teams improved play from last year. The feeling of control is much better. Even when we aren’t controlling the game I don’t feel the doubt we will. The leadership and technical skill on the field is there. This will show us whether hack is a good enough coach because in this league with the talent he has we should be one of the better teams (Top 6).
    Many have complained about jack and others play but first of all we should show patience as the way this team plays is much different than last year or for that matter the past 4 years. That will come but the good news is our own expectations of the team have increased.
    I for one am really looking forward to seeing what this team can do up to the world cup break.

  4. Wheeler needs to pick out the short upfield pass to Edu or Nogueira instead of just booting out of the Union’s half. Was it just me or did it look like Nogueira was the de facto captain: talking to ref, organizing set pieces, keeping team’s shape? That said, Okugo had another great game and was nice touch for him to be captain ceremonially if nothing else. Is there any chance he gets a USMNT call up before World Cup?

  5. I don’t normally pay attention to goal celebrations either way, but the one they did on Saturday caught my eye. Not so much the celebration itself, but the story behind it, and just the fact that it happened. This team lacked that type of charisma and chemistry last year (at least it appeared that way at times), but this team seems to really get along well and it looks like they’re having fun. And that makes it so much more fun to watch. If the midfield can get the timing issues worked out and the injury bug doesn’t hurt us more this team has the potential to dominate the East. It feels like the polar opposite of last season already.

  6. OneManWolfpack says:

    Yeah about that injury bug. I really hate that two of the starting back line players are injured already… meaning Berry and Williams. And neither is an injury that heals fast, and correctly without a lot of time off. I hope the backups are ready and the starters aren’t out for very long.
    With that said, all isn’t negative. The Union were never in any real danger of losing that game, even as poorly as they played in the 2nd half (compared to the 1st).
    It will be a nice test next week against Columbus on the road, who looked good in their opener last week.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Berry out for an extended time would be bad!

      • Hopefully he was smart and pulled himself right when he felt it.
        I worry about Williams. Hopefully he doesn’t come back early. I did my quad once and had constant set backs before eventually tearing it. A
        Shortened preseason will do that.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Quad injury is so tough because it feels better loooong before it IS better. Luckily, we have Gaddis for coverage and that ain’t bad.
        As for Berry, we are in a very tight spot. Wheeler performed admirably, for short spells. He is not any insurance, though. Mild hamstring injuries are multi-week recoveries. I’m hoping Berry cramped, or just experienced a little tightness.

      • With Wheeler, White and Marquez on the roster, at least there are options, which is a nice improvement. Imagine Parke going down in Week 2 last year.

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