New England Revolution punish Philadelphia Union's slack midfield play in five-goal rout
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Space started to appear in front of the Philadelphia back four as soon as New England asserted control of the match in possession early in the first half. It did not take long for the Revolution to grasp the magnitude of the opportunity presented and set about trying to exploit it.
“I was definitely surprised,” Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe told MLSsoccer after the Revs' 5-1 victory. “I saw that they dropped off a lot in the first half. I wanted to go at their backs alone as I could find those gaps in behind and create 10 yards of space for myself.”
Philadelphia coach John Hackworth astutely noted the influence of Keon Daniel's early ankle injury in the buildup to Rowe's opener from distance, but the root of the problem persisted beyond his departure and Michael Lahoud's arrival.
The constant movement from the home side – including Juan Agudelo's desire to float anywhere and everywhere to find the ball and, as Revolution coach Jay Heaps noted after the game, Andrew Farrell's forays up the right to provide genuine width – provided openings in the ideal spots and stretched the Union's defensive shape.
“That's what I try to do every game,” Agudelo said. “If I keep on moving, then I can draw attention and create space for my teammates. I'm not selfish at all. It's good to have that space.”
By controlling the ball, playing through the Union's midfield pressure and working it around wisely, the Revs created opportunities in the areas they wished to exploit. It eventually led to a scenario where the home side generated enough chances to lead by two or three goals at the break (it settled for one), rode through a difficult period at the start of the second half and sliced the Union apart with four goals thereafter – including another Rowe strike from distance – to secure the points.
“We got them running a little bit,” Rowe said. “That killed them off and opened them up a little bit toward the end of the second half. That's when the floodgates opened. We started scoring those goals because Diego [Fagundez] was able able to come inside and find those gaps and Dimitry [Imbongo], when he was in there, was able to come inside. For us, finding those gaps is where we love to get goals.”
The diligent excavation of those crevices may not always lead to a five-goal performance, but the principles deployed against the Union will continue to prove useful as the Revs try to maintain their hold on a playoff berth over the next few months.