CHESTER, Pa. — The tide turned for New England from the moment Freddy Adu scored his first goal for Philadelphia nine minutes after halftime.
Until that critical juncture in Wednesday night's 4-4 draw at PPL Park, the Revs enjoyed perhaps their best spell of the season to date. They matched a club record by scoring four times in the first half and tore apart a Union side lacking its organizing presence in goalie Faryd Mondragón to compile a three-goal advantage by halftime.
Adu's goal reduced the Union's deficit to two shortly after the match resumed, sparked the necessary measure of belief in the home side for the remainder of the match, and stopped the Revolution's momentum entirely.
“We wanted to start the second half the way we started the first half,” Revolution coach Steve Nicol told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “But then [Philadelphia’s] second goal is huge.”
It also raised questions about whether this match would follow the same destructive pattern of recent contests.
Nicol and the Revs have scored first in nine of the past 11 matches (including this draw), but they have captured just nine points from those games. The recent misfortune inspired a bit of wariness at 4-2 and prompted Nicol to throw Pat Phelan into midfield and withdraw striker Rajko Lekic to shore up his defensive shape.
“The goal comes from them playing through us,” Nicol said. We couldn't just carry on with that, so we decided to block it up, play five across the middle and leave Milton [Caraglio] on his own. We didn't really do it successfully. We didn't organize ourselves that well.”
Once again, the Revs opted to defend deeply and invite an opponent to chase the game by throwing extra numbers into the attack. Philadelphia needed no extra encouragement. Union coach Peter Nowak took off a defender at halftime to shift a variant of a 3-5-2 setup and encouraged seven players to press forward in order to further close the deficit.
“We were sitting back, basically,” Revolution defender A.J. Soares said. “It was pretty clear that they were attacking us the whole time. If you don't deal with one ball or you make one little slip, they're going to score a goal. That's the tough thing. You can absorb the pressure well – and we did it well most of the time – but the three times we didn't do well, they scored goals. We have to do better than that next time.”
Shutting up shop ultimately led to another late equalizer. Sébastien Le Toux coolly converted from a disputed penalty award in the 79th minute to bring the Union within a goal and then slotted home in second-half stoppage time to seal an unexpected point.
Le Toux's two tallies marked the seventh and eighth goals scored by the opposition after the 79th minute in the past seven matches and left the Revs to lament their continued inability to protect a lead.
“If you get a 4-1 lead anywhere – even against Barcelona – you're probably happy, you take that and hopefully hang on,” Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph said. “We didn't have the quality and we're not good enough to hang onto a 4-1 lead. That's going to cost us later on when we look at it.”