CHESTER, Pa. – The home locker room at PPL Park was eerily quiet following the Philadelphia Union’s 5-3 loss to the New England Revolution on Saturday.
After an absolutely brutal defensive performance on their home field, there just really wasn’t much to say.
“We played like [expletive],” fullback Sheanon Williams said. “We got scored on. Everything we said we didn’t want to do, happened.”
Coming into Saturday’s game, the Union hoped to build off of the inspired effort in their 2-1 midweek win over Sporting Kansas City that snapped a nine-game winless streak.
But with Fabinho suspended (yellow card accumulation) and Amobi Okugo forced into the midfield due to the absences of Brian Carroll (groin) and Maurice Edu (US national team), Hackworth made a change to the backline, pairing Aaron Wheeler and Austin Berry at center back for the first time while Williams and Ray Gaddis occupied the fullback spots.
Considering the Union gave up five goals for just the third time in the franchise’s five-year history, you can say that it was a change that did not work – much to manager John Hackworth’s disappointment and surprise.
“We only made one change from Wednesday night where we were really good defensively as a team,” Hackworth said. “But that one change really affected us. There’s the fact that guys are playing tired legs and all of those things. But our defense was really poor. You can’t let that many chances that easily.”
The Union, of course, were playing a red-hot offensive team that was coming off another five-goal effort against Seattle last week.
But the players offered no excuses as to why the relatively makeshift backline let the Revs run wild on them to the tune of 10 shots on target.
“We’re all professionals,” Berry said. “We should be able to play no matter who’s out there.”
While Philly’s backline was back on its heels all night, it was its play early in the second half that was perhaps most detrimental.
After slicing New England’s lead in half thanks to a rocket of a goal from Vincent Nogueira, the Union hoped to carry some momentum after the halftime break. Instead, Hackworth said the Union committed so many mistakes early in the second half that it was “hard to even watch what was being done out there.”
Perhaps the biggest mistake came in the 49th minute, when Berry and Gaddis did little to stop Lee Nguyen – who Hackworth said is “playing as good as anybody in this league right now” – from dancing around the box and firing a close-range shot that deflected into the net.
From there, the Revs scored twice more to coast home with the easy victory, despite two late goals from the Union.
“That was pretty deflating,” Berry said of Nguyen’s goal. “That took a lot of wind out of our sails.”
Earlier, Berry had perhaps summed up the Union’s entire defensive performance best.
“It was just a crappy night,” he said.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.