CHESTER, Pa. – After scoring just eight times through their first 12 league games, the Philadelphia Union have poured in nine goals in their last two outings, capped by their 5-2 win over the Harrisburg City Islanders in Tuesday’s US Open Cup quarterfinal at PPL Park.
How do they explain such an offensive outburst?
“I don’t know,” Freddy Adu said when first asked the question.
The truth is, there’s no one reason why the offense has suddenly begun to click. Against Harrisburg, the Union did a variety of things well to storm into a juicy US Open Cup semifinal against Sporting Kansas City on July 11 at PPL Park. They took advantage of the City Islanders’ defensive miscues, finished easy opportunities and completely dictated the tempo and style of the game once they got an early lead.
WATCH: USOC QF post-game reaction
“It’s been the hard work we’ve put in,” striker Lionard Pajoy told MLSsoccer.com through a translator. “The offense, as well as the rest of the team, realizes we have to start scoring goals. … Everyone is doing their part. That’s important for a team that aspires to do great things.”
Indeed, four different players scored against the City Islanders, with Pajoy leading the way with a brace and Adu, Jack McInerney and Gabriel Gómez adding single tallies.
During the Union’s 4-0 rout of Sporting Kansas City three days earlier, McInerney scored two, while Pajoy and Antoine Hoppenot both added one.
“That’s good for us,” McInerney said. “It’s about confidence. People are wanting to go forward, wanting to get into position and we’re finishing our chances.”
McInerney also noted the Union’s offensive revival could be largely due to the “fresh start” some players like him were given under the reign of interim manager John Hackworth, who has allowed the team to play freely and without fear in an effective 4-3-3 system.
Adu reiterated that many players are looking to make an impression on Hackworth, which is perhaps why the goals have come in bunches. But he also noted that with so many talented offensive players, it was only a matter of time until Philly broke out of their scoring drought and began to finish the chances they were creating.
“I had said in the beginning of the season that once the floodgates open, they’re going to be wide open,” Adu said. “It seems like that’s the case now. Hopefully we can keep it going.”