Union Top Revs in Home Opener
CHESTER, Pa (973espn.com) - C.J. Sapong deposited a pair of goals, and Andre Blake recorded his third career shutout as the Philadelphia Union topped the New England Revolution, 3-0, in their 2016 home opener at a chilly Talen Energy Stadium on the Delaware Riverfront.
It was the Union's second straight win after dropping their season opener to FC Dallas back on March 6, and Philadelphia (2-1-0, 6 points) halted a three-game skid to the Revs (0-1-2, 2 points) in Chester that dated back to May of 2014 with the impressive performance.
The Union struck first in the 18th minute when defender Fabinho crept up and dropped in a spectacular cross from the left flank, which Sapong deftly controlled and deposited inside the near post past NE goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth for the 1-0 advantage.
The Revolution nearly evened things in the 22nd when Lee Nguyen unleashed a laser from the top of the area which Blake brushed away with an acrobatic, diving save. The rangy GK was shaken up for a moment but was able to stay in and catch the ensuing corner kick in the air.
The missed opportunity hurt the Revs 11 minutes later when MF Warren Creavalle grounded a nice cross to the middle of the box and this time Sapong went far side to slot it past Shuttleworth for the 2-0 lead.
"It feels great," Sapong said of the two-goal game. "Feels good to open the account – I’m always extra critical, I could have had four today, but it’s all good. Like I said, it’s a good statement at home and we feel like we can do better but we showed a lot of team camaraderie on the field."
You need a little luck occasionally and New England really should have cut the lead in half but a free kick by Diego Fagundez hit the post and rattled around the entire mouth of the goal before Blake corralled it, a development that sparked a holy s@#$ chant by the Union faithful sitting in the River End.
"People normally say you’re lucky when you hit the post, but for me, I don’t really think that way because the post is not inside the goal – it’s more like the ball hit the post and goes in – so you know it’s not like it even saves you if it hits the post and doesn’t go in," Blake said. "It’s just what it is but I’m thankful for it not going in."
Any hope of a Revs comeback was really thwarted in the 37th minute when Revs D Je-Vaighaun Watson was hit with a red card, ensuring New England would be playing a man down for the rest of the afternoon.
The Union capped things in stoppage time when the Sebastien Le Toux, a second-half substitution and the franchise's all-time leading scorer, squared up a Leo Fernandes pass for his first marker of the year and the 47th of his Union career.
The match could have turned into one of the bigger blowouts in Union history if not for the overwhelmed Shuttleworth, who actually stoned penalty-kick attempts from both MF Ilsinho and Le Toux.
Blake, who set the franchise record by making 10 saves against the Revolution in September of last year, faced only eight shots (two on target) en route to his clean sheet on Sunday compared to the 15 total and eight shots that actually reached Shuttleworth.
"It’s definitely important," Blake said of the shutout. "You know I told the guys before if we’re going to make a run, it’s going to start in the back. So it’s not just the back four, but the entire team. We have to defend as a team, attack as a team, and that’s something we’re looking to build on."
--John McMullen covers the Philaelphia Union for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen.