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One week after winning a game in frigid Colorado, the Philadelphia Union returned to Philly and picked up another victory in terrible weather conditions.
Perhaps it’s not a coincidence.
In the aftermath of Philly’s 1-0 win over New England at a cold, rainy and windy PPL Park on Saturday, Union manager John Hackworth spoke about his team being “Philly tough” – and some of the players echoed that same sentiment.
That may be true and certainly bodes well for the club moving forward. But there’s certainly more to the team’s impressive 2-1 start than just being “Philly tough.”
Let’s take a look in this week’s “Inside Doop.”
Three thoughts from Saturday’s game
1. To say the Union were bad at set pieces during the franchise’s first three years of existence would be an understatement. But could that be changing? For the second straight game, the Union scored on a Sebastien Le Toux corner kick as Jack McInerney netted the winner in Saturday’s win over the Revs. The week before, it was Amobi Okugo who headed in the corner from Le Toux, whose kicks have been much sharper than they were when he was in Philly in 2010 and 2011.
2. While much of the praise rightfully fell on McInerney for scoring his second game-winning goal in as many weeks, the Union backline deserves a ton of credit for limiting New England to just two shots on target and leading the club to their first shutout of the year. And nobody deserves more credit than Jeff Parke, who was beastly at center back, stopping the Revs in their tracks on multiple occasions and flying forward many other times.
3. When Danny Cruz was forced to leave Saturday’s contest very early after getting hit in the head with a free kick, the Union were left without one of their only true wingers. One option for Hackworth was to put in Roger Torres – a fan favorite and one of the club’s best attacking central midfielders – and possibly shift Keon Daniel and Michael Farfan to wide positions. Instead, Hackworth put in a more defensive-oriented player in Michael Lahoud, which limited the team’s width but helped them grind out the win. Still, the question on a lot of people’s minds during and after the game was: Why not Torres?
Three questions for the week ahead
1. The Union have a week off from MLS competition, as they host famed Mexican club Pumas in a friendly at PPL Park on Saturday. While the Union like to trot out a respectable lineup in these high-profile international exhibitions, they also usually try to give playing time to some of their younger, untested players. It will be interesting to see what kind of balance Hackworth tries to achieve between those two points of view Saturday.
2. Is this the week the Union finally shed Freddy Adu from their roster? The Union’s high-paid and exiled midfielder was recently linked to the Brazilian first division side Bahia, with some reports saying Philly could net veteran Brazilian midfielder Kléberson in return. Hackworth respectfully declined comment about the report following Saturday’s game but said he would address it during his weekly press conference Wednesday. Stay tuned.
3. Hackworth has said throughout the year that he will likely change the formation depending on matchups. But could he decide to keep the starting lineup as a 4-4-2 for the long term after getting two straight wins with it? And could that mean that McInerney and Le Toux will continue to be the two strikers partnered up top? Both players said their partnership still needs time to develop but it looked better on Saturday than it did the week before. And the potential with those two players together at striker is definitely exciting.
Stat of the week
In his four-year career, McInerney has scored 14 times while attempting just 32 shots on goal.
Quote of the week
“I think it’s just the fact that you guys say to us we don’t score a lot on set pieces, and maybe all of the guys in the box want to show that we can score goals. And that’s what happened.” – Sebastien Le Toux, on the team’s newfound success in scoring off corner kicks
Player of the week
Jeff Parke was the best player on the field Saturday and it wasn’t even that close. It’s surprising the center back wasn’t called up to the U.S. national team for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers.