Le Toux lifts Union to victory in home opener

Le Toux lifts Union to victory in home opener

March 15, 2014, 7:45 pm
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The Union celebrate Sebastien Le Toux's goal in the 31st minute of their 1-0 home-opening win Saturday at PPL Park. (USA Today Images)

CHESTER, Pa. -- With an early goal from Sebastien Le Toux and dominant pressure throughout, the Union closed out their home opener in style on Saturday, as they easily took down the New England Revolution, 1-0, at PPL Park.

"Most important is those three points," Le Toux said. "We wanted to start well at home and getting a shutout was very important. Just 1-0, but we'll take the win. It was a great performance from everybody today."

Le Toux’s game winner was his fifth goal in four home openers with the Union (1-0-1).

"I don't know, I get off to a good start," he laughed. "I hope I'm going to score more goals this year and help the team more offensively. It was good, I'm happy about that, happy that we got those three points.”

In front of the lively and sold-out PPL Park crowd, the hosts controlled possession to begin the opening half but had little to show for it. As time went on, the Union’s momentum slowly grew and so did their number of dangerous chances.

In the 19th minute, Cristian Maidana’s corner kick was nearly deposited by Maurice Edu, who headed a shot toward the near post that was barely saved away. Six minutes later, Jack McInerney earned a golden opportunity in the low crease but was stopped cold by Bobby Shuttleworth.

The heavy pressure eventually proved too much for the Revolution.

In the 31st minute, Leo Fernandes beat his man around the left side and carried possession into the box, which forced the defense to commit toward him. Fernandes then dished a light cross to a streaking Le Toux, who easily tapped in his first of the season for the 1-0 Union lead.

“I knew [Andrew Farrell] was going to try and intercept the ball, so I baited him a little bit, gave him a little step and beat him to the ball,” Fernandes said. “Seba made a good run, so I played it through and he made a good play.”

The most dangerous chance from the Revolution (0-2-0) came in the 38th minute, on what should have been an easy goal from Diego Fagundez. While Teal Bunbury’s fast-break cross was on the mark and Fagundez was uncovered in the box, Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath answered with a highlight-reel toe save to preserve his team’s lead at the half.

“They got in there and played the ball across,” MacMath said. “I just tried to make myself as big as possible and thankfully it hit me.

“Those are the kind of saves I have to make this year to keep the team in the game. If we need to hold on to 1-0 leads, we’ll hold on to 1-0 leads.”

Without captain Brian Carroll, who was a late scratch with an illness, Edu was forced to play back in a more defensive role, while the second-year Fernandes earned his first start of the season in the midfield.

“Normally, BC is our rock,” Edu said. “He protects the back four and started the attack for us for breaking up plays. I play alongside him but he allows me to get forward a bit more. Today, with him out, I had to assume his role and play with more discipline, defend the back so Vincent and Leo could get forward. They did well, they created good chances for us.”

Learning from their last-second letdown and draw against the Portland Timbers last Saturday, the second half was controlled by the Union, who managed the lead effectively.

“We were in this position last week, up a goal,” Hackworth said. “We talked about it all week long, that while we had a good performance last week, we needed to take the next step. It was a little different but we didn’t give them a chance in the last 10 minutes. We’re making progress.”

Union center back Austin Berry left the match in the 54th minute with a left hamstring injury. He was replaced by Aaron Wheeler. … For the first time in his five years with the Union, 23-year-old Amobi Okugo wore the captain’s armband.