Offense Explodes As Union Pounds KC 4-0

Soccer can be a cruel sport. Dominance doesn’t always equal points, and the last two matches at PPL Park have proven that.

After being zapped late by D.C. United to lose 1-0 last weekend while dominating possession and shots taken, the Philadelphia Union turned the tables on visiting Sporting Kansas City last night. The Union were deadly sharp on the counterattack, sending possession-heavy KC home on the bitter end of a 4-0 defeat.

It marked the first victory for interim Team Manager John Hackworth in his second match in charge. “That’s the way I want to enter a press conference,” Hackworth said as he sat down to the microphone.

While the Union failed to win the possession battle, they deserved victory nonetheless with their timely finishing. The score changed before the first minute had elapsed, as right back Raymon Gaddis broke down the right side towards goal. His low cross eluded Jimmy Nielsen, but Lionard Pajoy could not poke it into the net. Instead his touch eluded the sliding Chance Myers, and it laid perfectly for Jack McInerney to drill home for the early 1-0 lead.

McInerney doubled the score in the 42nd minute. Gabe Farfan was taken down just to the left of the penalty area on a hard challenge. Freddy Adu swung in the free kick, and it caromed around. Carlos Valdes was the first to the ball, and while Nielsen did well to turn back his shot, McInerney was there to clean up the mess.

The second half proceeded very similarly to the first, with the Union content to let Sporting Kansas City play the ball around the midfield and defense. KC nearly reduced the deficit in the 75th minute, as Graham Zusi took a dangerous free kick from outside the 18 yard line just to the right of center. His right-footed shot hooked away from Zac MacMath, but the keeper was able to dive and get his hands to the shot.

The guy who stood out in the final 30 minutes of the match was Antoine Hoppenot for the Union. He came on for Freddy Adu in the 59th minute. He is morphing into a late match speed merchant, and could well prove to be an asset when Philadelphia needs to kill a game. On three separate occasions the French-born forward broke through the Kansas City defense, and his well-timed runs led to two goals in the final 10 minutes.

Even before the goal to make it 3-0, Hoppenot had a chance one-on-one with Nielsen, but his chip attempt was poorly executed. That didn’t stop the Union from trying to break him free again, and he overtook Aurelien Collin in the penalty area. Collin tugged him down, and referee Terry Vaughn awarded the penalty. Pajoy took command of the situation and scored from the spot.

The final goal was off another Hoppenot run. He timed his run from inside his own half, and Michael Farfan played a perfect ball through the defense into Hoppenot’s path. He chipped Nielsen again, but this time he got it right and found the net to complete the scoring at 4-0.

But the real story since the sacking of Peter Nowak has been the emergence of Jack McInerney. A guy that had been backburnered by Nowak for much of the 2 1/2 seasons he was in charge, McInerney has been given a vote of confidence by Hackworth in the form of two starts in his first two matches at the helm.

“What a great way for Jack to start the game,” Hackworth said of the early tally. “Jack’s a sniffer, and he put it in. It was fantastic. And then for him to get one at the end of the half like that, it was a huge goal.”

The other guy who has made a surprising dash towards a first team spot is Hoppenot. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft, he has an element of speed that has been missing up front for Philadelphia. The Union has a target man in Pajoy (who had his best game thus far in MLS), and a couple of pure poaching types in McInerney and Perlaza. But Hoppenot may have a lethal combination of timing his runs well plus having the pace to make defenses pay. Whatever it may be, the former Ivy League player of the year while at Princeton is earning his minutes with difference-making play.

The next match for Philadelphia will be on Tuesday night in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals. They will host Harrisburg at PPL Park for what should be an important match as the Union tries to make a deep run towards silverware in their 3rd season.


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