the hoopla of the All Star game taking place at PPL Park last Wednesday. Still, they'll always have their memories - and I like to think that Michael Farfan, Carlos Valdes and John Hackworth were all talking slightly too loud at training on Friday, saying things like, "This one time, at All Star camp...", and that the Sons of Ben are experimenting with shiny silver lettering for whoever they're planning to insult next.Back to the grind for Philadelphia Union then, after
Possibly those insults will be leveled at the memory of Paul Revere today, as hardy members of the Midnight Riders make their way down the country to support the New England Revolution in today's game against the Union. The Revs are slipping a little coming into this one - since beating New York at the beginning of July, they've lost two of their next three, though they did get a tie at Sporting KC last time out. Ties have been the recent story for the Revs - they've drawn half their last ten games - digging out last minute goals on more than one occasion to do so.
If there's been a knock on first year coach Jay Heaps, it's more of a backhanded compliment - as he's tried to make a lot of changes pretty quickly (in fairness he had a pretty big mandate to do so after a dreadful season for the Revs last year), which has occasionally led to the team not being on the same page in recent weeks.
Then again Heaps only has to look at today's hosts to note how quickly both a team's fortunes and systems can be turned around. Since switching to a 4-3-3 under interim coach John Hackworth, the Union have looked to be a team revived. So while they've given the teams ahead of them a head start, with their indifferent early season form under Peter Nowak, they've been steadily reeling in some of those sides (despite losing in New York in their last game) - and a win today would take them ahead of New England on goal difference. Certainly if either side is to be in a position to benefit from slip-ups from the teams above them, you'd have to say this is a must-win game for both teams.
With the game nicely poised then, let's get your take on things - you can send your tweets to @KidWeil or email firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be back shortly with a little more build up and team news.
When John Hackworth showed up as assistant coach for the All Stars on Monday morning, the few members of the press assembled for the first session were mostly from local news outlets - and most wanted to know what the story was with Freddy Adu. Adu had been (sorely) missing from the New York game, at the obvious cost of inventiveness in the Union play - prompting speculation about a disciplinary infraction, or that a trade move was in the offing (perhaps for Dallas's young malcontent Brek Shea). Hackworth though, laughed off the possibility - saying he'd been watching a movie with his wife on Sunday night, when the phone started blowing up with text messages asking about the trade. He claimed to have then told his wife it was "just some crap" - though my probing follow up questions failed to reveal whether she'd asked what he was doing with his phone on during movie night, or indeed whether he was happy that everyone in said movie had given 100%.
Seems the disciplinary infraction version of events was closer to the truth - one of those "internal club matters" that routinely elevates young men doing or saying daft things to a matter of state secrecy. More to the point, what the New York game showed is that the Union really benefit from Adu's ability to beat a man - in his absence most of their attacking play was spread harmlessly wide without much effect. He should be back tonight and Philly should be better for it. In the meantime you can check out the home game against New York from a couple of months ago to see exactly what he can do for this team - it was a scintillating 40 minute cameo cut short by a dodgy red card in the 40th minute.
Do yourself a favor and check that out and I'll be back in a few minutes with the team news and assorted nonsense to count down the last few minutes before kick off.
Philadelphia: MacMath; G. Farfan, Valdes, Okugo, Williams; Carroll, Gomez, M. Farfan; Adu, McInerney, Hoppenot
New England: Reis; Alston, McCarthy, Soares, Tierney; Simms, Guy, Nguyen, Rowe; Feilhaber, Sene
Adu's back then - and there's also a start for the lively Hoppenot, who's been something of a super sub so far this season. McInerney leading the line for the Union.
New England start with Sene and Feilhaber up front. Jury is still out on Sene, who gets himself into good positions, and looks consistently dangerous, but somehow doesn't quite seem to produce quite as much end product as his chances suggest he could.
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Other sports I am now an expert in (as are you of course - it being the Olympics) after today, include archery, table tennis, field hockey and weightlifting. Ask me anything...anything...
I forgot about beach volleyball. I am now an expert in beach volleyball.
OK Olympics out of the way, let's get to the night's action. Arlo White's in London, so it's Brent Harris and John Strong doing the NBC commentary.
He's being asked how big the clean sheet against SKC last week was, and he's claiming New England need to keep "that defensive mentality".
Earlier Lee Nguyen was quoted as saying he knew that a young Philadelphia side were going to come out quickly and try to chase them down and the the Revs would have to keep their discipline and take their chances when they presented themselves.
We'll be off very soon...
Director just cut to a shot of a fishing boat underneath the bridge behind the River End. Possibly not best idea to stealthily stalk your prey to the soundtrack of the Sons of Ben.
It's from Stephen Piggott (@irish_steve) who claims:
"@KidWeil Lee Nguyen has been brilliant all season. He should torch Philly tonight"
Good call. Aside from the long shots, which are eye-catching in their own right, Nguyen has been sharp all season and I thought he was unlucky not to get a call up to the All Star squad.
There'll be plenty of movement for NE to cope with going the other way though.
Valdes looks like he's in a trance as he leads the Union out. Reis is chewing gum like a delinquent. Close your mouth man. OK anthem time - sung by the fans, as always here at PPL - and we'll be off
The anthem is sung with glorious ramshackle enthusiasm, then the two teams break into their huddles to swap jokes, puzzles and recipes.
Then NBC, who haven't got enough money already, cut away from the field to advertise some products. Next word you see will be "Peep".
Hackworth looking relaxed on sidelines. Heaps a little more animated. The ref is Jurisevic by the way. And we're off! It's the Revs who get us underway and immediately the Union are harrying them and snapping at their feet in midfield.
Heaps screaming at his side to match the Union's intensity early, but it's Phialdelphia who come forward first, though Hoppenot can't reach Williams through ball. Now they rebuild again and have a throw in the NE half...
...no long throw for once, as the Union throw it back to go forward. Now the ball is sent through for Hoppenot again but he can't control it and the Revolution get a goal kick. A minute later he sprints through again, but he's offside.
Lively start for the super sub then - without any clear cut chances. Now the Union work it forward again, but Williams long crossfield ball over the top is too strong for Adu on the shoulder of the last center back.
CHANCE! Against the run of play MacMath makes a hash of claiming the ball and Sene is able to skip round him - but the angle is too tight for the shot and Gomez is able to clear.
Another tweet, from @merwin_6, who's slightly more generous than me about MacMath's part in that mioment:
"@KidWeil Zac MacMath was really left out to dry by his defenders. Did a good job to prevent any damage."
Philadelphia get going down the right as Hoppenot runs the channels and manages to earn a corner. Adu curls it to the near post and New England seem to have cleared their lines, until Sene fluffs a routine pass in a dangerous position and is fortunate that the resultant turnover ends up in a New England goal kick. Philadelphia 0 New England 0.
Revs have a freekick in the Philadelphia half that they hammer half-heartedly into the wall - as befits a side not particularly known for their set pieces this year. But hang on a minute...
PHILADELPHIA 0 NEW ENGLAND 1 (SENE!) Left foot screamer from Sene!
Out of nothing New England take the lead, when Sene cuts inside and curls an absolute beauty up and over MacMath at the near post. Nobody was closing him down. Philadelphia try to counter instantly and the ball pinballs around the NE box for a moment, but they'll have to do this one the hard way now.
Philadelphia buzzing around New England a little higher up the pitch now, as they try to pressmatters. They get another corner...
...Farfan sends it long, where it's headed clear by McCarthy, at the expense of a long throw from Williams, which looks more dangerous than the corner. New England defending well though and the chance is cleared.
Great tackle from McCarthy, who's another player who's been very good all season. McInerney's touch sends Hoppenot through between the defenders, but McCarthy stays cool to deny him.
Some neat build up by Philadelphia in the lead up to that Hoppenot chance. If he times his runs a little better, he might get some joy. He's looking like the most dangerous Union player. Now New England get a turnover and Sene gets forward again for another long shot. This one curls straight into MacMath's arms.
Guy miscontrols a lay-off from a throw and the Union have the ball again. Now Hoppenot beats the offside trap and is absolutely flattened by Soares near the byline, with the Revs man picking up a yellow for his trouble. Virtual short corner for Philly now...
...Adu whips it in and it's headed clear for a corner that Soares in turn heads clear. It's only as far as Michael Farfan, but his shot only ends up giving New England a break. The front two sprint forward and sene slides the ball to Nguyen in the box - with Gabriel Farfan having to make a very well-timed tackle. Pattern for this one is set - Philadelphia playing a very high line and trying to get men in behind the New England lines, while New England are content to counter at pace.
CHANCE! Almost a second for New England as this time it's Rowe who darts in at the edge of the box and cuts a shot across the face of the Union goal with MacMath beaten. The spin of the ball just carries it wide of the post though. Soares looks in trouble and may have to come off. Still Philadelphia 0 New England 1.
Soares indicating he's ok so Barnes, the obvious swap, sits down. Now New England press forward as their foothold in this game grows. Alston wriggles free and sends a ball wide for Sene, but Philadelphia defend the cross.
Hoppenot is now the out and out front man, with Adu out right. Academic right now as it's new England who are attacking for the moment. Philadelphia clearing their lines and sending long balls for Hoppenot more in hope than expectation at this point - so they're conceding a lot of possession. Now the Revs send in another dangerous cross that Valdes has to head clear for a throw.
Bad giveaway from Soares gives the ball to Farfan, who runs forward and cleveerly picks up the free kick off Feilhaber. Central but a fair distance out. Adu is over it, but then Farfan drives one at decent pace and on target, which at least forces Reis to make the save.
We're being reminded about the Olympic antics of the Revs' Jerry Bengtson, who has three goals for Honduras - including the one that ended Spanish interest in the tournament earlier.
Philadelphia still trying the long ball. Still not working.
Another long ball is hit too hard for Hoppenot but McCarthy, cutting across him, brings him down anyway for an unnecessary and dangerous free kick. Closer than the last one. It's Gomez who hits this one, but it curls up and over the bar. Not terrible, but not on target.
More from our designated color commentator for the night, @merwin_6:
"@KidWeil I really like that Yellow given McCarthy. To much grabbing in this game. Solid refereeing by Edwin J."
Still Philadelphia 0 New England 1 as we head towards the last 5 minutes.
Sene tries to slow play down in the Phiiladelphia half. Philadelphia get the ball back and now Carroll makes a rare run forward, but is deemed to have handled in the build up to his snapshot.
Union have a throw level with the edge of the box -Williams territory. He duly launches it long and Valdes beats the advancing Reis to the ball to loop a header just over the bar. New England have been dealing with those well for most of the evening - that was a rare set piece glimmer for Philly.
Not far away from the dangerous Nguyen, who turns and angles in the general direction of the Union goal from midfield, before sending a dipping shot just over. We'll have 2 minutes of stoppage time.
Okugo climbs all over Guy trying to clear a header, but only succeeds in conceding the foul and getting a stern talking too. And that will be that...
Philadelphia 0 New England 1. Half time thoughts in a minute.
Well that rattled along pretty quickly, without ever threatening to turn into a classic. Good game management by the Revs to take their opportunities to break, while the Union looked alternately too ponderous and too eager to send the ball over the top for Hoppenot. Farfan and Adu have been quiet and McInerney looks pretty jammed up in a tight New England midfield. The Union might need to spread the pklay a little wider in the second half.
Sene's goal was a lovely finish, but the nearest defender was nowhere near him when he hit it. Bguyen was allowed a pop from a dangerous position too. Philadelphia need to be a lot smarter on pressuring the New England men who break into the last third.
Should be an interesting second half...
Stephen Piggott is back with the perfect piece of half time trivia:
@KidWeil Ryan Guy is one of the very few Americans who played in the Irish premier league. He was a fan favorite for St. Pats in Dublin."
How someone with the Twitter handle of @irish_steve knows that snippet, I have no idea...
Leaving Philadelphia after the All Star game I was taken to the station by a cabby from Morocco, who offered me the following dialogue on deciding I was "from Europe":
"You like Moroccan football? Chamakh should have gone to Sunderland. More time. You know Ballouchy?"
I hadn't actually told him what I did at that point...
We're off again. Philadelphia kick off and stroke it around the back a bit, then ease forward. A little flick from Adu is knocked on into the path of Hoppenot - who does well to twist and turn and pick up the corner...
...it's taken short, knocked in to the box and cleared once or twice and eventually it lands in Reis's arms.
New England have a free kick by the byline. they try to take it quickly to release Nguyen but he can't control it and it's sent through for the chasing Hoppenot. The ball runs through to Reis though - who chips clear coolly.
CONTROVERSY! New england attack and Rowe feeds Sene who is free on the outside. His shot is blocked by a lunge from Valdes, but he clearly handles the ball in doing so, much to Sene's disgust. Nothing given though - but Valdes was very lucky. Still Philadelphia 0 New England 1
Now Sene cuts in again on his left foot after another sloppy Philadelphia turnover. He gets ANOTHER uncontested shot off, that Philadelphia are relieved to see fly past the post.
@merwin_6 has also got the hang of CAPITAL letters:
"@KidWeil dear Philly midfield: CLOSE DOWN ON SENE."
I don't think they're listening...
Now New England have another corner...
...it's knocked to the near post, but Guy's challenge for it is dangerous and the Union will be able to kick clear from a free kick. At bthe other end a dangerous Gomez cross evades McInerney, though the striker had pushed Kevin Alston out of the way to concede the free kick anyway.
More havoc in the Philly box as Simms gets forward on the overlap and slides a slightly overhit cross in front of Feilhaber - though it does succeed in forcing Okugo to poke a spinning clearance over his keeper's head, and thankfully, the bar. MacMath claims the corner.
Looks like Hackworth has seen enough and the subs are going to be coming on... when suddenly - PENALTY to Philadelphia! McInerney is brought down (outside the box by the look of it) by Alston and the ref points to the spot.
PHILADELPHIA 1 NEW ENGLAND 1 (ADU!) Adu hits his left-footed penalty solidly past Reis at the home end, and suddenly the Union are level. Joseph on for Simms for New England. Lahoud on for Gomez for the hosts.
Game opens up and Alston charges through on MacMath who can't claim the ball and is stranded for a second, but Alston can't find a Revs man and the Union can clear. Tempo lifting noticeably now.
Williams whips a dangerous ball in that just evades Hoppenot, as Philadelphia try to press.
Feilhaber playing deeper since Joseph came on. Lahoud picks up the ball just in front of the New England midfield line and tries to feed a deft little flick through to Hoppenot, but nothing comes of it. But now Philadelphia get forward again and Williams bursts through two defenders and lashes a fierce point blank shot at Reis at the near post. His snap save is hit back at him with less ferocity and Philadelphia have a corner - which they waste.
Looks like NE are bringing on their new signing Imbongo. Philadelphia swarm forward again and McInerney's cut back almost finds Farfan - who instead picks up a yellow as his lunge crashes into the luckless Soares. Dangerous move though.
Imbongo on for Rowe. he played with Sene at 1860 Munich by the way. Looks like Soares will have to come off too - Barnes will be a straight swap for him.
Dinked ball over the top sees Hoppenot just crowded out, then at the other end Sene hits another hopeful shot over the bar. Still Philadelphia 1 New England 1.
Philadelphia marginally sharper in midfield now, with Farfan much more in the game in this half. They probe round the box but Joseph intercepts and will clear.
More Philly subs on their way. Pajoy?
Menawhile @merwin_6 has reached a verdict:
"@KidWeil after some thought I don't know that the penalty call was that bad. Could have given the player a straight red for last man rule."
Hmm. Maybe. Would have been very harsh.
Philadelphia have another corner...
...it's driven low and flicked on by Carroll, but New England eventually poke it clear.
Adu crashes into Reis as a high ball comes over and knocks the keeper flat. The original ball was from Hoppenot on the outside right - Philadelphia getting more joy down the channels in this half. Valdes takes out Imbongo at the other end and New England will have a dangerous free kick outside the box, as Pajoy comes on for Hoppenot.
Decent free kick from Tierney is headed to the top corner, but MacMath is positioned well to stop it. Then a minute later Joseph burst through and gets to the ball before MacMathy, but the keeper does just enough to put him off and his lob lands on the roof of the net. Still Philadelphia 1 New England 1, but now it's the visitors pressing...
New England almost get another as Imbongo is set free, but Valdes gets across sharply. More build up play from New England now, and suddenly Feilhaber catches a sweet shot from the edge of the box and hammers it just over the bar. They look strong now. Martinez on for Adu, in the last throw oif the dice from Hackworth.
Dangerous looking one two between Farfan and Pajoy only just fails to come off as Philadelphia try their own version of pushing for the win. Neither side settling for the draw. Neither side can truly afford to, if 2012 isn't to be a wash.
Justin Kavanagh is on with more Irish trivia:
"Nice factoid about Ryan Guy playing for St. Pats. If he hasn't got his shooting boots on tonight, he'll find the Delaware RIver a little bit harder to retrieve a ball from than the River Camac, which runs behind Richmond Park in Dublin. We played in a similar ground in Ireland years ago, and the groundsman used to get £1 per ball retrieved from the river. He'd always have a quiet word with the center halves before every game asking for "a few nice long river balls today, lads!""
Yeah - I'd give the Delaware a miss in that regard.
Another big shout for handball - this one from the Philly fans as the sub Darrius Barnes appears to handle in the box. No call though and at the other end Feilhaber hits another blistering shot that MacMath can only deflect straight back out. High tempo in the endgame.
Alston goes over between two defenders on the edge of the box, but no free kick and Philadelphia press forward. A swinging ball in is cleared but once again Sene concedes a dangerous turnover. Philadelphia can't take advantage and a minute later Sene is in the thick of it at the other end - wriggling frree in the box for a shot that's smothered by MacMath.
PHILADELPHIA 2 NEW ENGLAND 1 (McINERNEY!) Once again the Union get some space out wide and Williams sends in a cross to the far post where McInerney hangs in the air to knock in what looks like yet another come from behind win in this fixture. He leaps up towards the Sons of Ben who haul him up into the stand.
CHANCE! Alost a dramatic equalizer as Rowe slips the ball past MacMath at an acute angle and Valdes has to lunge in to clear with Alston sprinting in for the tap-in. Valdes took a nasty knock in that incident and there may be more than the scheduled four minutes to add on.
Yuck. Nasty clash of heads as a big cut opens up over McCarthy's eye. He's just back from a concussion treatment and that looked very nasty. No subs left. He walks off looking dazed.
Those injury delays keep us going as expected. Surely we won't see a repeat of Lenhart's 98th minute goal yesterday?The Revs have a throw deep in their own half and try to force the ball forward. Imbongo can't control and loses out to Okugo, before fouling him in trying to retrieve. Can't be long now...
We head into Lenny time and New England get numbers forward. No nonsense boot clear by Philadelphia, then a rather more refined bit of running for the byline by Pajoy, who picks up a corner. It's taken short and that will be that...
FINAL SCORE: PHILADELPHIA 2 NEW ENGLAND 1 Final thoughts in a minute.
Well that's four wins in five for Philadelphia and despite riding their luck at time, they were good value for it in the second half, as they spread the play wider and got more accurate balls in behind the New England defense. Credit too, to John Hackworth's positive substitutions, as he made the gamble to get the home win and had it pay off.
New England though, will wonder how they lost this, after controlling long stretches of the first half and consistently having promising breaks throughout the game. But the plain facts are they've lost three in four and Philadelphia have caught up with them.
I'll leave the final words with the two tweeters who were most prolific tonight... @irish_steve:
"@KidWeil what a leap by McInerney! He's headed to London after this to compete in the high jump!"
"@KidWeil had a good time with this. Fun game. Live blog was a good read tonight. As usual."
Cheers for that, and thank you all for joining me. I'll be back on Tuesday for the US Women's Olympic game v North Korea and of course we'll have 5 Things We Learned This Weekend in the morning with me and Joe Prince-Wright. For now, good night.