First Look: Philadelphia Union

For the second straight year, the New England Revolution (0-1-0, 0 points) head to Chester, Pa. for a Match Day 2 contest against the Philadelphia Union (0-0-1, 1 point) at PPL Park.

The game kicks off at 4:00 p.m., and will be televised locally by Comcast SportsNet New England. 98.5 The Sports Hub will carry a radio call of the contest.

Here are a few things you need to know about Saturday’s conference clash:

1. A tale of two teams. No, we’re not talking about last Saturday’s Revolution-Dynamo clash at BBVA Compass Stadium. We’re talking about this week’s tilt between a shell-shocked Revolution XI and an inspired Union side coming off very different Match Day 1 performances. While the Revolution were pummeled for four goals in a 4-0 loss in Houston, the Union came within seconds of pulling off a First Kick upset in Portland before a Gaston Fernandez goal leveled it 1-1 in stoppage time.

“You can hear our locker room – we’re standing right outside of it, [and] it feels more like a loss than it does a win,” Union manager John Hackworth told philly.com after the match. “I guess that’s a good thing, because the players know that we gave away two points there, but we did enough to get three. We have to clean up some game management issues and handle that, learn how to close out a little bit, but good overall performance.

“You have to think that there’s a lot to build on in that game.”

2. The unfriendly pitch at PPL Park. Another year brings another edition of the “Why can’t the Revolution win in Philly?” storyline. New England is 0-3-2 all-time at PPL Park since Philadelphia entered the league as an expansion side in 2010, and have lost three straight. Their last visit, back on Mar. 16, 2013, ended in a 1-0 loss thanks to a 74th minute Jack McInerney goal.

But since then, the Revolution, which actually hadn’t beaten the Union on the road or at home following that contest, grabbed its first set of three points against their conference rivals on Apr. 27, 2013 in a 2-0 win. Jay Heaps later called it the turning point of the season, a performance in which everything started clicking for the young and talented Revolution.

3. The new(er) and improved Union. Toronto and D.C. may have gotten plenty of ink about their offseason signings, but the Union were just as active in the player acquisition department. While the addition of Maurice Edu wasn’t exactly an “under-the-radar” signing, the recruitment of midfielders Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana strengthened may have quietly made the Union a legitimate contender this year. Oh, and the acquisition of Austin Berry likely won’t hurt their chances, either.

Meanwhile, to no one’s surprise, the Union are still pretty deadly on set pieces. Last year, the club collected a conference-best 17 goals from set pieces. Sebastian Le Toux is still one of the best in the business when a dead ball situation arises, and so is McInerney, as evidenced by last week’s 64th minute goal. Beware the Ides of March? It’s Beware the Ides of Jack Mac for the Revolution on Saturday afternoon.

Previous week’s stat of concern: The Union put six of their 10 total shots on target last week at Providence Park. The Revolution only put one of their 18 shots on goal at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Early weather forecast: 58 degrees and partly cloudy. 10 percent chance of precipitation. WSW wind at 13 mph. (Source: weather.com)

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He regularly contributes to The Associated Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or contact him via e-mail at BOConnell21@aol.com