Praise to the Prince

Mercy - Philadelphia
Official Philadelphia Union Reporter

By Mercy Payba // @mercpay

Saturday, May 6: 3-0 WIN!

Right, so what can I say that hasn’t been said about this game? As always, the Philadelphia Union managed to surprise me (and probably the rest of the league) with the result on Saturday’s throwback night. I prepared myself diligently to say we made an effort, but couldn’t manage to pull through. Once I heard Richie Marquez, our CB constant, was going to be out of the lineup due to illness, I thought that was it. The New York Red Bulls were comfortably in the top part of the table while we had a 15 game winless streak as our claim to fame this season.

But CJ Sapong, our Fresh Prince of Chest-air, managed to break that streak with a hat-trick of goals in the second half, the third hat-trick in Union history.

Whatever might be happening in the business end of the Union, and as much faith as Earnie Stewart has in our team, this result was a visible step in the right direction. It couldn’t have been possible without Andre Blake in goal and Sapong up top. It couldn’t have been possible without our subs and it couldn’t have been possible without the whole team putting in the effort. Dare I say that the Union was a cohesive unit for the first time in months?

That is what Philadelphia needs to win games and that is what we need to show our potential; the potential that Jim Curtin and the rest of management have been reassuring fans has been there from day one.

I can’t tell you what stars aligned for this to happen. To be frank, the first half was possession heavy for the Union but there wasn’t much action. Our wingers were well-marked by the Red Bulls backline and ineffective overall. Oguchi Onyewu and Fabinho managed to scrape up key clearances and Blake was on top of things as the chances for the Bulls kept coming. The set pieces plays managed to be over-hit every single time by Haris Medunjanin from corners to free-kicks. It wasn’t all bad as Alejandro Bedoya managed to show off some of his skill just outside the box to stop Daniel Royer in his tracks and get a shot saved by Luis Robles.

Union ended up with a clean sheet by half-time, but the second half started with the Red Bulls on the offensive. It was to be expected; they lost in their midweek game against Sporting Kansas City and they wanted some road points to take back home with them. Philadelphia had to sub out Raymon Gaddis and Roland Alberg in the 62nd minute as the game got chippy and both men suffered a knock they couldn’t shake off.

In came the substitutions that made quite a difference to the back and forth play between the Bulls and the Union: Keegan Rosenberry and Derrick Jones. I don’t know if it was just fresh legs or a can-do attitude, but the fans could see a visible regroup by Philadelphia once they got on the field. It was the ‘do or die’ moment or perhaps the ‘join or die’ moment as the club’s motto goes.

Rosenberry had been benched since the home game loss against NYCFC in favor of starting Gaddis. He had something to prove out on the field and he wasn’t going to be stopped by the Bulls. His partnership with Chris Pontius worked in our favor as Bedoya moved into a no. 10 position. Pontius who had seen little of the ball in the first half managed to get in some good crosses to Sapong and put a little more pep in his step around the 72nd minute mark.

Anticipation was building. The air was filled with chants and support. The goal had to be coming and Sapong didn’t disappoint with a rocket to the top left corner of the net.

Seven minutes later, he does it again with help from a knockdown by Pontius with his head. At that point, I had never been happier to hear the DOOP song play again. The last time Philadelphia had a two goal lead at home was back in August of last year against SKC. Incidentally, it was also part of a second half effort with goals late in the game.

After all the excitement of the second goal, the Red Bulls got a corner kick off Jack Elliott. Bradley Wright-Phillips missed his chance, the ball going high above the net. A counter run by the Union ended in a penalty given by Damien Perrinelle’s handball. The man who stepped up to take it was, of course, CJ Sapong.

A hat-trick in a game most had dismissed as clear-cut in favor of the visiting team. Home ground advantage hadn’t exactly panned out for the boys in blue lately and the winless streak had been gaining an edge of optimism but was it really enough for Philadelphia to succeed?

The resounding answer was yes.

By the end of the game, no one could say it was a fluke that Philadelphia won. It was a moment long-awaited for the team and it came in a spectacular fashion. It only took eleven minutes in total for Sapong to give us a win, but it took all eleven men on the field to give us a victory.

As an end note, there was some criticism for the amazing remake of the “Fresh Prince” opening made by the team during the week, but I’m inclined to agree with my friend who said after the win: “It’s that Fresh Prince jawn that did it.” Maybe I’m a tad too superstitious but how could we not come out as winners with this masterpiece throwback?               

Next week: Union goes on the road to the capital. My prediction: A win for the Union. Things are looking up.

Featured image courtesy: @PhilaUnion

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @mercpay

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale

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