CHESTER, Pa. — The Brad Friedel Era started on the wrong foot as the Revolution fell, 2-0, to the Philadelphia Union in their season opener Saturday night.
The Revolution, playing most of the game shorthanded after Antonio Delamea was red-carded in the 23rd minute and Claude Dielna in the 86th, fell to 4-14-5 in season-opening games since 1996.
Friedel made few changes to last year’s starting lineup. Lee Nguyen, last season’s captain, did not make the trip, and Matt Turner made his first start in goal. Newcomer Wilfried Zahibo was impressive in midfield, but the Revolution lost cohesion after the departure of Delamea, who was ejected for the third time in two years.
“I thought the players that were on the field, especially playing with 10 men for such a long period of time, and with nine at the end of the game, I thought they put all their heart into the game,” Friedel said. “It’s not easy playing down a man, let alone two men, but there were some positives we’ll take from the game and quite a few negatives but it’s never easy to play with 10 men.”
Delamea took down C.J. Sapong from behind at the edge of the penalty arc and was issued a red card by Rubiel Vazquez.
The Revolution threatened early on counterattacks through Juan Agudelo, Diego Fagundez, and Cristian Penilla. And the Union nearly broke through as David Accam sped down the left wing.
But the Revolution settled into defense after the loss of Delamea, defender Jalil Anibaba replacing Penilla as the Revolution went to a 4-4-1 alignment.
Anthony Fontana, an 18-year-old midfielder making his first professional appearance, scored into an open net off an Alejandro Bedoya cross in the 43rd minute. The sequence was set up off a free kick from near the center circle, the Union attacking on the right, Bedoya going to the end line, then finding Fontana unmarked near the penalty spot as Anibaba and Turner held off Sapong.
The Union squandered several other chances, Sapong heading wide from the edge of the goal area (31st) and firing high (41st), Fabian Herbers’s 35th-minute half-volley saved.
“I think the killer blow was them scoring right before the stroke of halftime,” Friedel said. “At the start of the second half, they were finding it very difficult to break us down, once we had a little chat at halftime. But again a poor defensive mistake for their second goal, and that killed the game off.”
Sapong upped the lead, finishing near post off a cross from substitute Cory Burke, who slipped past Gabriel Somi on the right side of the penalty area in the 69th minute.
“I’ve played a lot of games, even though this is my first MLS game, it’s not the first time I’ve had to play through adversity like that,” Turner said. “So you just call on your experience from the past, communicate, and you’ve got to believe in the group as a whole. We did a good job as a collective, we had a good mentality even though we were facing adversity.”
Teal Bunbury moved into a striker position in the second half, missing wide in the 73rd and 74th minute. Friedel added Kelyn Rowe and moved Somi into the attack in the final minutes, but the Union threatened on a breakaway, Dielna issued his second caution after a clash with Burke in the 86th minute.
Delamea and Dielna will miss the Revolution’s home opener against the Colorado Rapids next Saturday. The Revolution fell to 3-24-8 in road games since 2015.
“We had three or four chances we should’ve scored,” Fagundez said. “That’s what happens if you don’t score those goals, they come back and punish you.
“We don’t want to start on a losing streak. We’re going to go home and prepare and once the home opener comes it’s going to be a different story.”