A shorthanded Philadelphia Union held off the New York Red Bulls for 87 minutes at Talen Energy Stadium, but a brace by Bradley Wright-Phillips gave the visitors a 2-0 win in the dying minutes of the match.
Union Starting XI: Blake; Fabinho, Onyewu, Elliott, Gaddis; Medunjanin, Jones; Picault, Ilsinho, Pontius; Sapong
NYRB Starting XI: Robles; Long, Collin, Perrinelle, Murillo; Felipe, Adams; Muyl, Kljestan, Royer; Wright-Phillips
Jim Curtin stuck with pretty much his tried-and-true starting lineup for MLS matches, with the only significant change being Derrick Jones taking the place of Alejandro Bedoya, who was still nursing a sore left hamstring strain which he suffered while on US national team duty.
The first half was mostly a disjointed affair with neither side able to generate much in the way of chances. The best opportunity the Union had was just before the halftime whistle, when Chris Pontius just missed the goal with a header from just a few yards away. The Union were able to render the Red Bulls’ stud forward, Bradley Wright-Phillips, invisible for the first 45 minutes, and the closest New York got to scoring was when Alex Muyl forced Andre Blake to make a foot save in the in the 38th minute.
The second half was only 8 minutes old when Jones was sent off with a red card. Jones was sliding after a ball that NYRB’s Felipe was also going for. With Jones’ studs showing, Felipe fell to the ground, although it didn’t look like Jones ever touched him. Curtin said after the match that Jones was written up for “violent conduct” and he believed that Felipe baited the ref. Curtin quickly replaced Ilsinho with Warren Creavalle as the Union were forced to go into more of a bunker mode for the rest of the match.
With the Union down to 10 men, NYRB were happy to control possession and wait for a Union mistake at first. New York came close to getting on the board when a header from Muyl of a corner kick hit the left post. Conditions were difficult from the start with high humidity, and it started taking its toll in as the second half wore on. Curtin replaced a gassed Pontius with Marcus Epps in the 70th minute, which injected some energy into the boys in blue. Wright-Phillips finished a nice cross from Kemar Lawrence (who entered the game at halftime, replacing Aaron Long) to finally break the scoreless draw in the 87th minute. Down a goal with just a few minutes left, Curtin replaced Raymon Gaddis with Jay Simpson, but New York was able to waste time by controlling possession. A second goal by Wright-Phillips off service by Sal Zizzo (who replaced Muyl in the 73rd minute) 2 minutes into stoppage time put the game out of the reach for the U.
The Union are now riding a three-game losing streak, and blew a good chance to get back into the playoff picture. The Union are barely above the cellar, with DC United below them by just one point, and they are below the playoff red line by 6 points. All is not lost for the boys in blue, but they need to get 6 points in the remaining two games in the homestand, which are both against Eastern Conference teams. They have a good opportunity to get a desperately needed win next week when DC United comes to town for the Battle for the Cellar.
Even though the situation looks dire in league play, the Union are still alive in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. U.S. Soccer held their draw for the Round of 16 last week and the Union will have a rematch with the Red Bulls in Harrison, NJ on June 28. If they get past NYRB, they will be on the road in quarterfinals against either the New England Revolution or DC United.