In a chippy match in Chester which saw countless hard fouls and two coaches thrown out, the Union overcame a hideous first half to beat the Red Bulls 2-1. Chris Pontius scored both goals for the Union.
The Union will face the New England Revolution in the quarterfinals, which New England will host.
Union first XI: Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Yaro, Rosenberry; Creavalle, Barnetta; Pontius, Alberg, Ilsinho; Le Toux
Red Bulls first XI: Meara; Zizzo, Collin, Zubar, Lade; Davis, McCarty, Sam, Kljestan, Grella; B Wright-Phillips
The entire first half was brutally bad from the Union. Blake saw two testers inside of three minutes, including one ticketed for the upper 90 that he barely got a fingertip on to keep out. The Red Bull press turned them over again and again, rarely allowing the U attacking chances. The few crosses the Union got in were cleared easily. In the 17th minute, Mike Grella saw a free kick bounce to him in the box and put it past Blake to give the Red Bulls a 1-0 advantage. New York continued to look dangerous both on build-up play and on the counter. In the 32nd, Kljestan saw his cross get headed over the bar. In the 34th minute, Dax McCarty had a go from range and missed everything, but the shots kept coming. The 35th minute saw Blake tip another rocket over the bar. In the waning moments of the first half, the Union finally got a corner and a couple free kicks in a dangerous position, but nothing that troubled Meara. The Red Bulls finished the half strong with two opportunities by Bradley Wright-Phillips, but the first was saved by Blake in the box, and the second one he couldn’t put on frame after Blake came well off his line to challenge him. The half ended 1-0.
Curtin called the half “as bad as we’ve played all year”.
The second half began much like the first half: a bit of Red Bull possession and a NY corner. But the Union started showing signs of life. At 48′ Alberg won a corner. Three minutes later, Sebastien Le Toux’s touch failed him in the box. And then in the 54th minute, Ilsinho took over, playing a beautiful through ball to Chris Pontius, who put it past Meara to level the game at one apiece. The next ten minutes were the Ilsinho show: a bogus yellow for a light challenge from behind, a slick move at the top of the box to shake free of a defender and let loose with a rocket that missed the near post, and then at the hour mark, he chipped a beautiful pass over a sliding Collin to Chris Pontius, who one-timed it past Meara to give himself a brace and give the Union the lead, 2-1.
New York pulled out all the stops, making offensive subs and opening the match up. The action went end to end; Alberg got played in alone on Meara but was slightly offsides. McCarty put a cross into the box in the 74th that Wright-Phillips couldn’t get his head on. Creavalle hit a shot a minute later that Collin blocked unwittingly and would need attention for. Marquez cleared a ball headed towards goal in the 80th. The half got physical as well; in a space of 15 seconds, Barnetta and Creavalle were both undercut on balls they contested for. New York pressed for an equalizer, getting a great chip to BWP in the box in the 86th which he headed over the bar. The fourth official added five minutes of stoppage time at the end (partially due to a head injury Le Toux had suffered and later presumably came out for in a swap with Walter Restrepo). Union assistant Mike Sorber got tossed for kicking a ball onto the field and responded by high-fiving the Sons of Ben on his way out. Then New York head man Jesse Marsch got kicked for dissent, grabbing two soccer balls on his way out and throwing them against the boards behind the touch line. No further fireworks happened on the field however, as the Union held on to win 2-1 against the Red Bulls.
-Sebastien Le Toux started up top in place of CJ Sapong (who ran fully and will factor in this weekend although his minutes will likely be limited) and Fabien Herbers, who picked up a last minute hamstring injury and is day-to-day.
-Andre Blake looked like the Andre Blake we expected, and is a main reason the Union won that match.
-Walter Restrepo came on for Le Toux after Le Toux picked up a potential head injury and looked good, using his speed and touch to beat defenders and create chances.
-I loved the substitution of Brian Carroll in for Roland Alberg late in the second half, although things like that have a tendency of blowing up if the other team does equalize; now you’re down one of your best players and don’t have as much firepower on the field. Still, I like Curtin’s thinking: lock the win down at 90 mins.