The Philadelphia Union failed to put themselves in position to clinch a spot in the MLS playoffs by losing to the New York Red Bulls 3-2 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ.
Union Starting XI: Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Yaro, Rosenberry; Creavalle, Bedoya; Barnetta, Herbers, Pontius, Sapong
RBNY Starting XI: Robles; Lawrence, Collin, Perrinelle, Duvall; McCarty, Felipe; Grella, Kljestan, Muyl; Wright-Phillips
At his Wednesday press conference, Jim Curtin talked about how the Red Bulls “kill teams in the first 30 minutes of games” with their pressing, and their plan would be to prevent them from getting a lead during that time frame. The Union were not only successful in doing that, they scored themselves on a Fabian Herbers goal in the 15th minute. Herbers was just outside the box in the center when he received a pass from Chris Pontius and slid it into the net. The Red Bulls had a chance in the 26th minute when Andre Blake made a clutch kick save off a Mike Grella shot at close range.
A minute later, Philadelphia’s defense took a hit when Joshua Yaro got sandwiched between Blake and Aurelien Collin as they all went for a ball in the air, and Yaro appeared to be unconscious when he came down. He was carried out off the pitch in a stretcher, forcing Curtin to make an early sub by bringing in Ken Tribbett.
After that, the Red Bulls put their feet on the gas for the rest of half. New York had several chances, but they were either failing to find a finishing touch, or being denied by Blake. The Red Bulls finally broke through in the 44th minute on a Sacha Kljestan goal. Felipe crossed the ball to Kljestan waiting at the penalty spot, who one-timed it beyond the reach of a diving Blake. The half ended with the two teams knotted up at 1-1.
As the second half started, the run of play remained with the Red Bulls and it didn’t take long for New York to get the lead. In the 47th minute, Bradley Wright-Phillips sprinted between both Union centerbacks on the receiving end of a long pass from Dax McCarty. With only Blake to beat, BWP made a perfect shot to put New York up at 2-1.
In the 52nd minute, the Union were forced to make another substitution as Alejandro Bedoya took himself out of the game, with Brian Carroll coming in. It wasn’t obvious why Bedoya came out but he appeared to be in some pain.
The Union were struggling with possession when Pontius managed to score a goal in the 56th minute. He got his head on a Fabinho cross to put it past the reach of a leaping Luis Robles to tie the match at 2-2.
The U played better after that, but they still couldn’t shift the momentum in their favor. In the 66th minute, McCarty put the Red Bulls up for good, when he headed in a free kick taken by Klejstan. The Union’s best chance to tie it came in the 88th minute when Robles made a great save off a Pontius bicycle kick in the box.
The Union were lucky they only lost by one goal. The loss extended the Union’s winless streak to 5 games. The Red Bulls on the other hand haven’t lost since July 3.
This loss puts some separation between the fourth place Union and the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. However, if they can maintain the fourth place position, they will still get a home game in the first round of the playoffs. The boys in blue now get a break during the upcoming FIFA international dates before returning to Talen Energy Stadium to take on Orlando City FC on Sunday, October 16.
UPDATE: In his press conference, Curtin reported Bedoya sustained a rib injury.
UPDATE (10-4-16) : With Montreal and DC winning this weekend, the Union are now in 6th place. They are only 2 points out of 4th place (and a home match in the knockout round of the playoffs), and 3 points above 7th place New England.