After starting the week with the playoffs in doubt, the New York Red Bulls won two straight, seeing off the Philadelphia Union in a hard fought battle 2-0.
Chris Armas marched out a nearly identical lineup to the team that won in Portland midweek, eschewing regular starters Kaku and Michael Murillo. Once again, the lineup did well to create problems for the opposing team with a stronger press than Red Bull fans have seen most of the season.
The results speak for themselves. The Red Bulls had not won two straight since the beginning of June, and with the playoffs just around the corner, it might be the right time to start heating up.
The Red Bulls and Union traded blows in the first half, setting up an even contest. The Union found success overloading the wings at times, but struggled in the final third create meaningful chances. The Red Bulls looked for quick attacks, but equally lacked the final ball to open up a compact defense.
In the 17th minute, the Union had a golden opportunity to open the scoring. Following a quickly taken freekick, Fafa Picault got in behind the Red Bulls defense. Picault attempted a chip, but Luis Robles palmed it away from danger. Picault regained possession, then sent a pass across the box to Alejandro Bedoya. Bedoya’s shot was cleared off the line by Aaron Long, keeping the Union off the board.
The Red Bulls struck first nearly fifteen minutes later. Josh Sims broke down the right wing and sent a low cross in. Andre Blake attempted to parry the ball from danger, but instead sent it directly into the path of the onrushing Tom Barlow. Barlow easily finished, scoring his third of the season in the 32nd minute.
The Union began to control the balance of the game in the second half. In the 59th minute, Jim Curtin brought in Ilsinho, a reminder of the last match between the Union and the Red Bulls. Ilsinho’s dynamic second half performance stole the match from the Red Bulls at Talen Energy Stadium. Curtin hoped the enigmatic midfielder could do the same in Harrison.
The Red Bulls responded following the introduction of Kaku and Bradley Wright-Phillips. The duo created chances by exploiting the space behind the Union defense. The Union continually pressed numbers forward, and the Red Bulls used their savvy veterans to create looks without committing numbers forward. Wright-Phillips found two great chances, but failed to finish either.
Instead, Wright-Phillips played provider on Danny Royer’s late goal to ice the match in stoppage time. Kaku found Wright-Phillips run behind, and the striker was off to the races. Instead of firing a shot, Wright-Phillips sent a pass across the box to Royer. Royer took a touch and finished the chance.
The win brings the Red Bulls (14-13-5) all the way up to fourth place in the Eastern conference (Pending D.C. United’s result at the Seattle Sounders). Considering how the week started, Red Bull fans will relish how it ended.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography