CHESTER, PA – With Atlanta United waiting in the wings, the Union and the Red Bulls faced off in round one of the 2019 MLS playoffs at Talen Energy Stadium. With the weather more fitting for tackle football than a soccer match, the one question on the minds of the supporters was which team would show up in this pivotal contest.
That question would be quickly answered in the 6th minute as Red Bulls didn’t waste any time to get on the scoreboard. Midfielder Josh Sims, on loan from Southampton, scores his first MLS goal in the sixth minute to put the visitors on the board. Kaku and Marc Raztkowski with the assists.
The second goal would come in the 26th minute off a corner kick that somehow bounced free in front of the goal where Tim Parker would put in the back of the net, giving the Red Bulls a two-goal cushion in front of the shocked Union supporters. Daniel Royer picked up an assist on the goal.
Sims would then leave the game in the 29th minute, due to a head injury. Alex Muyl replaced him.
However, the shock would be short-lived as the Red Bulls’ defense failed to clear the ball, and Haris Medujanin pounced on it, passed it to Alejandro Bedoya, who slotted in the lower corner of the net.
The second half was supposed to be simple for a team with a two-goal lead. Play simplistic patient, mistake-free soccer. Unfortunately for the Red Bulls in the 58th minute, that didn’t happen as Jack Elliot scored from a corner kick that first bounced off the bar, only to be tapped in by wide-open Elliot to bring the Union back within one.
However, calamity would strike the Red Bulls in the 78th minute as Ilsinho would deliver a great pass, slicing through the defense and Fafa Picault would bang home the equalizer. It was the second straight unanswered goal in the second half for the Union.
With the advantage swung to the Union’s edge, the Red Bulls’ defenders were always under immense pressure, and under siege, as the ball found either the head or foot of a Union player, but fortunately for the Red Bulls, the score would remain deadlocked as the second half came to an end.
Extra time would bring in Brian White, and a little of the same from the Union early on, but things would settle down as both teams were looking for a critical scoring chance early in the first extra session.
But then, two minutes into stoppage time, Marco Fabian sends a ball floating in the air, which bounced off the post into to the back of the net, bringing the home supporters on their feet, shaking Talen Energy Stadium to the core. Fafa Picault was credited with the assist.
What went right for the Union:
Despite the mistakes early in the match, they didn’t panic. Once they got that goal in the 52nd minute, the house of cards that was the Red Bull defense began to crumble and eventually collapse under pressure.
What went wrong for the Red Bulls:
Complete loss of momentum in the second half. The Red Bulls took the lead early, added it at the end of the first half, only to completely lose it late as the Union scored three unanswered goals.
Pivotal Moment(s) of the Match:
Shortly after Kaku and Josh Sims left the field with injuries, Jim Curtin sized on an opportunity by bringing in both Ilsinho and Fafa Picualt, who then gave the Red Bulls’ defenders fits in the second half, putting the team on its heels often.
It was very clear from the outset what this team needed from training camp early in the season. Injuries aside, this team was utterly ill-equipped to keep up with the elite squads of the eastern conference. Add the missed opportunities down the stretch, and once again this season for the Red Bulls ends with a disappointing thud, and for their frustrated and beleaguered supporters, a long winter awaits them all.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography