Roger Torres' 68th minute goal was enough as the Philadelphia Union defeated the New York Red Bulls Saturday night at PPL Park. The result kept the Union's 100% home record intact, and continued the home shutout streak that Faryd Mondragon has had to begin the 2011 season.
Just seconds after entering the game for Carlos Ruiz, Torres received the ball from fellow substitute Danny Mwanga, who had pounced on an extremely poor pass from New York defender Tim Ream. The 19-year-old Colombian midfielder took Mwanga's pass in stride, and his first touch of the game slotted the ball past goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul.
New York controlled the vast majority of the possession during the game. They enjoyed numerous chances in the first half but were unable to put any away before halftime. After the goal, they continued to press for an equalizer but the Union defense held strong.
Union midfielder Justin Mapp made his return from injury but played for most of the game on the right side of the field, instead of his customary left side, which was occupied by Keon Daniel. It was the Trinidad & Tobago international's first start for the Union and he went all 90 minutes. Much more after the jump.
Philadelphia came out somewhat flat, and didn't see much of the ball for the entire first half. New York's best chances of the game came from 18-year-old United States international striker Juan Agudelo, who hit both the crossbar and the post on separate occasions but could not get the ball past Mondragon.
The game also featured Dwayne De Rosario's first start for New York. The Canadian international did an excellent job of keeping possession for the Red Bulls, but like his teammates he could not find the killer pass to finish a scoring chance.
Philadelphia had to be pleased as they went into the break with the game still scoreless. The Union did not have a single first-half corner kick, while the Red Bulls had five. Philly came out with more attacking vigor in the second half, and coach Peter Nowak quickly inserted Danny Mwanga for Mapp. The 19-year-old striker helped maintain possession and was very involved in the attack.
But it was the Union's next substitution that made all the difference. Torres came on for Carlos Ruiz, who looked good in attack but made no impact on defense, where he was needed to bring high pressure to the Red Bulls' back line. Torres had hardly settled onto the field when Tim Ream made a careless pass that Mwanga intercepted. The Union striker passed the ball through Ream's legs to Torres, who calmly finished the play past Coundoul. Torres' first touch of the game ended up being his first goal in a Union jersey.
The Union survived the attacking pressure from New York, who desperately sought an equalizer but simply couldn't find it. Referee Alex Prus sounded the final whistle, and the Union consolidated their position at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The 1-0 win, which matches the same result as all four Union league games this season (three being wins, and one a loss), put Philly on nine points from four games. This left them three points clear of the second-place team in the East, which at the end of the night was the New England Revolution. The Red Bulls were left with five points from four games.
Philadelphia will once again take the field at PPL Park next Saturday, as they host Seattle Sounders FC. The Sounders got their first win of the season Saturday with a 2-1 win over Chicago that left them with five points from five games.