The Philadelphia Union have played numerous matches in their franchise history, but tonight's match may rank among the more regrettable Union matches. From Mike Grella scoring the fastest goal in MLS history to the three other New York Red Bulls first half goals that followed, it was never pretty and the hometown Red Bulls erased memories of early season losses to the Union at Red Bull Arena with a 4-1 trouncing of the Union today.
Cristian Maidana put a little too much power on the opening kick, leading to Mike Grella intercepting it and barnstorming down the right side of the barely set up Union defense. Marching into the box, Grella fired a shot that appeared as if it deflected off Steven Vitoria, confusing Andre Blake, allowing the ball to get past him for the goal. At seven seconds into the match, it has been ruled Grella scored the fastest goal in MLS history from opening kick of the match to the time the ball crossed the plane of the goal. Master of the understatement Shep Messing described the play as "a complete disaster for Philadelphia." Go Union.
A little more than three minutes later, things got worse for the Union. Sacha Kljestan's corner got on the head of Damien Perrinelle who flicked it to Bradley Wright-Phillips in front of goal and BWP was able to easily volley it past Blake for goal number two. Vitoria left BWP unmarked directly in front of goal, and due to his positioning on the line for the corner kick, Vincent Nogueira ensured BWP was onside for the goal that put the Union down by two.
Following a Union turnover, the Red Bulls would take the opportunity to make it 3-0. Receiving the Union turnover from Michael Lahoud, Dax McCarty found Grella in the box and Grella juked past Steven Vitoria giving himself an opening to slot the ball past Blake giving the Red Bulls three goals and Grella a brace in just 16+ minutes. This goal was an utter implosion from the Union who once again illustrated their inability to handle NYRB's press on the day.
3-0 is bad, 4-0 is worse, and it became that in the 45th minute. Beautiful team play from NYRB culminated in Kemar Lawrence getting a sliding tap-in in front of goal past a helpless Blake. Red Bulls had Lahoud all out of sorts and Lawrence successfully found a way past Maidana for the embarrassing fourth tally. Make no mistake, as strong of a build-up as this was from NYRB, there's something completely embarrassing and demoralizing about conceding four goals in a single half.
If the second half got any better, it's because a). Jim Curtin made some adjustments that helped stop the bleeding, and b). with NYRB already up 4-0 it really could not get any worse. Fernando Aristeguieta came on at halftime, providing the Union with something resembling a spark. The Union also gave Luis Robles a couple challenging stops to make, the first of which he did not make. Receiving a long pass from Tranquillo Barnetta, Le Toux moved his way into the box, juked past Perrinelle, and slotted the ball past Robles for the Union's lone goal of the match.
Robles would make two more impressive saves in the second half and while some people may look at those moments as positive from the Union, any "positive" that arises when a team is trailing 4-0 or 4-1 in the second half really isn't a positive at all. The Union were thoroughly defeated by NYRB as soon as the match started, the result was never in any sort of doubt, and NYRB finally this season at Red Bull Arena illustrated their superiority over a hapless Union side with nothing to play other than the first overall pick in the 2016 MLS Superdraft.
Jim Curtin may have to answer a lot of questions about his tactics, and the team's perceived effort, but the fact remains that the Red Bulls are a good team while the Union are a bad team, and there are times when good teams will walk over bad teams. This game didn't teach us anything new about the Union, but it did reinforce things that were feared about the team. The problems with this team may have started with their front office and Nick Sakiewicz, but they do not end there. And the Union have lots to do to fix them.