In his first game with the Philadelphia Union, midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta stormed through an opposing player and created a goal, just minutes after entering the field. Unfortunately, the player he stormed through was positioned inside his own box, and the goal he created was the New York Red Bulls' first.
Just moments after coming onto the field, Barnetta found himself standing over fellow debutant Shaun Wright-Phillips. Armando Villarreal ruled that the Swiss midfielder had illegally brought down Wright-Phillips from behind and pointed to the spot. Sacha Kljestan converted the spot kick, sending his shot straight, low, and hard, just inches shy of the foot of John McCarthy as he lunged toward the post.
"For me it was not really a foul because I was standing behind but he fell down and the ref thought that I hit him," Barnetta said when asked about the foul after the game. "It happens like this sometimes and you can't change it so you try to come back and fix the mistake.
"I hope that next game I can give Philadelphia more than a penalty," Barnetta added with a laugh.
He did manage to atone for his misstep, starting the move that led to the Union's equalizer. After receiving the ball in the left channel about 30 yards from goal, Barnetta picked his head up and sprayed it out to Cristian Maidana in the other channel. With Anthony Wallace still recovering after attempting a sliding interception that proved unsuccessful, Chaco had time and space to cut the ball back with force. His drive caught Fernando Aristeguieta awkwardly, but Sebastien Le Toux's late run put him in position to finish off the chance, blasting home the shot for his team's first goal.
In the time it took you to read this phrase, the Red Bulls regained their one-goal advantage. Just seconds after restarting play, Shaun Wright-Phillips once again found himself with the ball at his feet inside the Union's box. The winger cut back then forth, nearly sending Ray Gaddis to the ground in so doing. His drive across the goalmouth was also hit with pace, but Shaun's brother Bradley was able to redirect it toward goal. The ball ducked under John McCarthy's outstretched arm, putting New York up 2-1 with 16 minutes left to play.
Though Jim Curtin was disappointed with Gaddis on the play, he asserts that he was otherwise "excellent" on Saturday.
"I thought Ray was very good on the night. He pressured well, picked well off of balls. He seemed possessed out there and it was unfortunate that he got caught on that one play in the box where it's a dangerous part of the field but again; we concede goals as a team. Someone should be able to slide over and bail him out there," Curtin said.
Determined not to receive his first loss at the hands of the Red Bulls, Curtin threw on the big boys. Fernando Aristeguieta and Conor Casey came off the bench in the second half, but neither of them took off starting striker CJ Sapong. Instead, diminutive Eric Ayuk and center back Ethan White were taken off.
For all their effort, the Union failed to find another equalizer. Their best shot came in the 84th minute, when Conor Casey flicked Cristian Maidana's free kick service toward the far post. It sure looked like a tying goal, but Luis Robles kept his team ahead with a heroic diving save.
Inexplicably, the Union focused much of their crunch-time play down their right side, where they competed for aerial balls with Anthony Wallace and overlapped with Ray Gaddis. This failed to pay dividends for the home side, as Wallace as more than competent in the air and Gaddis has only made a handful of good crosses since he was drafted by the Union in 2012.
In the fourth minute of stoppage time, Dax McCarty, who broke down countless Union moves before they even started, stabbed the ball away from Fabinho near the New York 18'. With both full backs forward and only one center back on the field, the Red Bulls scored their easiest goal of the season.
Sacha Kljestan hit a simple diagonal past a half-heartedly retreating Maurice Edu, finding Anatole Abang. The young striker had enough time to make scoreline 3-1 before the now-sprinting Edu reached him.
The loss is the Union's third straight, as they now must head to Orlando in an attempt to rescue any chance at a playoff appearance.