The Philadelphia Union entered Red Bull Arena underdogs and hopeful for a victory and a guaranteed spot in the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, however victory was not to be for the Union this evening. A crazy back-and-forth match resulted in the Union leaving Harrison, New Jersey without a point following a 3-2 defeat at the hands of their rivals to the north.
The match started at a frenetic pace for both sides with maybe a slight edge to the Red Bulls, but it was the Union who drew first blood. Fabinho made a strong run down the left side and played the ball into the box for Chris Pontius. Pontius passed it back to Fabian Herbers who took advantage of the open shot and fired it past Luis Robles for the first goal of the match.
A critical turning point came later in the first half. With Andre Blake and Aurellien Collin both going for the ball, Josh Yaro found himself caught in the middle of the two and with the mechanics of the collision resulted in him getting knocked to the head and falling to the ground instantly unconscious. It was a scary moment as Yaro found himself stretchered off the pitch. Later in the game, it was reported that Yaro had regained consciousness in the locker room and was sitting up. While the appearance of a concussion is terrible for Yaro especially given he just recently returned from one, at least he regained consciousness in the locker room and it initially does not appear to be a long-term threat to his career, as far as we know as of now.
Yaro's injury necessitated Jim Curtin to make the first substitution of the match, bringing in Ken Tribbett for Yaro. New York Red Bulls then proceeded to turn up their already pressing attack, and while Andre Blake made some great saves including a spectacular 26th minute diving stop on Mike Grella, there was nothing he could do in the 44th minute. Dax McCarty played Felipe along the edge of the box. Felipe proceeded to pass the ball to a wide open Sacha Kljestan 13 yards from goal and he made no mistake, equaling the score at 1 apiece.
After leveling the match near the end of the first half, minutes after the 2nd half began, Red Bulls got a second. McCarty sent Bradley-Wright Phillips over the top of the Union defense and BWP was able to rip a one-timer past Blake to give Red Bulls the lead 2-1 lead.
Eight minutes later the back-and-forth continued and the Unioin pulled an equalizer themselves. Fabinho made a great run and crossed it into the box. Fabinho's cross found the head of Pontius who directed the ball on frame and past Robles for the goal. There was nothing complex about this goal, just a simple play executed well and the Union were ecstatic to be level.
Seven minutes after the equalizing goal, Red Bulls almost took the lead back again. Chris Duvall played a cross into Bradley Wright-Phillips, open due to the fact that Keegan Rosenberry had lost him. BWP's shot made it to Blake who did well to push it aside into the post leading the ball to trickle across the face of goal before being cleared away from danger by the Union defense. Unfortunately for the Union though six minutes after that they would not be so lucky with their defensive lapses. Kljestan's free kick found a wide open McCarty who headed the ball past Blake and into the net. Based off replay, it appeared as if C.J. Sapong was the one responsible for losing his man and leaving McCarty open for what ultimately became the game-winning goal.
In the 82nd minute, the Union had one more spectacular chance to even the game one more time. A Union free kick found the head of Tranquillo Barnetta who instantly directed the ball towards Pontius. Pontius then attempted a bicycle kick and got it off on target but Robles made a phenomenal save and directed the ball out for a corner. It was an incredible opportunity for the Union, and an even better save for Robles who may have entered himself into a Save Of The Year candidate. There wasn't anything you could point to that the Union did wrong there, other than facing Robles at a time he wanted to make a highlight reel save. And that would be it for the Union; they were valiant at Red Bull Arena but valiant would not be enough to take victory on this night.
Up next for the Union they will continue to try and clinch a playoff berth in 15 days when they finally return home to play Orlando City in what will without question be a vital match for the Union before their season finale a week later against these very same New York Red Bulls.