An 80-second burst from the Philadelphia Union equalled out a dominant first half from the New York Red Bulls as the two sides fought to a draw on national television. Two early goals from Sacha Kljestan put the away side up early, but the Union's late surge brought them equal. Though an errant arm from Ilsinho left the Union with ten men for the game's final stretch, they pushed on and nearly found a winner on multiple occasions.
A body slam from Mike Grella set the tone early on. After Grelladinho blew by Tranquillo Barnetta in the 19th minute, the Swiss midfielder obstructed his path to halt the play. Though he fulfilled his objective, Grella wasn't too happy with the foul and proceeded to throw Barnetta like a rag doll after the whistle had blown. Referee Alan Kelly didn't take out any cards, but both sides exchanged words and gave us an inkling of what the next 71 minutes would have in store.
The Red Bulls would have opened up the scoring in the 22nd minute were it not for the heroics of Andre Blake and Richie Marquez. After Blake parried a shot from Alex Muyl, the ball rolled free before Richie Marquez slid in to save the day. His goal-saving tackle could have been a penalty if not timed perfectly, but this is Richie Marquez we're talking about. He made it to the ball and knocked it out for a corner before any opposing player could test Blake again.
A Ken Tribbett giveaway allowed the Red Bulls to find their first in the 27th minute. The center defender hesitated as New York players swarmed, and he paid the price. Bradley Wright-Phillips swooped in to take the ball off Tribbett's foot and quickly moved it on to Sacha Kljestan, who beat Blake to the far post.
Just before halftime, New York earned a free kick from about 25 yards out after Ilsinho tracked back to barrel over an opposing player. Following a fancy routine, Kljestan stepped up to score his second of the night, thanks in large part to Tranquillo Barnetta. The ball took a large deflection of his shoulder, leaving Andre Blake fooled as he watched the ball bounce across the goal line.
Chris Pontius earned a penalty in the 66th minute, when he was brought down by Sal Zizzo. If it weren't for the challenge, Pontius likely would have connected with a gorgeous cross from Keegan Rosenberry that fell right into his path.
With Roland Alberg out of the game and Sebastien Le Toux yet to sub in, CJ Sapong hurried to the spot and put the Union on the board. He gave Luis Robles absolutely no chance as he blasted his spot kick dead-center. The goal was Sapong's first since May 14th. After the game, Sapong expressed his delight at finally taking a penalty.
"The PK was open, and I've been trying to take some of the recent PKs, but we've had other guys step up," Sapong explained. "I was just first to the ball, and I think that's a pretty good strategy we have on the field: Whoever feels confident goes up and takes it."
The Union grabbed their second and tying goal just 80 seconds later, when Pontius tapped in a cross from Fabian Herbers. A great near-post run from Sapong occupied Robles and allowed the substitute's rolling ball to reach Pontius. The goal, Pontius's seventh in this MLS season, sent the fans into a frenzy as New York's lead evaporated in an instant. But just as quickly as the game swung the Union's way, things started to look bleak just moments later.
In the 72nd minute, Ilsinho was shown his second yellow card - or possibly a straight red - for raising his arm to Connor Lade. Though Lade did embellish, Ilsinho made contact with his face after the play had already been whistled dead. Referee Alan Kelly could have called it either way, but it's hard to argue that an extracurricular arm to the face is ever justified.
The red card did not disrupt the Union's momentum, though, as they fired off eight shots in the 18 minutes in which they were down a man. Luis Robles, who had an excellent night despite the goals, put in the bulk of his work in that final period.
Despite the heavy activity in the final stages, the Union's best chance for a winner didn't even go down as a shot. Tranquillo Barnetta, who took back set-piece duties early in the second half, played a diagonal ball that just needed some sort of contact to find the back of the net. Brian Carroll's flick attempt didn't land, and his movement threw off Sebastien Le Toux as he ran in behind him.
Just needed a little kiss! pic.twitter.com/3RD2Ur0F3S— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) July 18, 2016
The Union play next on Wednesday, when they ship up to Boston to take on the New England Revolution in U.S. Open Cup action.
- Ken Tribbett started alongside Richie Marquez on Sunday night, leaving a seemingly healthy Josh Yaro on the bench. The pair suffocated under the pressure of New York's high press, and it was Tribbett's horrendous turnover that gave the Red Bulls their first goal. Additionally, neither player fared well in starting the attack from the back, though it certainly wasn't for lack of trying.
- Brian Carroll might have been watching Andrea Pirlo and New York City FC before he went onto the field, as he flexed his range against the Red Bulls.
- The Union were called offside eight (8!) times tonight. Credit that both to New York's high line and the Union's naivety. At one point in the game, four Union players were offside simultaneously. That, uh, shouldn't happen.
- Jesse Marsch said the magic words! When asked what it is that added some extra emotion to tonight's game, he responded thusly (emphasis is mine):
"Yea, it's everything. It's the fact that Philly is a good team this year. It's the fact that they knocked us out of the Open Cup. It's the fact that they're a CLOSE RIVAL. It's the fact that, now in every way, that they treat us like a BIG RIVAL, so the game has a lot of energy to it. So it's every detail of what big games are about."