ESPN’s Sunday MLS match had the distinct disadvantage of following up the Atlanta United - Orlando City defense-optional match in front of over 70,000 fans and going up against the NFL. Those who remained to watch were treated to a great display of goalkeeping from two of Major League Soccer’s best. Andre Blake and (to an extent) Luis Robles put on a clinic and earned their teams a point on a nice sunny Sunday afternoon in Northern New Jersey.
The Union started out in decent possession, with balls played from Alejandro Bedoya finding CJ Sapong down the pitch. Sapong was usually double-teamed and had to hold play up more often than not to allow the wings to get down field to help.
A bad touch by Keegan Rosenberry in the 7th allowed Gonzalo Veron to get a shot that was blocked by Jack Elliott. Luckily for the Union the resulting shot went wide of a diving Andre Blake.
Neither team was really able to establish much, although the Red Bulls would win corner after corner in the first half. In the 21st minute, Andre Blake came far our of his net to stymie a breakaway chance by the Red Bulls.
In the 26th minute, Derrick Etienne had a nice play, flicking the ball over Jack Elliott, pivoting 180 degrees, and hitting a shot on the bounce. Andre Blake did what he always does, making a fantastic save to keep the Union in the game.
Blake would go down with a neck injury in the 30th minute, however it didn’t prove to be too serious and he was back up within a minute or so. This proved fortunate for the Union, as the Red Bulls began to pick apart the Union’s defense - especially down the Union’s right side.
The Union wouldn’t get many chances in the first half, as all too often passes went to no one in particular or were to guys who were suffocated by the Red Bulls high press. The sides went into the locker room scoreless at the half.
Whe nthe teams emerged from the locker room, Warren Crevalle had been subbed on for Ilsinho. Creavalle would being tasked with shoring up the defense that allowed 12 shots in the first half. It also forced the Union to change their shape a bit, with it being something approaching a 4-1-4-1 / 4-3-3 hybrid with Creavalle back at the central defensive midfield position pushing Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin up the field further.
It seemed to work, as the Union were not under constant pressure in their own defensive end. Creavalle also continually disrupted New York’s ability to counter, picking off balls that were meant to spring the Red Bulls’ vaunted counter.
in the 63rd minute, Chris Pontius had beaten his defender down the left but dribbled it too far in and allowed Luis Robles to come out and smother the ball.
In the 68th minute, Keegan Rosenberry made a diving stop on a Bradley Wright-Phillips shot. The rebound went up in the air, and in a great metaphor for the Union’s season Gonzalo Veron tried a bicycle kick but hit Fabinho in the face instead. Moments later, Alex Muyl would spring Sacha Kljestan in the box. Kljestan chipped it wide, but the onrushing Red Bulls attacker was about two steps two late on the wide open net, and the Union escaped unscathed again.
In the 74th minute, a Union turnover lead to a foot race between Gonzalo Veron and Jack Elliott. Elliott was somehow able to keep pace with Veron, steering him wide and forcing his shot into the side netting. A minute later, Chris Pontius would make a nice move and find himself in alone on Luis Robles, but this shot was easily gathered by Robles.
Fabinho then conceded a foul on the left side of the Union’s box. Kljestan’s free kick was shot in at Blake, who punched it down onto the turf. Unfortunately, Bradley Wright-Phillips was there, and his shot went right into Blake’s legs. Chris Pontius was there to fortunately clear the ball and kill the chance.
In the 89th minute, CJ Sapong hit a good shot from the right wing side but it went just over the Red Bulls goal. Both teams had decent chances as the match went on, but it was really the goalkeepers who stole the show. Without Blake’s stellar abilities the Union would not have been in the match at all, and Robles did what he was called upon to do when his team needed him to.
New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles; Connor Lade, Derrick Etienne Jr., Felipe Martins, Muhamed Keita (Sacha Kljestan, 59’), Sal Zizzo, Alex Muyl, Sean Davis, Gonzalo Veron (Tyler Adams, 75’), Damien Perrinelle (Bradley Wright-Phillips, 65’), Michael Murillo
Philadelphia Union: Andre Blake; Fabinho (Ray Gaddis, 87’), Richie Marquez, Jack Elliott, Keegan Rosenberry; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Chris Pontius, Ilsinho (Warren Creavalle, 46’), Marcus Epps (Jay Simpson, 65’); CJ Sapong
Scoring: New York Red Bulls - None; Philadelphia Union - None
Disciplinary: New York Red Bulls - Michael Murillo (Yellow - 34’), Gonzalo Veron (Yellow - 69’); Philadelphia Union - Fabinho (Yellow - 70’)