On a blustery Sunday afternoon at Talen Energy Stadium, the Philadelphia Union fell, 1-0, to I-95 rival New York Red Bulls.
In the match featuring the two rivals, both teams had an extra gear with each tackle or 50/50 ball featuring an extra shove or jawing.
“It brings out the best in our players.” Union head coach Jim Curtin said about the rivalry with the Red Bulls. “I know that our players get up for games against the Red Bulls, especially at home.”
Right on the mark of halftime, the two teams, who had been trading rough foul after rough foul, erupted into a near-brawl when Red Bulls midfielder Kaku gestured to hit Alejandro Bedoya’s head with his knee. The teams had to be separated after the halftime whistle, while head referee Ted Unkel went to video review to determine whether there had been any malicious intent. Unkel would rule after a couple minutes during halftime that there was no malice behind the action from Kaku.
It would not be the first time in the match that a video review call would go against the Union. In the 69th minute, Unkel went once again to video review and this time awarded the Red Bulls a penalty kick after he judged Bedoya to have handled the ball in the box. Kaku stepped to the spot and coolly slotted home the penalty to Andre Blake’s right to give the Red Bulls the lead.
“They are doing their best in terms of the VAR stuff, but it’s chaos,” Curtin said about the video review decisions and the lack of information dispersed throughout the stadium during the reviews.
Curtin threw the kitchen sink at Red Bulls with substitutes Ilsinho and Jay Simpson, but the Union were stymied by the strong Red Bulls defense. On the day, the Union only mustered two shots on goal despite having 66 percent of the possession. The whistle blew after four minutes of stoppage time in the second half as the boos from the stadium rained down on the Union, while the Red Bulls’ strong traveling supporter section celebrated the full three points.
“Somedays soccer goes this way,” Curtin said in his post-game press conference. “You can have a lot of the ball. You can feel like you’re in control. And then a game-changing play with a bad bounce and soft penalty kick call can change a game.”
Despite the loss, the Union still control their own destiny next Sunday in the final match of the MLS regular season at New York City FC. With a win next Sunday versus NYCFC, Philadelphia will clinch the third seed in the Eastern Conference. However, with a loss, the Union can tumble all the way down to sixth, if other results go against them.