The Red Bulls suffered a disappointing loss on Sunday night, as they fell to the Philadelphia Union 2-0 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. It was Armed Forces Day, and before the game military members and their families unfurled an American flag that went the entire length of the field.
The Red Bulls came out flat, not registering any real chances in the early going. The team also was hampered by a hamstring injury suffered by Kemar Lawrence, which happened in the 5th minute, and he hanged in there until he was subbed out for Connor Lade in the 30th minute.
The Red Bulls’ best chances in the first half came was Sacha Kljestan had a great shot from the top of the crease, but it hit the post. In the 44th, Mike Grella had a post shot of his own after he won a challenge on the baseline.
An interesting moment occurred in the 40th minute when Philadelphia’s Cristian Maidana was taking a free kick. The referee sprayed an aerosol line on the field, and Maidana wiped it out and moved the ball a couple feet over to take the kick. The referee was very displeased, and one has to wonder if messing with that line could one day result in a yellow card.
In the second half, Philadephia broke through In the 57th minute, Vincent Nogueira came down the center of the field, then did a backwards pass to Cristian Maidana, who passed it to Andrew Wenger coming up the left side. Wenger passed it back to Maidana, who fired a shot and it went off Nogueira’s leg for the first goal of the game.
It didn’t take long for them to erupt again. In the 62nd minute, Fabinho came down the left side, got passed Red Bull defender Karl Ouimette, and passed C.J. Sapong, who came down the center of the field, and Sapong had no trouble getting it by Red Bull goalie Luis Robles.
The Red Bulls got a chance in the 75th minute when Kljestan shot one that was tipped by Bradley Wright-Phillips and Philly goaltender Brian Sylvestre made a great save. Sylvestre said of the save against Bradley Wright-Phillips: “One of the players struck the ball first, I went down and stopped it and then Wright-Phillips toe-poked it and I stuck my foot out to make the safe and my foot got there, thank god for that.”
This was just the Red Bulls’ second loss of the season, and they fall to 4-2-5, 17 points on the season and in third place in the Eastern Conference. The Union improved to 3-7-3 and are in seventh place, just out of a playoff spot.
New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said of what happened in the first half and how Philadelphia defeated the Red Bulls, “We were pushing the game in the first half and a little bit unlucky not to get a goal. We knew that Philly was going to sit back and try and counter, we knew that there was probably more space on the wings than anywhere, but we didn’t want to give up trying to find little plays through the middle. We also knew that they were solely trying to sit back and clog things up, win the ball and then counter, and in the end, we weren’t good enough at what we do and we weren’t able enough to be sharp around the goal and everything else. Obviously if we get the lead I think it’s a very different game, and then they were able to survive certain moments and then make a play and then two on their end and that fed into what they were trying to do so you have to give credit to Philadelphia on the day and know when you have two different kinds of styles going against each other, their style worked today and they were able to be sharper in certain moments than we were so you’ve got to give credit to them.”
On if the Red Bulls need to change their style in order to create more goals, Marsch said, “No I don’t think so. I still feel strongly that we’re commanding the games in ways that we want to command them and if we’re just a little bit sharper with certain movements and ideas and then certain plays around the goal that they will come so I’m not overly concerned about having two games in a row where we haven’t scored. If that game winds up 0-0 and we’re not able to make a play on the day but we keep control of it and not give anything away then you’d be disappointed, but you’d say, alright on the day it didn’t go your way, but then when we give up two goals the way we give up, we look not as clean and clear and professional as we need to. So that’s how I think that played out.”
On the beginning of the first half and if Philadelphia came out with more energy and if the team needs to add any attacking players, “Right now I’m focused on what’s here. You know I think we were a little bit unlucky. In Dallas it was a very cautious game on both sides and so there wasn’t a goal. Tonight, I think we just couldn’t quite get the break or the play or weren’t quite sharp enough so on a different day maybe it’s two [or] three [to] zero at half, but Philly hangs on, they get a couple breaks, and then they came out in the second half and continued to do what they wanted to do and we figured that and we knew we needed to have a good start, but then C.J. Sapong comes on and adds a bit more athleticism to them and a bit more fight and causes trouble so that was a good sub and in the end, it was two different styles and on the day they were sharper and maybe made a few more plays than we were and so on the day their approach pays off.”
Marsch said of what he looks to learn from this loss, “We want to press, we want to play fast, we want to counter-press, we want to play in their end, we want to be aggressive. Then there’s also going to be days where we have the ball a lot liketonight and in those moments and in those moments as we’re now pushing a team back and now making them defend deep, we’ve got to have good ideas about what kind of connections and plays and movements we need so that we can be aggressive to still find chances. If we get a goal or two in the first half then you’d wind up saying, not bad, but we don’t. And then on the flip side you can’t give away bad balls because if teams are sitting back and now we’re spreading ourselves out to try and find chances and we lose bad balls then we’re now going to put ourselves on our heels a little bit and potentially give up a counter-attack goal so that happened. We need to learn from it. We’re going to experience different kinds of games at different moments. We haven’t quite been sharp enough and good enough when teams sit back to now create enough chances and now be effective enough around the goal so we got to continue to get better at that.”
Marsch said of the Red Bulls’ attack overall in the new system, “I think if we’re able to make a couple plays tonight then we’d be pretty happy. Maybe get a lead at half, but because we weren’t we have to continue to – regardless, in this process we need to continue to figure out when we play in games like this how do we be more effective and how to be a bit more dangerous and how to create a few more clear chances. Some of that’s going to come with crosses, some of that’s going to play with quick combination play along the line, some of it’s going to come from set-pieces, so we need to continue to iron out some of those details and get better. Overall, it was pretty clear that we had command of that game, it’s just a night where now they made us pay for a couple mistakes and we couldn’t make them pay.”
New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles On what led to the breakdowns on the goals, “I just watched the goals and the first one was questionable, hand-ball, but the ref wasn’t in a good position so if it wasn’t a hand-ball then so be it, but even before the goal happened we had a couple chances to make the tackle, to clear the ball, and we didn’t and we fluffed it a couple times and ended up getting a decent cross, but more than anything, when the cross happens, we lose track of our runners and [Vincent] Nogueira was able to deflect it in, and then the second one is we have to help each other. We made Fabinho look like Usain Bolt out there, just running down, streaking down the sideline and in that situation we’ve got to communicate: pass guys off, pass runners off, and we’re making our lives more difficult by not communicating properly and letting each other know when guys are coming through.”
Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan said of how he felt the team performed today, “I feel like it was a bit of a tale of two halves. I think in the first half we were all over, probably played over 90 percent of the half in their end. We created some decent chances, hit the post a couple of times, and we come out in the second half a bit lack luster. We gave up too much space to easily and [gave] away the ball too easily. And in the end it cost us 3 points.”
On how much better the attack can get, Kljestan said, “Yeah a lot better. We were not sharp enough in the final third tonight. We need to get that going. I think we have good players we had some good movement. We just need to get a little bit sharper.
Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin said of getting the first road victory at RBA, “It’s a big accomplishment. It’s been six times we’ve come here and haven’t won. It’s a tough place to play against a very good, well-coached team, a top team in the East, a team that high presses all over the field. I thought we did a good job of getting through that first fifteen minutes and then I thought we got it together in the second half and were able to get the goals.”
On Fabinho’s play, Curtin said, “That’s Fabinho’s best game in a Union uniform. I thought he was excellent on the night, not only getting forward and getting the goal for us, but also getting on the back post, he had a couple clearances there, that we’re very big. He had a couple with his right foot and he’s not really a big right-footed guy. He won his battles in the air and really competed. It’s a group that’s been through a lot of adversity with guys that have been in and out of the lineup with injuries, call-ups and off the field stuff, and we’ve stuck together and now find ourselves in a good spot, but it’s only two wins. We have to put together a run of five or six games and that’s the sign of a good team.”