Sacha Kljestan scored two goals, but it was not enough to get the Red Bulls a win in the Philadelphia Union, as they played to a 2-2 draw on Sunday night in Chester, PA.
The Red Bulls have earned points in three straight and in eight of the last 10 matches. Their record is now 8-4-9, 28 points, and remain in third place in the East, two points behind the Union. New
Kljestan, who was named to the MLS 2016 AT&T All-Star Game roster on Sunday evening, struck first in the 27th minute. Pressure from Mike Grella caused a turnover in the final third, and the ball was collected and played into the path of Kljestan by Bradley Wright-Phillips for an easy finish.
Kljestan got his second of the night on a free kick in the 44th minute. The midfielder opted to take the shot from more than 25 yards out that dipped over the wall and froze Union goalkeeper Andre Blake. Kljestan now has four goals in MLS this season and five across all competitions. It was the second multi-goal game of his MLS career, and his first in a Red Bulls jersey.
“We did a very good job picking up the ball in there half on the very first goal,” Kljestan said. “Bradley played me a perfect pass, I just had to take a touch and put it in the corner. The second one obviously is fortunate because it takes a deflection and Andre Blake is wrong footed. So it was a good time to score just before the half. I wish we had come out a little bit better.
Philadelphia answered with two goals in a minute in the second half. C.J. Sapong scored on a penalty in the 67th minute and Chris Pontius finished a cross in front of goal for the second.
“We have to do better in the second half. We played like boys not men,” Kljestan said. “We made mistakes, we make the same mistakes we made in the past. Pontius scores a goal again the exact same way he scored against us last time. We aren’t learning from our mistakes. It’s going to be a long season if we don’t learn from our mistakes. How can they just play balls up the field and be on the run basically at our goal from the sides. It’s mistakes, we’re not men, we don’t manage the game well. We were up a man and we had to go 5 in the back because we aren’t getting the job done defensively, it’s ridiculous. It’s a big disappointing result.”
The game got rough in the second half, and a red card was shown to Philadelphia’s Ilsinho in the 72nd minute.
Red Bulls center back Damien Perrinelle made his first MLS start of 2016 in the match. Perrinelle, who suffered a knee injury in the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs, made his season debut last weekend as a substitute in the 2-0 win over Orlando.
Luis Robles continued his iron man run, playing a full 90 minutes for the 127th consecutive regular season match. Robles made six saves to preserve a point for New York.
“Well I actually think the start of the first half was good and we actually have chances,’ Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said of the game. “We have a chance to make it three, and I think then the game is done. All four goals that have been scored on us here are the same thing. Same problematic thing, so, until we figure out how to deal with some of these moments, it’s going to feel like a long year.
“On the road, we just find ways to shoot ourselves in the foot. We’ve gotten leads, we’ve played well for major stretches, we’ve been the better team for major stretches, and we have walked away with very few result. So until we start to figure out how to handle games and moments better then it’s going to feel like we are starting at square one every time we start on the road. It’s going to be hard to build a momentum in the season. And all that being said, it’s hard being up 2-0 and then walk away with just a point. But a point is still a good result, this is a good team at home, but it doesn’t feel like that, it feels like a loss.”
This was one of the most intense games the Red Bulls have played this season, as their rivalry with Philadelphia has become one of their fiercest, along with NYC FC and their long-time battles with DC United.
“It’s everything, it’s a fact that Philly is a good team this year, it’s the fact that they have knocked us out of the Open Cup this year, it’s a fact that they are a close rival, it’s the fact that now in every way they treat us like a big rival, so the game has a lot of energy to it,” Marsch said. “So it’s every detail about what the games are about. In the first half, because we have been in a lot of big games, we handle ourselves very well, and I’ll say the first 60 minutes we handle ourselves really well and then we get to the 60th minute in a big game up 2-0 and we give it away, it’s frustrating.”
The Red Bulls return home next weekend for a third and final Hudson River Derby on Sunday, July 24. Kickoff against New York City FC is set for 1 p.m. at Red Bull Arena.
“Do all the little things in training and get ourselves back,” Kljestan said of their preparation for NYC FC. “”We know that it’s a rivalry game so it’s going to be a big one, so we know we lost to NYC FC last time and they are ahead of us in the standings. I don’t think we need any extra motivation; we just need to rebound, be up and be ready for that game.”
“I mean NYC is playing well,” Robles said. “They got another result today, congrats to them. We know it’s going to be a tough match on the weekend. But before that happens, there is certain things that we need to evaluate, access and get better at. Hopefully this week we can use it, take advantage of the full training week. It feels like forever since we have had a full training week. It feels like the Copa America break was forever ago, but nonetheless that’s just the way the schedule is set up. We have to deal with it because it’s not necessarily going to get any easier. With that being said, let’s take a step back and say that we played against a very tough team, who is playing very well. We got a point, and let’s dwell on that.