Instant Analysis: Philadelphia Union earn a crucial road point at New York Red Bulls

Philadelphia Union earn a crucial road point at New York Red Bulls Saturday night during a hot and humid matchup at Red
Bull Arena in North Jersey.

Mark McKenzie denies Bradley Wright-Phillips the chance to score

New York fans were ready to roll from the opening kick-off. They, just like Philly fans, know the importance behind the rivalry. A booming chorus of thousands announced their presence during the National Anthem. “RED!” boomed in unison as the singer sang about rockets bursting in air. It seemed fitting considering an assortment of US Armed Forces held an American flag that stretched nearly the entire length of the pitch.

It was then time for soccer.

The first 10 minutes displayed an open style of play from both teams as the ball was sent up and down the pitch with no real sense of organization. The frantic opening actually benefited Philadelphia who managed nearly 65% possession through the first 10 minutes.

Philadelphia’s gameplan was apparent early on, attack the right flank. Often.

The five-minute mark revealed a glimpse of Curtin’s early offensive strategy. They didn’t do much differently. However, there was more intent to play diagonal balls to a streaking Marcus Epps. There were moments of success. Ultimately, the attacking play never threatened enough as Philadelphia rarely found themselves inside Red Bulls’ goal box.

New York’s offense remained potent at times though. Andre Blake was called upon in the 13th minute when Alejandro Gamarra attempted to bend a left-footed shot into the top right corner of Blake’s net. Blake dove and snatched it out of the air, much to the awe of New York’s faithful.

Around the 30-minute mark, New York slowly began to figure out their best attacking strategies. They used great creativity to breakthrough Philadelphia’s first line of pressure. Multiple times throughout the first half, New York entered Philadelphia’s final third with quick one-touch passing. The idea was to keep Union defenders on their heels without granting any opportunity to read the next pass or movement.

During New York’s spells of possession, the crowd sensed opportunity. It seemed Philadelphia was only one slight mistake away from allowing a first half goal.

Red Bulls nearly got one in the 33rd minute when the highly skilled striker, Bradley Wright-Phillips, slotted home a goal past an outstretched Blake. Daniel Royer sent a through ball into the middle but Wright-Phillips was a full two steps in front of Philadelphia’s Mark McKenzie. McKenzie was tested several times yet remained strong.

The second half started with some fireworks. Just seven minutes after play resumed, Philadelphia found themselves looking at a golden opportunity to snag the match’s first goal. Fafa Picault received a ball along the left flank. Picault utilized his speed to get into New York’s final third. He sprayed a perfect cross across the box that floated a few inches over CJ Sapong’s head and onto the waiting left foot of Marcus Epps. Epps attempted a one-time volley which ricocheted off the flailing left arm of Kemar Lawrence as he attempted to block the shot.

Head referee, Ted Unkel, had no choice but to blow for a penalty kick. Sapong collected the ball, walked slowly to the spot, placed it down, and proceeded to miss the net entirely. His shot rolled slowly past the right post as New York’s keeper, Ryan Meara dove the other way.

Both teams traded chances for the next 20 minutes or so. New York saw the majority of the ball despite a couple of five-minute spells from Philadelphia.

A barrage of substitutes entered the match for both sides, seemingly in hopes of sparking some magic.

Ilsinho entered for Epps in the 64th minute. David Accam entered the books just six minutes later when he replaced Picault. Then Curtin decided to go for it all by implanting a straight swap at striker. Jamaican forward Cory Burke entered for Sapong in the 82nd minute.

Ilsinho and Accam made immediate impacts. Philadelphia’s top three – Accam, Sapong, and Ilsinho remained high up the pitch in hopes of capitalizing on a quick transition opportunity. Ilsinho’s pace and creativity allowed his teammates both time and space to operate. Burke provided relentless pressure and pursuit of the ball, but to no avail.

Both veteran midfielders, Haris Medunjanin and Borek Dockal never tired. During their final attempts to snag a goal and a rare three points on the road, both never quit. A few counter-attack opportunities for New York were spoiled because of their recovery sprints.

New York threatened until the sound of the final whistle. Multiple corner kicks in extra time delighted New York fans. Ultimately, those corners were simply a tease.

The match ended 0-0 and Philadelphia escaped with a well-deserved point against arguably one of MLS’s best teams currently. With the draw, Philadelphia snapped New York’s four-match win streak. Curtin ended the month of May on a high note for sure.

Box Score

Philadelphia Union Starting XI

Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry, Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin, Borek Dockal, Fafa Picault (David Accam 70’), Marcus Epps (Ilsinho 64’), CJ Sapong (Cory Burke 82’)

Substitutes: John McCarthy, Fabinho, Jack Elliot, Warren Creavalle

New York Red Bulls Starting XI

Tyler Adams, Sean Davis, Kaku, Kemar Lawrence, Aaron Long, Ryan Meara, Michael Amir Murillo, Tim Parker, Daniel Royer (Alex Muyl 73’), Alejandro Romero Gamarra (Vincent Bezecourt 90’), Florian Valot (Carlos Rivas 83’), Bradley Wright-Phillips

Substitutes: Evan Louro, Aurelien Collin, Vincent Bezecourt, Marc Rzatkowski, Connor Lade, Carlos Rivas

Yellow / Red Cards

PHI                   27’  Mark McKenzie (Unsporting Behavior)

NYRB               64’  Bradley Wright-Phillips (Unsporting Behavior)

PHI                   69’ Fafa Picault (Unsporting Behavior)

PHI                   79’ Haris Medunjanin (Unsporting Behavior)

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Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports