The Philadelphia Union began the first of three road matches in eight days with a deflating 2-0 loss at New York Red Bull Sunday night following a crucial blunder from keeper Andre Blake and several missed chances offensively.
“What can I say, it’s one of things that just happen. I made a big mistake and it cost us the game tonight,” said two-time MLS All-star goalkeeper Andre Blake following his team’s 2-0 loss.
Blake’s inability to corral a low-hit cross from NYRB’s Josh Sims created the goal-scoring chance for Red Bull in the 32nd minute. Sims sent a poorly hit cross toward the center of the box. Blake dove out to try and snag the weak cross, but failed to get a clean grasp on what he described as a “wet ball.” Instead of grabbing the ball and ending the attacking chance, Blake only parried the ball away toward the penalty spot.
Tom Barlow was in the right place at the right time and buried home the loose ball for the opening – and decisive – game winning goal.
The goal stung Union fans. Not only is it a rarity to see Blake cough up an easy one in that way, but the Union were holding the upper hand and looked to be the better team leading up to the goal.
“There was no reason for [NYRB goal] because I think we controlled the tempo and controlled the game,” said veteran midfielder Haris Medunjanin. “But when you play away, you need to finish chances.”
Prior to Barlow’s goal, Philadelphia created a handful of chances but ultimately failed to convert. The failure to capitalize early allowed NYRB to hang around.
Blake made a pair of outstanding saves in the 13th and 14th minute which created a swing in momentum in Philly’s favor. During the 16th minute, Fafa Picault and Alejandro Bedoya would have the first chances to tally an early goal.
Play-making midfielder Jamiro Monteiro drew a foul at the midfield stripe and quickly set the ball back in play with a long-ball over the top for Picault. Picault managed to be the first on the ball and then tried bending it around the oncoming NYRB keeper, Luis Robles. But Robles made a heroic diving save.
Picault then gathered the rebound, picked his head up, and found Bedoya barreling forward toward the box. Bedoya struck the ball on his first touch, rifling it on frame. However, NYRB defender Aaron Long maneuvered his way toward the goal line and cleared the shot away.
Philadelphia then conceded the goal to Barlow 16 minutes later and the match changed entirely.
“We had our chances, we don’t score,” said Medunjanin. “We make a mistake and we’re trailing. But when you play away, you need to finish chances. If you don’t score goals, you keep the other team in the game.”
Union Head Coach Jim Curtin noted the same problems as Medunjanin during his post-game presser.
“Some nights in soccer, you can play a good game and still lose,” said Curtin. “In the first half we created a lot of good chances. We missed a few opportunities to get the early lead.”
Philadelphia enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession as well. The final stats provided a skewed picture of how the game actually turned out.
The possession numbers heavily favored Philadelphia. NYRB only managed 40% to Philadelphia’s 60%, yet many times throughout the match, the Union failed to truly threaten NYRB which allowed Red Bull to remain passive and defend for large chunks of the match.
“We had a lot of possession but it was never possession with purpose,” said Curtin. “We were going around them and never really through the middle parts of the field which is something we’ve been pretty good at. We had a lot of the ball but Red Bull was comfortable defending us. We didn’t challenge them enough.”
Considering the past two performances from Philadelphia, a W vs ATL and a D vs LAFC, the performance last night left a particularly sour taste in the mouths of many Union fans.
Now with a cross-country trip to San Jose followed by another road match in Columbus a few days after that, Philadelphia needs to find a way to grab points after failing to help themselves last night.
Blake will need to bounce back, and fast. Post-match, he seemed confident in he and his team’s ability to quickly regroup.
“It’s not my first mistake, it won’t be my last,” said Blake. “It’s part of the sport. And in this sport, you have to have short-term memory. It’s not about your mistakes, it’s about how you react. It’s a quick turnaround, we get a chance to step on the field again and make things right.”
They’ll need to do so without starting center back Mark McKenzie and explosive offensive substitute Sergio Santos, both suffering significant hamstring injuries in the loss.
Yet the injuries didn’t seem to sap Curtin of his optimism moving forward.
“We’re still going to fight for first place,” said Curtin. “We have a lot to play for now. A lot of things are changing by the hour, by the minute. We’ll pick ourselves up. We have to regroup quickly now and go to San Jose. But overall, I’m still happy with the team’s performance.”
Happy may be an interesting word choice considering the team’s failure to secure a point in the result. Yet, Curtin is mindful of the team’s recent accomplishment: clinching that coveted first-round home playoff match.
But fans will hope that accomplishment, though respectable and celebrated rightfully, doesn’t pacifier the group and have them sleepwalk into the playoffs.
Philadelphia will have a chance to right the ship Wednesday night against a depleted and desperate San Jose group.
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Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports