We all hate Red Bull – and we love beating them too! Union score 4 unanswered to thrash NYRB 4-1 win at Subaru Park

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss on the road to Toronto was a humbling, simple as that.  But 3 points weren’t the only thing Union lost out on up North. Due to a season-ending injury and a couple of suspensions picked up late in the game, the Union would have to be without Leon Flach, Jose Martinez, and Jesus Bueno for their Sunday night I95 matchup against New York Red Bulls.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Starting XI

Because of the absences in the midfield, we knew going into this game that we’d see a different lineup than what we’ve seen in the past couple of games, mainly down to having no true defensive midfielder in the lineup.  While Jack Elliott stepping into the 6-role in the 4-4-2 Diamond is something Union has done before, It was probably a lot to ask him to step into that role on just a few days’ notice. 

So the other option for Jim Curtin and the Union was to go back to the 5-3-2 formation they found so much success in during Leagues Cup.  Andre Blake in net, a back 5 of Wagner, Glesnes, Lowe, Elliott, and Harriel.  McGlynn and Bedoya in the double pivot, and a front 3 of Gazdag, Carranza, and Uhre to front the attack.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

A Slow Start to first half

It was a really strong crowd at Subaru Park, even with this one being held on a Sunday night.  The Stadium was packed, fans showed up early, and the River End was alive and loud right off the jump.  Union didn’t start off too terribly either finding a few opportunities early on to stretch Red Bulls’ back line, but weren’t able to conjure up a real threatening opportunity in the first 10  minutes or so – Red Bulls never got a real strong look in that time frame either. 

But against the run of play a bit, in the 11th minute, Red Bulls probed into Union’s penalty area and Omir Fernandez found the ball at his feet just outside the 6-yard box.  Fernadez put an attempt towards the net which was blocked by Damion Lowe, but the rebound went directly back to Fernandez, who slotted the rebound inside the post to give Union a 1-0 lead early on.  Exactly what Union didn’t want from this game, a slow start and an early deficit. 

It would have been really easy for the frustration to set in especially while missing a few key players.  But Union fans got behind their team right away and did their best to pick them up from the early letdown.  Union didn’t sulk or let the early goal keep them from pushing forward, and in the 14th minute they found their first good look on net when Jack Elliott lifted a ball into the penalty area from the left side which was volleyed off the bounce from Ale Bedoya, but Bedoya’s attempt was right at Red Bulls keeper, Carlos Coronel. 

A few moments later, Union created some more nervy moments in the Red Bulls’ penalty area, when a ball played into the box was back-heeled on net by Mikael Uhre, but Coronel made another impressive save to keep the Red Bulls on top 1-0.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Union draw level before halftime, Red Bulls down to 10 men

As the matches between these two usually are, Sunday night’s meeting was a physical one, neither team was willing to give up an inch of space easily.  It resulted in multiple yellow cards for the Red Bulls‘ backline before the 25th-minute mark, which left their defenders skating on thin ice for the remainder of the match and meant they had to be careful not to get caught committing another foul far from their own goal with Philly doing their best to stretch the backline. 

They were doing a good job of handling everything thrown at them early on, but in the 29th minute, it was Union’s defenders making a difference, when Kai Wagner swung a corner in the box from Carlos Coronel’s left-hand side that fell to the feet of Jakob Glesnes, who fired the ball into the net to draw the game level at one.  It was just Glesnes’ second goal of the season, but you could tell what it meant to both him and the Union squad, with Andre Blake running all the way down the pitch to celebrate. 

That goal struck new life into Union and Subaru Park, back on level terms and over an hour left in the game to find the winner.  But before halftime struck, Union fans were given something else to cheer about when Mikael Uhre tried to flick a ball behind the Red Bulls backline and the ball was struck down by Sean Nealis. Nealis, already shown yellow earlier in the game, would be shown his second yellow and a red card, ending his night early just before the half, and giving Union a full 45 minutes to find the winner against 10 men. 

The Union almost took care of that right away before halftime when Uhre back-heeled a ball behind the defense to spring Carranza in alone against Coronel.  Carranza fired the ball into the back of the net to give Union a 2-1 lead just before the half, but the play went to VAR and was called back for offsides, and the two teams would go into the break level at 1.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Convincing performance in second half

Going into the second half, the goal was clear – leave with nothing less than 3 points.  Philly was in a very similar position last season, having the Red Bulls down to 10 men for a large portion of the game, but were never able to find the winner. 

The outcome needed to be different Sunday night, especially after dropping points against Toronto midweek and with so many other Eastern Conference teams dropping points on Saturday night. Going into the International break with 3 points in your pocket, a game in hand, and a match against Shield-leading Cincinnati on the other side could play a huge factor in where Union ends up in the table come Decision Day. 

But all of that was almost spoiled just minutes into the second half when a 10-men Red Bulls broke free behind the Union backline, sending Omir Fernandez in against Andre Blake, but Andre Blake stood tall to make the save and keep the game level at 1-1.  Andre Blake is usually good for one huge save a night that can save or change the momentum of the game, and that was the one on Sunday.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Extending the lead

The biggest difference in tonight’s game was Union’s execution from set pieces and re-starts.   The first goal came from a set piece, and in the 58th minute of the second half Union was able to strike again and extend their lead through another set play.  Kai Wagner sent a free kick into the box, which was directed into the back of the net from the diving header of Damion Lowe

That goal felt really big for Damion Lowe, who’s struggled as of late and had a rough start to tonight’s game with the nature in which the first goal was conceded.  But for Damion to battle through both getting dropped from the starting XI, dealing with a death in the family, and essentially assisting the first goal for the Red Bulls, he deserved to be rewarded with a goal tonight.  The guy is 100% Union and he spoke about that to me after the game 

“To be honest, I’ve had history from when I was a kid coming to PPL Park, seeing the Sons of Ben was just insane.  So now being able to grace the pitch myself and playing in front of these fans and the community, it’s awesome.  I enjoy that I feel comfort and I feel at home.”

Damion Lowe

Getting the second goal against a 10-man Red Bull when Union couldn’t in the same situation last year gave the team and fans alike an opportunity to exhale and recognize that Union was in the driver’s seat to 3 points, but before they got the chance, Union struck again.  Just a minute after Damion Lowe’s goal, a ball played towards the box by Ale Bedoya evaded all and was chased down by Kai Wagner before going out for a goal-kick.  Wagner one-touched the ball back into the middle of the box, which was volleyed with conviction into the back of the net by Juliana Carranza, giving Union a 3-1 lead and surely locking in all 3 points for Union.

That would be Carranza’s team-leading 12th goal of the MLS season, just 2 goals behind leading the Golden Boot. 

The game was done and dusted by this point, but in the 76th minute, Daniel Gazdag went and made it 4-1 Union.  Once again, a beautiful ball by Kai Wagner from inside Philly’s own half sent Gazdag in alone behind the defense, and made no mistake with it, firing it inside the post to Coronel’s left-hand side. 

It was Daniel Gazdag’s 11th of the season, just 3 behind the Golden Boot leader.  It would also notch the 3rd assist for Kai Wagner on the night, and his 5th of the MLS season overall.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

A strong win before the International Break

A 4-1 win against Red Bulls is out of the ordinary for Union, even at home.  The last time Union beat Red Bulls by more than 1 goal in Chester, was May 6th, 2017, when Union beat Red Bulls at Subaru Park by a score of 3-0.  C.J. Sapong scored a hat-trick for Union that day.  It was also just the second time the Union have put 4 goals past their rivals from North Jersey, with the first coming in 2019.  

4 goals, 4 different goal scorers, and it was done without 2 of Union’s most demanding forces in the midfield: Martinez and Bueno.  And let’s not forget, Philadelphia had to dig themselves out of an early hole in this game to get the win and they should feel good about that resiliency. 

That marks 12 straight games that the Union has played against the Red Bulls without losing. But most importantly, it’s three points heading into an international break where players can get some much-needed rest before another run of congested fixtures down the stretch.  And on the other side of this international break is a meeting at home against Supporters Shield-leading FC Cincinnati. 

Cincinnati currently holds an 11-point lead over Philadelphia for the supporters shield, but Union holds a game in hand and a meeting with FCC upcoming. If Philly wants to put pressure on Cincinnati down the stretch, it’s going to start with winning the head-to-head at Subaru Park on September 16th and winning your game in hand. Do both of those things, and you’re only 5 points back from the Shield with 4 games left to play.  Call me crazy, but the Shield race isn’t over yet.  See you on the 16th. 

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union