Match Recap: Fan Protests serve as main event in Union’s 0-0 draw against New York Red Bulls

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Trying to find positives from a 0-0 draw at home against a conference rival is harsh reminder of where this Union team and the expectations around this club currently are in comparison to where they recently were. Some fans voiced their frustration with that reality on Saturday night and pointed it towards Ownership and their lackadaisical approach in the years following Union’s last second MLS Cup collapse. And while I do actually think there’s a few bright spots from a clean sheet draw while shorthanded to build on, the fact that Union are in this position in the first place is the exact reason fans voiced their displeasure with the front office inside Subaru Park.

Starting XI

Still short handed and struggling for points, Jim Curtin decided to switch it up on Saturday night against the Red Bulls. The return of Damion Lowe from COPA America allowed Curtin to deploy a 5-3-2 formation in hopes of adding stability to his backline.

“I think you guys know I don’t love playing in a back-3, but when you concede as many goals as we have in recent weeks, we decided to do it with the bodies that are here, the quality of he players that are here, the experience they have. It’s a position where we have 3 guys have been through these types of battles against strong Red Bulls teams”

Jim Curtin

Curtin elected to go with Andrew Rick between the posts after another shaky Semmle performance, and was able to slot Tai Baribo back into the starting lineup after missing out against Chicago mid-week. Ale Bedoya returned to availability with a performance off the bench

GK: Andrew Rick
RB: Nathan Harriel, CB: Jack Elliott, CB: Damion Lowe, CB: Jakob Glesnes, LB: Kai Wagner
CM: Leon Flach, CM: Jack McGlynn
CAM: Daniel Gazdag
ST: Tai Baribo, ST: Chris Donovan

1st Half Highlights

Both teams traded quality chances and big stops from their goal keepers in the opening half. Red Bulls got the first opportunity of the game just 3 minutes in when Dante Vanzeir sped his way down the right side and cut the ball back into the middle of the penalty area for an on-running Lewis Morgan, who put the one-touch attempt outside of an open goal’s left post.

In the 7th minute of the game, Union conjured up their first look on net when a ball was played into the feet of Daniel Gazdag inside he penalty area. Gazdag held up the ball with the defender on his back and laid it off to Jack McGlynn waiting near the top of the 18. McGlynn ripped into the shot with a left-footed strike that was labeled for the top-shelf, only to be tipped over the bar by a diving Carlos Coronel.

Red Bulls got another promising opportunity in the 13th minute when Lewis Morgan lobbed a ball from the left side of the pitch into the middle of the penalty area for Dante Vanzeir. Andrew Rick, who was a step late to getting out and collecting the cross, did apply just enough pressure to rush Vanzeir into sailing his opportunity over the net and into the sands.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Dante Vanzeir got another quality opportunity to open the scoring for Red Bulls in the 21st minute when a ball over the top of the defense sent the Belgian striker behind Union’s backline. Vanzeir settled the ball down and stabbed at it with his second touch just inside the box, but Andre Rick stayed alert and charged out of his box and made the save on the breakaway to keep the game scoreless.

Union ended the first half with 2 promising chances that were both sent over the bar. The first of which came from Daniel Gazdag, who received a headed pass just outside the 6-yard box, but his volley went into the River End. Chris Donovan got a very similar opportunity, but his headed chance on net also went over the bar, and the two teams would go into the half scoreless.

2nd Half Highlights

Red Bulls almost spoiled a decent first 45 minutes of soccer for the Union just 7 minutes into the 2nd frame when Vanzeir sent a ball down the right flank to spring Red Bulls on the attack. The ball was sent back into the middle of the penalty area at the near post for Cameron Harper who one-touched the pass on net, but Andrew Rick was positioned well and stayed big at his post to keep the game at 0.

Just minutes after Rick’s big save to keep the game level, Union strung together their best scoring chance of the net when a Jack McGlynn through-ball perfectly split two Red Bulls defenders and sent Gazdag in on net. Gazdag’s left footed attempt on net was saved by Coronel, but the rebound was left unattended in he penalty area. Union’s Tai Baribo pounced on the loose ball, struck it with his left foot but Coronel was able to recover and make another huge save, keeping the game 0-0 78 minutes in.

Coronel’s double save wasn’t the last piece of solid goalkeeping needed to end this one in a draw. With time winding down in the 87th minute, 18 year old Andre Rick was called upon once again to keep Union from suffering their 6th loss in a row. Red Bulls got the ball inside the penalty area and to the end-line, eventually finding it’s way to Dennis Gjengaar just outside the 6-yard box.

Gjengaar dug the ball out of his feet, put his shot on net before being closed down by the defender, but was stoned by a once again well-positioned Andrew Rick. Andrew Rick’s save in the 87th minute would be the last big piece of action before the final whistle, ending this one in a 0-0 draw at home for the Union.

Image Credit: Philadelphia Union

Fans Voice Frustration

Though a 0-0 draw stops the bleeding for the moment, Union are still in one of the worst runs of form they’ve ever been in. Just 1 win in their previous 16 games, and zero wins at home since March 30th. I’m not sure anyone could have predicted this season going quite as bad as it is, but signs of regression were showing last year, and many fans felt that running it back with a Money-Ball squad for the 2nd season in a row after just barely missing out on lifting MLS Cup was a risky decision. And some fans finally had enough, and let their thoughts on Union’s Front Office be known.

The Sons Of Ben, the teams official supporters group, threw together a “5 minutes of silence” protest to kick off the game against Red Bulls, which some fans thought was a weak strategy of trying to send a message to the Front Office.

Two fans held up a “Sell The Team” flag in the River End, which made its way around social media, and was eventually taken by staff at Subaru Park.

Members of the Keystone State Ultras (KSU), an independent supporters group which sits alongside the Sons Of Ben in the River End at Subaru Park, also displayed their thoughts with a creative banner of their own. Their banner was also confiscated by Union staff.

And before the Sons of Ben 5 minutes of silence could end, fans around the river end let out in a “Sell The Team” chant that trickled through the rest of the Stadium

Kneejerk Reaction

While a 0-0 draw at home to a conference rival is typically nothing to celebrate, Union have to take any small victory they can at the moment. Their first clean sheet in 6 games with 18 year old Andrew Rick in net should give them a solid boost of confidence, especially after conceding 18 goals in those previous 6 games.

But at the same time, a 0-0 draw at home to a conference rival with such a short bench is exactly why these fans are protesting the owner’s unwillingness to open the check book and make this team better. You couldn’t have predicted the injury to Andre Blake or maybe even the sale of Julian Carranza, but a good team plans for them.

But when it comes to not adding depth to this squad when they knew well in advance that so many players would miss a considerable amount of time this summer with international duty, that’s something they absolutely should have planned for. Who knows what might have happened if Union had a really attacking option coming off the bench late in the game on Saturday night.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union