(Harrison, NJ)- The Red Bulls returned home after a tough fought road draw with Dallas to face a Union team that hide held on for a late win against the heavily favored East leaders, D.C. United. While there were some notable absences from the lineup, mainly Matt Miazga and Damien Perinnelle, most of the first choice roster was available. The Red Bulls have found wins hard to come by in the last month, but a game against the struggling Union could prove to be just the thing the Red Bulls were looking for. Philadelphia had never earned a result in Red Bull Arena, but all that changed. These teams met in the preseason, and Philly walked away with a big win, in spite of both teams changing their relative positions over the first third of the MLS season. The Union would also be missing some players, and would still need to rely on the young keeper Brian Sylvestre, after goalkeeper Raïs M’Bolhi’s early season failures. With Metro Killer Connor Casey starting up top, and the Red Bulls filling starting spots with inexperience, the Red Bull fans were surely expecting the worse, and they got it.
Red Bulls Fall At Home To Union
While the Red Bulls came out with a lot of energy, they were surely sloppier than most have seen them this year. Playing the ball out of the back proved a challenge for the rag tag group of defenders, and the loss of Kemar Lawrence early in the first half surely didn’t help. The young Jamaican has been stellar this season and his absence would surely be felt if he is out for any length of time. Connor Lade filled in well in the first half, defending well, and even joining in the attack on a one occasion. His cross into the box went begging as no Red Bull player would find the net in the first half. The Union found a couple of good chances including a breakaway saved by Luis Robles, but showed little discipline on either side of the ball. Philly indeed must have felt fortunate not to give up a penalty on several occasions. Lloyd Sam received an elbow to the face to stop his progress.
The first half saw something from Mike Grella that few Red Bull fans have seen before, slick moves. On two occasions, Grella made the Union defense look silly, and on both occasions they almost found the goal. Credit is due to Brian Sylvestre who stood up to the challenge of being in the Philadelphia net. The bad mojo seems to have finally worn off of the Union. Along with Grella’s near chances, Felipe added one spectacular chance of his own, striking the post towards the end of the first half. All in all, the Red Bulls found themselves lacking patience in the attack. They counter very effectively and can move the ball around the field quickly, but when they hold possession, they continue playing at the same speed with the same ideas. “We have this high pressing motto, but also have to understand when teams sit back we have to have more patience. We can’t go a million miles an hour and then losing the ball and having all this space in our backs. We need to be a bit more smart about the way we go about things that way we have a lot of experienced players and we need to let that come through in these important games.”, said Sacha Kljestan after the game
“We were pushing the game in the first half and a little bit unlucky not to get a goal.” Said Red Bulls Head Coach Jesse Marsch. Marsch’s tenure has hit its first rough patch. The moment some frothing fans have been waiting for. His game plan is in serious trouble if teams continue to effectively shut down the attack. “We knew that Philly was going to sit back and try and counter, we knew that there was probably more space on the wings than anywhere, but we didn’t want to give up trying to find little plays through the middle. We also knew that they were solely trying to sit back and clog things up, win the ball and then counter, and in the end, we weren’t good enough at what we do and we weren’t able enough to be sharp around the goal and everything else.”
The Red Bulls have had issues finishing chances especially so over the last month, starting with the home draw to LA Galaxy. Teams have begun sitting back more and more against Marsch’s men. It’s the final pass that has been eluding them. “Obviously if we get the lead I think it’s a very different game, and then they were able to survive certain moments and then make a play and then two on their end and that fed into what they were trying to do so you have to give credit to Philadelphia on the day and know when you have two different kinds of styles going against each other, their style worked today and they were able to be sharper in certain moments than we were so you’ve got to give credit to them.”
The collapse came swiftly in the second half. The Red Bulls defense couldn’t hold it together and were victim to two quick strikes on the counter. The Red Bulls were first beat when Dax McCarty let down his guard after a missed handball. It was the kind of thing you see all the time at younger levels, and New York fell prey to it just the same. The Union fired a shot in and it was deftly redirected for the goal by Vincent Nogueira. The midfielder’s joy at breaking the dead lock lifted the entire Union team for the next fifteen minutes. Philly punished the Red Bulls again less than five minutes later. This time Karl Ouimette ventured forward and played an errant pass that was picked off by Fabinho, who broke forward after a give and go and sent the ball into a streaking CJ Sappong for the tap in finish. Just like that, the game was over, only the Red Bulls didn’t quite know it yet. The remaining minutes saw Philly sit back and absorb, a tactic that has frustrated New York all season. The Red Bulls play on the counter has been brilliant this year. They attack with ferocity at speed. However, when teams are sitting back, the Red Bulls fail to slow their pace, practicing very little patience, and finding no purchase for their attack.
The Red Bulls found themselves in a unique situation for this team. It was the second time in two games that they were shutout. Red Bulls midfield maestro doesn’t think it’s cause for concern. “Yeah I’m not that concerned about it. We hit the post twice on a couple of good plays in the first half. On another night maybe it goes in, but we talked about how were going to have games where our attack lets us down a little bit.” Kljestan believes in spite of the Red Bulls sputtering offense, they need to do a better job on the other side of the ball. “…We are pretty unlucky to get a goal in some games but we still need to be able to be sharper on the ball and be better defensively and not give up so much space. In a game like tonight where we can’t get a goal, we need to do better to keep that game 0-0 for a longer time.” Last week was on the road against a potent Dallas team, this week at home against a mostly poor Union side. The latter will surely make the Red Bulls search for answers heading into Seattle next week. Fortunes have seemed to smile on the Red Bulls in the difficult times this season, will a trip to the PNW see the same?