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Match Report: Union 2-3 Red Bulls

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

In a match played at a breathless pace from whistle to whistle, the New York Red Bulls stole a 3-2 victory at PPL Park after a questionable refereeing decision, despite being comfortably outplayed by Philadelphia Union.

New York’s Joel Lindpere was the first on the score sheet, putting the visitors ahead against the run of play before Lionard Pajoy equalized for the Union in the 31st minute.

Then came the talking point. Racing into the box, Freddy Adu beat the first defender before appearing to go down under contact from a sliding leg. When the whistle blew, PPL Park erupted at the thought of a penalty. Their hopes were immediately dashed by referee Jorge Gonzalez, who did not hesitate in pulling a second yellow card and then a red card for an alleged dive by Adu, reducing the Union to 10 men for the rest of the contest.

Still, the Union attacked, earning a second goal moments into the second half with Pajoy again on target.

But with the Union tiring, New York began to find cracks in Philadelphia’s makeshift back line. Markus Holgersson equalized off a corner kick, setting up Kenny Cooper’s 77th minute winner as the big striker beat Carlos Valdes and Zac MacMath before tucking home.

In the final moments, the Union had a series of chances cleared off the line as they lacked the killer instinct needed to take points from the contest.

First Half

With Gabriel Farfan in the final match of his suspension, his brother Michael got the start at right back with Raymon Gaddis continuing on the left. Captain Danny Califf was surprisingly missing as Sheanon Williams continued to deputize alongside Carlos Valdes in the middle of the park.

Gabriel Gomez and Freddy Adu returned, having been rested against Schalke 04 in midweek, while Danny Mwanga joined Lionard Pajoy up front. Brian Carroll and Keon Daniel rounded out the starting XI.

Reversing the trend of recent weeks, the Union got out to a fast start. Pressing the Red Bulls in the final third, the Union were knocking on the door inside of the first two minutes with Mwanga figuring prominently. Adu drifted centrally with a jump in his step but was overly eager and earned an early yellow card for scything down Roy Miller in the 5th minute.

The call didn’t dampen the Union’s spirits however, as they showed renewed commitment to possessing the ball in midfield, with Adu, Gomez and Daniel all looking sharp in the opening minutes.

Daniel nearly had the ball in the net in the 7th minute as he slid in behind Markus Holgersson. When the defender failed to deal with Michael Farfan’s cross, Daniel seemed surprised that the ball had reached him, and it clanked off of his thigh and out of play.

Next it was Adu who created space for himself, firing a long drive that Meara had to push away at full stretch.

On the left flank, Daniel and Gaddis showed excellent chemistry, with the Trinidadian putting Gaddis into space on multiple occasions.

Alarm bells were again ringing in the Red Bulls’ end when Holgersson turned the ball over cheaply. Mwanga set up Adu, whose shot was deflected over the bar.

With all the ball and complete confidence, the Union were dealt a cruel blow when the Red Bulls countered through Mehdi Ballouchy, who laid off for Joel Lindpere. With Michael Farfan and Valdes stranded up field, Lindpere found space and rocketed an unstoppable first time drive beyond MacMath and New York snuck into the lead with their only shot on goal of the first half.

Stunned but resolute, the Union came back quickly with Mwanga again finding Adu, whose shot was deflected wide of the target.

The match began to boil up when first Pajoy and then Ballouchy earned yellow cards for crunching tackles, but nothing could stem the tide of the Union attack.

Finally, in the 31st minute, the Union had their reward when, after spurning a gilt-edged chance minutes earlier, Pajoy equalized for the Union. Seeing his corner returned to him, Freddy Adu composed himself and curled a cross back into the box where Pajoy, who slipped the attentions of the Red Bulls defense, powered his free header into the roof of the net.

The Union were buzzing and Pajoy should have found his brace, racing in behind in the 38th minute. Somehow he mishit the shot wide of the target with only Meara to beat.

But then a shockingly quick decision from referee Jorge Gonzalez offered up the match’s main discussion topic. With the Red Bulls on the back foot and unable to cope with the dribbling of Adu, the Union No. 11 cut into the center of the penalty box. Pushing the ball beyond Dax McCarty, Adu went to ground over the defender’s leg, and Gonzalez immediately blew the whistle. Rather than point to the spot, he reached for his pocket, ejecting Adu for what he deemed a dive in the box.

The decision stunned the Union, and both teams shuffled through the final minutes of the half readjusting to the change in numbers.

Second Half

With neither team making substitutions at the half, the Union were again quickly in the ascendancy despite their numeric disadvantage.

Less than a minute into the second frame, Meara was picking the ball out of his net after Mwanga set up Pajoy for his brace. Streaking in from the left, Pajoy had his first effort blocked but found the rebound and poked it over the goal line, giving the home crowd hope that the Union could sweat out an unlikely victory.

Not content to sit back, Philadelphia continued to press the Red Bulls, failing to concede possession despite being down a man. Brian Carroll comfortably ran the middle of the park, spraying the ball around as the Union possessed in midfield and launched dangerous counterattacks.

Unfortunately, though, the finishing touch eluded them. First Mwanga lost out to Holgersson after Farfan sent Gomez away, then it was Meara coming out well to deny Daniel who had broken away after Carroll intercepted a mis-hit Red Bulls clearance.

The Union now growing stretched with players beginning to show signs of being a man down, the Red Bulls began to create chances on MacMath’s goal.

The Union keeper was equal to the task as he flew out to palm away a dangerous cross and was up quickly to pressure substitute Juan Agudelo, whose attempted overhead kick flew wide of the mark.

But there was little MacMath could do in the 68th minute when Markus Holgersson climbed above Keon Daniel and powered Brandon Barklage’s corner into the back of the net.

Once more, the Union recovered quickly. Gomez found Pajoy on the counter, but again the big Colombian missed the target with the goal begging.

The Union’s continued lack of sharpness in front of goal would prove the difference when Kenny Cooper put the Red Bulls ahead for good in the 78th minute. Only moments after MacMath did well to push away Agudelo’s first-time volley, Carlos Valdes was caught out as a lofted ball fell beyond him. Cooper snuck in to collect, rounding MacMath and tapping into the empty net.

It could have been a back breaker, but the Union showed heart and resilience to keep chasing the game. And they had a handful of chances in the closing minutes to level the score and take a point from the fixture. But due to a combination of bad luck, worse finishing, and Ryan Meara, the goal would not come.

After substitute Kai Herdling’s low driven ball was skewed wide by Pajoy, Michael Farfan shockingly failed to find the back of the net when late sub Josue Martinez’s flicked header found him unmarked at the back post. With the empty net at his mercy, Farfan’s touch set the ball on an agonizing roll across the face of goal.

In the dying moments, Pajoy had another chance to register his hat trick when he found himself in possession inside the six-yard box, but the striker delayed his shot long enough for Meara to get across, smothering the Union’s final opportunity.

Philadelphia Union

Zac MacMath; Michael Farfan, Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Raymon Gaddis; Keon Daniel (Chandler Hoffman ‘77), Gabriel Gomez (Josue Martinez ’84), Brian Carroll, Freddy Adu; Lionard Pajoy, Danny Mwanga (Kai Herdling ’67)

Unused substitutes: Chase Harrison, Cristhian Hernandez, Porfirio Lopez, Amobi Okugo

New York Red Bulls

Ryan Meara; Brandon Barklage, Markus Holgersson, Tyler Ruthven (Victor Palsson ’64), Roy Miller; Joel Lindpere, Dax McCarty, Rafael Marquez, Mehdi Ballouchy (Juan Agudelo ’54), Kenny Cooper

Unused Substitutes: Jeremy Vuolo, Jonathan Borrajo, Ryan Maduro, Connor Lade, Jhonny Arteaga

Scoring Summary

17 – NY: Lindpere (Ballouchy)

31 – PHI: Pajoy (Adu)

46 – PHI: Pajoy (Mwanga)

68 – NY: Holgersson (Barklage)

78 – NY: Cooper (Marquez)

Discipline Summary

5 – PHI: Adu (Caution)

19 – PHI: Pajoy (Caution)

22 – NY: Ballouchy (Caution)

43 – PHI: Adu (2nd Caution/Ejection)

54 – NY: Lindpere (Caution)

94 – NY: Meara (Caution)


Jorge Gonzalez


  1. Can we please fire Nowak already.

    • Peter Nowak says:

      Yes, I’m an idiot. I acknowledge that fact.

      But I at least put the correct lineup out there today. If Freddy doesn’t get a ridiculous card, we dominate the scoreline as well as the game.

      Which means I have to screw something else up. Bye bye Danny!

      • DarthLos117 says:

        You made the wrong sub when we were up 2-1. Okugo shoulda came in instead of Herdling.

      • This. Terrible substitution…

      • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

        Great minds think alike!!! If there was a time to bring in Okugo and slow the game down, it was this one!

      • Not only should they have brought on six-foot Okugo instead of five-foot-seven Herdling, but they should have left Danny Mwanga on. The way we defend set pieces and corners, we need every six-footer we have on the pitch, especially when we’re trying to preserve a lead while a man down. Mwanga off in the 67th minute; set piece goal conceded in the 68th minute. Coincidence?…

      • the kid union says:

        HE’S HERE RUN!!!

  2. DarthLos117 says:

    He was amazing! He looked great! He took a dive. From section it looked like a pk…from the couch it looked more like a dive.

    • Yes a dive, but also could have been falling due to excessive momentum, point is, New York cleared their lines, what is the point of changing the game on that play. I can’t stand the diving aspect of soccer as much as the next Philly fan but just seemed a little excessive and inconsistent from the ref.

  3. The Union came out all guns blasing. The best offensive performance this season. They lost but hope seems to loom over the horizon. I’m not complaining. If it wasn’t for the red card the result would have been very different.

    Speaking of the red card. My new nickname for Adu is PRIMA BALERINA. Sorry guys. I was watching from home. Take a look at the replays it was a clear dive. Adu was doing great dancing around the defense today. But he had to go for the drama a certain grand plei and the team is down a man. The rest is history.

    Even with a man down they kept on pushing. Great!

    However, note to Marfan: Marfan, in this country and all over the world we expect very little from professional athletes. No matter what sport your playing you can get away a lot. But when you are on the pitch and two feet away from goal with the net wide open we also expect you to finish! Otherwise, don’t call yourself a professional.

    Othewise, I hope with disappointment will not discourage what seems to be an offensive revival.

    • PS. The Limpere goal was a copy of his goal from the LA game just a week before. They need to study up a bit more because it was not by chance he tucked in the way he did and then made the run the way he did. Just a thought. But nothing of extreme import.

  4. Kensington Josh says:

    Freddy dove. Before that he was looking good. Then he dove.

    • Yes, Freddy probably dove (it’s possible he just actually tripped but seems unlikely). It was pretty clear on the replay. But I’ve never seen a ref give a 2nd yellow in the first half for a dive. 99.9% of the time it’s play on – maybe a warning later. I know it’s in the rules but refs usually use discretion when fundamentally changing the conditions of play.

      • Live action behind the goal I thought PK. But after watching the broadcast on DVR, it wasn’t a PK because he wasn’t tripped, but to say that it was a dive worthy of a yellow – a 2nd yellow – is questionable, at best. The view from the midfield camera showed Macarty’s foot going in, and while the motion Adu fell in was certainly dramatic, I think the ref should allow play to continue and scold Freddy. He waved on a few horrendous tackles, and once or twice he whistled for a gentle elbow. Not to mention the fact that both teams, but NY more so before the red, were falling down rather easily the whole half.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        It has to be one or the other. A PK or a dive (50-50 per Adu). It cant be inbetween.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Disagree. Refs wave play on all the time. Players trip, the ref deems the defender to have gotten a touch on the ball before contact, or the ref tells the player, “get up and dont do that again”. Yes Adu went down too easily, but Gonzalez could have easily kept his whistle out of his mouth and let play go on and neither team would have protested.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        Its one thing if its outside the 18. Being in the penalty area it can not be inbetween. IMO. He was def penalty chasing. Brain even says: “and while the motion Adu fell in was certainly dramatic…scold Freddy.” Dramatic fall=dive. Scold him=did something wrong. And what your saying is that a Ref should allow a player to do something wrong once, “just don’t do that again.”

      • this statement is completely false. that would mean that every time someone fell over in the 18, it would have to be a penalty or a dive. freddy didn’t appeal for a call and wasn’t looking for the penalty, so you wave play on. its that simple.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        In retrospect, I realize that the general statement I made is wrong/incorrect. In this Adu situation, it has to be one or the other as the ref had blown his whistle. I totally believe he was chasing a PK. I also believe that when the whistle was blown, Adu thought he had won a PK like the rest of the park.

      • The ref blew the call. You don’t stop play for a dive. If he judged that Freddy dove, it should have been ‘play on’, and then the card comes out at the next natural stoppage of play. The fact that he stopped play to card Freddy means he changed his mind between blowing his whistle and actually making the call.

  5. It is amazing we finally found a defense bad enough to fall for his dancing freddie routine. I fear this will reenforce bad habits.

    • I thought it was just that Adu had improved the Dancing Freddy routine. Instead of making 5 movees and getting dispossessed, it was one (or two) moves and then making a play.

  6. I’m not sure I get why people kill Adu so much. Is it just bc of the amount of money he’s paid, and that you think he’s not playing up to that number? That’s actually kinda understandable given the avg players salary. But some of the other shots taken at him I just don’t quite understand. He is one of if not the most dangerous player on the team. You might think that’s a pretty damning statement (and be right) but still why focus so much on him and say that hes “awful” or insert word here? I think he is at least headed in the right direction and gives us something exciting. He was the best player out the today in the first half.

    Excellent game by Carroll, good quality from Gomez and Gaddis today. mwanga didn’t play perfect and still seems to lack a certain touch, but he moved well today and had some energy that was previously lacking. Marfan was very unimpressive today, he and the center backs were just a little off today, especially in the second half, not sure if that was bc of the red card. Keon Daniel is just one guy I do not understand the love for. He makes nice runs and connections but he consistently does not have what it takes to make that last pass/cross/shot that creates a goal, and gets beat so often on defense. I’d like to see Herdling get the shot there and maybe one of the young guys? With Adu out next week though Daniel will certainly be in the lineup.

    Pajoy had 2 goals today, a nice header, and a misplayed pass that landed back on his feet. That’s the good news. Bad news is at least 2 other shots should have been goals, goals that good strikers put on frame. I’d still like to see a younger striker get a chance, but at least Pajoy had signs of life today.

    Last thing, if Gaddis is more comfortable at right back, why start him at left today with Williams out? Is Marfan significantly better on the right? Or are they just prepping Gaddis to be a left back bc that’s where he’ll likely be? Something to do with a last minute Califf benching due to trade? Thoughts?

    • Section 116 says:

      Of all the bad from the last few weeks, Williams has proved he is a top CB and Gaddis is someone we make time for, and I think that’s really what the Califf move is about.

      With Gaddis-Williams-Valdes-Garfan we finally have a backline. But unless Califf brings us back a defender, we have NO depth.

      • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

        I wouldn’t say spot starting at CB for 2 weeks proves Williams is a CB. Worse still, Williams really was a breakout star at RB can was someone with the chance to become the best or one of the best RBs in the league.
        Now, his career is another victum of Nowaks “he lets play you here instead of you natural position!” routine.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Sheanon is also 5’8″ and this is MLS. He will not survive having to fight 6’4″ strikers week in and week out. It’s not like Valdes is a giant at only 6’0″. They’re a strong competent pair, but they do not have enough size to consistently compete.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Albright is 6’1″.

    • i personally thought Marfan looked fantastic going forward (aside from the awful goal miss). he is much better as a winger than in the middle. would like to see him start in freddy’s spot with adu out next game.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Farfan is definitely better suited for the outside of the pitch. I believe he was playing right back. I didn’t mind him on the back line. He handled his defensive role, while giving us a boost of offense from the right flank…Dani AlvesISH. It might be a good spot for him. That said, his blunder in front of an open goal was awful. He needed to pound that ball in the back of the net. Valdez was equally poor, by not getting a piece of Marfan’s muffed ball. Overall, the Union had this one on a platter; only to watch it fly away through poor finishing.

  7. philsoc8 says:

    I loved the attacking mentality of the game. Yesterday reminded me of the 2010 Union and why I fell in love with this team. I’d rather lose 3-2 than 1-0 any day.

    That said, some of the defensive lapses are frustrating because they are so predictable. NY’s second goal off the corner was a classic case of Daniel’s defensive weakness. He lost the 1v1 battle clear and simple, but why was he even marking that guy at all? That kind of play is where Califf will be missed.

  8. James "4-3-3" Forever says:



  9. PhillyHotspur says:

    Best game by a mile……..we still lose

    Nowak finally gets his starting 11 right………And then foocks it all up w/ a terrible substitution.

    Adu having a lovely 43 minutes……..epic dive, 10 v 11. sweet

    Williams playing out of position at CB…….while we look to trade Califf, an actual CB

    And Letoux having a lovely laugh at this disaster…….

    Thank goodness the bad news bears way up North in Canada or we would polishing wine bottles in the cellar.

    Thanks again Nowak

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