Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 0-0 New York Red Bulls

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Despite being outplayed for large stretches at Red Bull Arena, Philadelphia Union nearly stole a road victory before settling for a 0-0 draw.

Backstopped by a sure-handed performance from Zac MacMath, the Union nearly grabbed all three points when Sebastien Le Toux found space in the 73rd minute. The winger’s powerful effort struck the crossbar and Antoine Hoppenot’s trailing run put him in an offside position.

With the Union looking to grab every possible point as they head into the final stretch of the 2013 MLS regular season, it was an ideal time for John Hackworth’s team to collect their first ever point at Red Bull Arena.

“[This game] does wonders for our team,” MacMath said after the game. “We know that we have about nine games left, and if we can win all of our home games and get some points on the road, we’ll be in the playoffs, and that for us is our main goal right now.”

First half

After roughing up DC United at home, Hackworth made no changes to his starting side.

And similar to last week, the Union began the match on the back foot. Careless turnovers and sloppy midfield defending gifted the Red Bulls plenty of early possession leaving the Union to soak up pressure in their defensive third.

The Red Bulls could have taken an 11th minute lead, but MacMath reacted quickly to Jonny Steele’s entry pass to Markus Holgersson. The Swede was in alone, but MacMath took the ball off his feet before the defender could poke his shot goalward.

Content to sit deep, the Union found their best chances on the counterattack, but they failed to find Jack McInerney’s scything runs in behind New York’s big back line. First Le Toux missed his striker’s run in the 14th minute, before Amobi Okugo’s pass just eluded McInerney.

For all of New York’s possession—controlling the ball 60 percent of the first half—the Red Bulls struggled to generate clear cut chances, with Okugo and Jeff Parke dominant in the heart of the Union defense.

When Sheanon Williams felled Fabian Espindola in the 25th minute, Thierry Henry had the chance to send in a dangerous ball, but he could not beat the wall. Moments later, Eric Alexander played back into the box after Okugo had cleared, but Tim Cahill could not elude the watchful eye of Brian Carroll.

Espindola made sure that tensions stayed high when he kicked out at MacMath as the Union keeper attempted a punt, earning his way into referee Jair Marrufo’s book for the only card of the match.

MacMath then denied Espindola after the Red Bulls’ striker found space in the box. His header was well placed, but MacMath would not be beaten and tipped the ball over the bar.

A bad giveaway from Carroll nearly sent New York in on goal soon after, but Okugo did well to block away Henry’s early cross.

The Union nearly grabbed a goal against the run of play just before halftime when Conor Casey bulled his way into the box. But Ibrahim Sekagya recovered to block the point blank shot.

Second half

With no halftime substitutions, the second period began like the first. New York comfortably worked the ball around, with Carroll and Keon Daniel shrinking deeper and deeper into their defensive third. But for all their possession, the Red Bulls continued to struggle to create an opener, with Okugo and Parke again proving their mettle with a series of timely interventions.

The Union finally found the space to attack in the 60th minute, with Fabinho whipping the ball into the box. Luis Robles was wise to the cross, but his punch came straight to McInerney, who could not get the ball to fall for him and snatched ineffectively at his volley.

New York roared back through Steele, but after cutting inside of Williams, the Northern Irishman spun his shot wide of the far post.

For the next 10 minutes, the Union were completely overrun, especially through the midfield, with Cahill, Henry, Steele and substitute Peguy Luyindula driving into the box at every opportunity.

But while his defense wavered, MacMath did not. Time and again the Union keeper squeezed crosses, both low and high, conceding no scraps onto which the Red Bulls could pounce.

When the Union finally broke forward, Le Toux nearly grabbed the lead. Gathering up a deflected shot from Casey, the Frenchman cut onto his right to wrong-foot Holgersson and delivered a blast off the crossbar. With Robles beaten, substitute Antoine Hoppenot looked a sure bet to tap in the rebound, but he had strayed into an offside position.

Hoppenot nearly made amends in the 81st minute, but this time Robles rescued the home side. A floated cross from substitute Michael Farfan put Le Toux into space racing up the left flank. Crossing lines with Hoppenot, Le Toux cut his pass back for the speedy attacker. But Robles came out quickly and got his fingertips to Hoppenot’s shot, which was aimed inside the back post.

In the 91st minute, it was Hoppenot again with a chance when Daniel cut back to find the forward at the top of the box. Hoppenot got past Sekagya to fire from just outside the right corner of the six-yard box, but his effort was high.

For all their dominance, the chance’s would not come for New York, despite raining in 34 open play crosses. As time wound down in stoppage time, they nearly found the one opportunity they needed. When Fabinho headed a cross behind, Henry stepped up for the corner. Substitute fullback Brandon Barklage stole into the box with a late run, rising high for a free header.  But while the entirety of Red Bull Arena gasped in anticipation, Barklage nodded his chance directly into MacMath’s feet, where the Union keeper gratefully gathered it, preserving the clean sheet.

“It kind of had a playoff feel, everyone was into it and everyone stepped up,” Okugo said after the game.

With the draw, the Union drop to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, level at 38 points with Montreal, who have two games in hand. They will look for more points when the travel to face the New England Revolution next Saturday.

Philadelphia Union

Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Jeff Parke, Fabinho; Sebastien Le Toux, Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel, Danny Cruz (Michael Farfan ’71); Jack McInerney (Antoine Hoppenot ’66), Conor Casey (Aaron Wheeler ’89)
Unused substitutes: Kleberson, Oka Nikolov, Michael Lahoud, Leo Fernandes

New York Red Bulls
Luis Robles; Ibrahim Sekagya, Markus Holgersson, Jamison Olave (Brandon Barklage ’76), Roy Miller; Eric Alexander (Lloyd Sam ’66), Tim Cahill, Dax McCarty, Jonny Steele; Thierry Henry, Fabian Espindola (Peguy Luyindula ’61)
Unused Substitutes: Connor Lade, Matt Miazga, Ryan Meara, Marius Obekop

Scoring Summary

Discipline Summary
30 – NYRB: Espindola (caution)

Jair Marrufo
Attendance: 25355

New York Red Bulls Philadelphia Union
11 Attempts on Goal 10
3 Shots on Target 3
6 Shots off Target 5
2 Blocked Shots 2
7 Corner Kicks 3
9 Fouls 6
34 Open Play Crosses 7
1 Offsides 6
1 First Yellow Cards 0
0 Second Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
24 Duels Won 31
43% Duels Won % 56%
534 Total Pass 313
86% Passing Accuracy % 70%
63.3% Possession 36.7%


  1. If the MacMath from this spring were playing, that game would have been 2-0 New York. Well done by the kid and the coaching staff.

    • Greg Williams says:

      Completely agreed. This is exactly why Hackworth made the right call in sticking with him through his struggles. We are all being rewarded with the results now. He may live up to his potential yet, and we may end up with one of the best GKs in the league thanks to Hack’s patience.

      • He had a great game, but I wouldn’t say it’s a result of Hack sticking with him all season, I would say its a result of the Union getting him a coach/mentor, because I’ve noticed a stark difference in his play since Oka has arrived.

  2. Over all I think a good game by the guys, going into it I said I would be happy with a tie. I think the glaring problems in the midfield are still there, but at this point this is the team we have and the style of play we can expect. Hopefully we can get into the playoffs and get the young guys some experience of playing in playoff games. Is it bad that I’m looking forward to the offseason in hopes that the midfield situation gets resolved finally?

  3. I don’t know how Cruz got the starting right midfield position. Farfan and Le Toux are both miles ahead of him in talent and effectiveness. Cruz’z only talent is just as effective on the left as the right; there is no reason to handicap Le Toux or bench Farfan just to put Cruz on his preferred side. I’m not sure why, but I think the fact the fact that Cruz was handed right midfield frustrates me more than the fact that he starts every game

    • It’s not about putting Cruz on a “preferred side”. It’s about defense. Cruz has played on the right the last two games so that Le Toux could provide extra defensive cover for Fabinho. Which probably should increase your frustration even more…

  4. Sally struthers says:

    Is there any worse broadcast team imaginable than one featuring Brian Dunseth ad Kyle Martino? Was almost unwatchable

    • Bad enough to make you miss Rigby?

      • nope.
        Though my favorite part of the broadcast was when the announcers said that neither the Red Bulls or the Union had scored from a free kick all year. I was going “No! Wrong! The Union scored off a free kick against Chivas.”
        Then I sent my resume off to NBC.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        The quote was that neither team had scored “directly” off a free kick (a la Jozy Altidore on Wednesday). The goal against Chivas was an indirect free kick so by definition, not directly off a free kick.

      • That’s probably why my resume was rejected.

    • Like in the post-game, where they asked Zach MacMath how it felt to finally get a result in New York? They did watch the game that they just broadcast end in a draw, didn’t they?

  5. Good game by Zac, very solid game by the defense, and a thoroughly and unexpectedly impressive job by Fabinho, and on defense not crosses even! Going to make it a tough decision for Hack (Gaddis will start immediately)
    Rough go round for the forwards, but the effort is there and the skill is there, there was just absolutely no help from the midfield. How many times were Steele and Mccartys name called? Miller was in our 18 more than his own.
    The midfield is awful right now, and it’s mostly bc of Hacks decisions. I just don’t see how he can continue to play Cruz or Daniel. Martini actually pointed out that Keon’s first offensive play was in the 91st minute. Keeping Cruz on moved Le Toux to the left, which effectively cripples Le Toux, Shaenon and Cruz (already crippled) at the same time. Keon was routinely back behind Carroll, Fabinho and Williams offering nothing forward.
    I think the most effective thing to do would be to move Marfan to CAM, Le Toux back on the right, and Fabinho up to LM. Marfan is best on the right, but there is zero chance Hackworth plays Kleberson or Torres (not on the team anymore) at CAM, and I can’t stand to see Keon there.
    All that being said, I’m wasting my breath bc this is the same lineup we will see the rest of the year (except for inserting Gaddis). This is the style and type of game we can expect too, lets just hope we see more unorganized teams than good ones. Keep up the improvement Zac!

    • I am required by law to mention Roger Torres once a week.
      Roger Torres.
      Why the hell can’t crack this shit midfield.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        And I am required by law to TRASH Cruz once a week. So, what’s more frustrating than Torres not playing is the fact that Danny Cruz is… he is consistently starting, consistently looking terrible and providing nothing. He just runs fast and hard. That is literally all he does. I’m done with the argument, “well he opens up space”… yeah, but he is BAD and does nothing with the space he opens up. SO ANNOYING

      • Southside Johnny says:

        Totally agree.

    • Southside Johnny says:

      Way too sensible a plan for Hackworth. We can’t let reason get in the way of our feelings for our boys.

  6. A road point at Red Bulls is never a bad thing. The team showed the same problems as have been discussed numerous times on this cite. The only thing that worrying is that Hackworth has failed to make an effort to correct them. Otherwise, they put in a solid performance. They stayed organized and didn’t turn off. Great job.

  7. We were outplayed for loooong stretches, the midfield was non-existent, and it was a road tie, I’ll take it!!!! We should all thank Okugo and Fabinho who played a great game. I love what he brings to the team and was relieved he could actually play defense. The defense, including Carroll who is a defender, was solid and left it all on the field.. The 32nd minute is all you need to know about Danny Cruz. He sucks soooooo bad! Left side, right side, until he’s outside the locker room I’m never gonna be happy. It literally is 10 brave men, one awful player. Wake up Hack!!!!!!!

  8. The Chopper says:

    Earlier this season it was easy to look at the Union getting results and have that feeling it was built on a shaky foundation and the collapse was right around the corner.

    Well we are now 25 games into 34. A pretty good sample size. They are still getting results. They have taken points in 18 of 25 matches. They have solidified defensively and MacMath is growing up before our eyes. That is truly remarkable when you consider how dismal they were last year and how decimated Nowak left the franchise.

    It may not be pretty, but Hackworth has gotten the job done to this point. His roster moves have improved the team, he has a stronger financial hand going into next year. So I will not question Cruz, I will not question Daniel. Hackworth has decided that this is the best way to get results out of his roster. And right now I can’t argue with him.

    Of course if the collapse comes, we all get to say I told you so.

    • Agreed, and I feel that way about Daniel, but I just can’t do that with Cruz. At this point I’m in for the ride with everything except Cruz. That’s my motto for the season, lol! Everything except Cruz!!!!!!

    • I kind of agree with you about the season going well. I agree that it isn’t just a coincidence and we aren’t just bumbling into our position. I don’t agree with not questioning Hackworth’s roster decisions. We have done well because we do have a lot of players that land somewhere between solid and excellent. That doesn’t mean that there is some method to the madness of starting Cruz every game and giving Daniel tons of time and responsibility even though he players deeper than Brian fucking Carrol.

  9. 13th shut-out of the season! (includes all games). Not bad at all. The Defense is absolutely awesome this season. Don’t expect Hack to make any changes unless someone gets injured.

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