Union match reports

Match Report: Philadelphia Union 3-1 New York Red Bulls

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good and Philadelphia Union certainly won’t mind a Saturday night of extremely good fortune as they bested New York Red Bulls 3-1 to win the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic final.

Andrew Wenger opened the scoring after only two minutes for the Union when his cross from the left flank clipped a Red Bulls defender to fly over Luis Robles and in off the far post.

New York controlled the play throughout the majority of the first half, yet when it seemed that their equalizer was inevitable, luck fell the Union’s way again. Sebastien Le Toux put his curling free kick onto the head of Fernando Aristigueta, and while the newly-acquired striker headed the ball straight into Robles’ chest, the Red Bulls keeper surprisingly managed to bundle it over his own line.

Wenger added his second just minutes before the halftime break when his mishit shot fooled Robles, who failed to react in time.

Both Aristeguieta and Wenger conclude preseason play with four goals.

First Half

Jim Curtin fielded an attacking-minded, two striker look from the opening whistle, with Wenger and Le Toux flanking Aristigueta and Conor Casey.

And Curtin got a quick reward for his positive lineup, when a Wenger cross took a fortunate deflection and caromed past Luis Robles off the far post.

Wenger again found space in the 6th minute, but Casey was unable to move the ball out of his feet with the goal beckoning in front of him.

With the Union surging forward, the Red Bulls began to find space behind the advancing Mo Edu and Vincent Nogueira. First, it was Bradley Wright-Phillips who sprinted into space, only to have a smart Sheanon Williams tackle halt his progress.

Miscommunication between Williams and Le Toux appeared to give Mike Grella the space to get in behind, but his shot was comfortably smothered by Mbolhi.

Moments later, Grella was again in behind, racing past Ethan White, but the covering Union defense did enough to hack clear.

With the Red Bulls in full control of the match’s momentum, Sacha Kljestan ripped down Ray Gaddis by his collar in the 22nd minute, starting a shoving match from which both Lloyd Sam and Gaddis were cautioned.

The Red Bulls were nearly away when a weak pass from Gaddis was picked off in midfield, but the Union scrambled well to recover, with Nogueira making the decisive tackle off of Dax McCarty.

Gaddis was quick to atone for his error though, wehn he was called upon in the 27th minute after Sam flew passed Stephen Vitoria. With a shot on goal in Sam’s sight, Gaddis nipped in to touch the ball behind. Wright-Phillips rose well on the ensuing corner, but his free header was pushed wide of the far post.

Grella had another chance in the 29th minute when Sam beat Gaddis to the end line and cut the ball back across goal, but Williams cut down the shooting angle and Mbolhi showed strong hands to push the drive away.

With the tide of the match flowing in one direction, the Union doubled their advantage in the 32nd minute with another bit of good fortune. Le Toux’s free kick found it’s way to Aristigueta at the far post, and while the Venezuelan managed a good deal of power on the header, there was little excuse for Robles’ blunder, with the Red Bulls keeper somehow turning the simple effort into his own net.

Mbolhi made sure that the Red Bulls remained frustrated in the 39th minute when he denied Wright-Phillips at close range after the striker ran free to direct Felipe Martin’s delivery on target.

Grella failed to open the scoring for New York with another quality chance moments later. Kljestan’s clever flicked released McCarty in behind the Union defense, but Grella failed to make good contact with his cutback cross, spinning it wide of the near post.

With halftime beckoning, Wenger grabbed his brace following a well worked counter from the Union. Nogueira and Edu combined to release Le Toux who launched a cross-field ball to the waiting Wenger. With Casey streaking into the box, Robles appeared to read Wenger’s mishit shot as a pass, and never reacted to the slow-rolling dribbler, which nestled inside the far post to give the Union a 3-0 advantage.

New York had two more gilt-edged scoring chances in stoppage time. First Mbolhi denied Wright-Phillips at close range, then he smothered the ball on the goal line before the Red Bulls could bundle it home on the ensuing corner.

Second Half

With a comfortable lead to hold, the Union continued much as they ended the first half, absorbing pressure and hoofing the ball to safety out of the back.

After 10 minutes, Wright-Phillips nearly grabbed New York’s first when he again got in behind the Union defense, but Mbolhi flew off his line to make a critical save near the top of his box.

Another Red Bulls error nearly gifted the Union a fourth when a badly misplayed pass landed at Aristigueta’s feet, but the striker was unable to thread the needle for Casey, leaving his pass just behind his onrushing partner.

New York was sending runners in behind the Union center backs whenever possible, but Mbohli was alert to the danger and showed safe hands in the 62nd minute when Chris Duvall skipped past Wenger and whipped a cross into the box.

A skewed clearance from White in the 63rd minute set the table for a corner kick that would become Red Bulls’ best chance to that point. Martins’ low-curling delivery found Kljestan at the near post, but his header clanged off the cross bar.

New York finally put one past Mbolhi in the 80th minute when Gaddis lost his footing, allowing substitute Sal Zizzo to scamper down the Union’s left flank. Hooking the ball into the area, he found a wide open Wright-Phillips for the simplest of tap-ins.

With the Red Bulls committing everyone forward, the Union nearly hit right back when substitute Fabinho found himself running in acres of space up the left flank. Smartly playing the ball for Le Toux to run onto, Fabinho looked on as the Frenchman put his shot too close to Robles, allowing the keeper to make the stop.

The match see-sawed from end to end with Zizzo again finding space to hook a cross into the box, and while the Wright-Phillips did well to slip inside of White’s marking, he was unable to keep his header down and on target.

With the victory now on the books, the Union will conclude their camp in Florida and return north for their scheduled opening day match against Colorado Rapids at PPL Park on Saturday, March 7th at 4:00 pm.

Philadelphia Union: Rais Mbolhi; Ray Gaddis, Steven Vitoria, Ethan White, Sheanon Williams; Maurice Edu (C); Andrew Wenger, Vincent Nogueira (Michael Lahoud, 57), Sebastien Le Toux; Conor Casey (Christian Maidana, 70), Fernando Aristeguieta (Fabinho, 78)

New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles; Chris Duvall, Damien Perinnelle (Matt Miazga, 46), Ronald Zubar, Roy Miller (C); Dax McCarty, Felipe Martins (Sal Zizzo, 69); Lloyd Sam (Péguy Luyindula, 69), Sacha Kljestan, Mike Grella (Anatole Abang, 87), Bradley Wright-Phillips

Scoring Summary
PHI – Wenger – 2
PHI – Aristeguieta (Le Toux) – 32
PHI – Wenger – 44
NYRB – Wright-Phillips – 79

Disciplinary Summary
NYRB – Sam (fighting) – 22
PHI – Gaddis (fighting) – 22
PHI – Williams (reckless challenge) – 38


  1. I’ll leave the criticism out of the performance (of the team and the announcer) and just enjoy that they won. Well done, guys!
    I love the confidence that this preseason had to build. Curtin is building something. Let’s hope it leads to a solid postseason. (Am I getting ahead of myself?)

  2. I agree with announcer that the Union goals were fluky especially the first 2 but the point is that those type of goals didn’t happen for them last year. maybe the ball will bounce their way this season. Nothing wrong with luck.

    • Hear, hear! The Union put on the pressure, made the plays, took the shots that found their way into the goal. Of course the pro RB announcer wouldn’t have made such a big deal if RB had scored those “fluky” goals. I loved it! My favorite watering hole was streaming the game on a big screen while showing the Flyers/Rangers on the other. It was my nigh to howl considering I live and work in NY. Amazing their were some who claimed to be die hard NYRB fans last night(one in particular whom I detest) wearing NYCFC Jerseys. Supposedly it was in support of Petke. Knowing these clowns I sincerely doubt it. Say what you want about Philly fans, these NY/NJ bottom feeders are the worst! One thing, I hope the Union start playing a better possession game. Curtin is a head coach now, not an assistant or interim. He needs to show some ingenuity.

      • On 2nd thought with Noguiera, Maidana , and Edu that will be what happens, better ball possession 🙂

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I’m not sure that the announcer was pro NY beyond the fact that he couldn’t tell the Union players without numbers. And I think that was NY’s fault. I’m guessing that the Union only brought one set of Jersey’s to Florida and for some reason NY was wearing basically the same color tops as the Union normally wear.
        You have to admit it was really funny how the announcer somehow heard that Lahoud was one of the subs right when Fabinho came in so he spent the rest of the game identifying Fabinho as Lahoud and not knowing a single other Union player besides Mbolhi.

      • You are right that LaHoud/Fabinho was very funny. It was weird about about the jersey issue. Of course the pink cow fans love to call the Union cheap and Chivas USA. As long as we beat them nothing else matters.

      • Jersey Kicker says:

        +1 That was funny, he finally had a name to use and he ended up picking the wrong player.

  3. The Chopper says:

    The goals may have been fluky, but they were still the result o people being innthe right places trying to execute the right things. And while parts of the defense were exposed, overall the defense and goal keeping made the goals stand up.

    All in all, a very encouraging two pre season matches against MLS competition. I have to say though, I prefer Sapong up front over Casey. His activity level definitely annoyed Columbus and I think he would have made it,more difficult for Red Bull to get out of their own half, Casey’s legs are gone and if Fernando is up there also, the. Sapong is the better match.

      • Also needs to be said that the 30mph winds added a LOT to the goofiness factor in the game. It’s a huge distraction on the field and it made the U look a lot better than they were when it was at their backs in the first half, and the same for the RBs in the second.

    • Chopper… I agree wholeheartedly with your Sapong for Casey comment. Casey fumbled another great chance. I wasn’t sure why he was in. Maybe with this game it was maturity/familiarity up top with Aristeguieta (sp?) having just come into camp recently. Maybe, too, its the overall thought with new strikers in camp this year. I think as the season goes, we’ll see more and more of CJ. CJ/Fernando, I believe, will be a force once they get more time together and gel more – also both getting a better feel for what Wenger and LeToux will be serving in.

      • Pretty sure Casey was in because he got a late start into the preseason and just needed game time to get his fitness up. As far as strikers go right now I think the depth chart is Fernando-Sapong-Casey-Hoppenot/Catic.

    • Give me Maidana in that spot. He came on and the Union immediately started finding better scoring opportunities. I don’t think that was a coincidence.

    • Jersey Kicker says:

      Fluky goals or not, that is what happens when you place balls on frame. They wouldn’t have a chance to go in if high or wide.

  4. “Hoofing the ball to safety out of the back,” as American as our dwindling attention spans.

    • OK, first of all, none of the following really means anything in the whole grand scheme of things. I think I’m just getting older and have nothing better to do that get wound up about niggly crap like this and yelling at kids to get off my lawn (I actually never do that BTW).

      “Swing in kick…” to describe a corner, and “kerfuffle” to describe the mid-field fight? He made “Nogueira” sound like he was on loan from a Japanese team. “RICE” M’Bolhi? And that’s the just the stuff I can remember because my ears weren’t bleeding at those moments.

      I had no (ZERO) expectations for play by play from an Internet feed, but somehow, Ryan Sudol tunneled well below them. I don’t think he was, in anyway, “pro Red Bull”. I get it, they were the only team he could talk about comfortably because he could actually, y’know, identify them like any broadcaster would expect to.

      What drove me up the wall was Sudol’s COMPLETE lack of any sense of professionalism. It’s obvious he went to one of those sports broadcast schools you find in old strip shopping centers and he wants to show his rather poorly cut soccer chops. OK, so the Union came out in practice shirts, no numbers. DO NOT play “the victim” every five minutes (almost literally) and tell everyone how impossible the Union made your job. Eventually Sudol blamed it on the Union PR staff for leaving town before the game and leaving him hanging.

      Al Michaels had a freakin’ WORLD SERIES interrupted mid-game, by a tragic event that devastated a region and delayed the completion of the Series for 10 days…and HE didn’t whine about it!

      I’m going to let this go now…and check the lawn. 😉

      • It’s funny, I found the announcer to be the most entertaining part of the game. I like when announcers don’t try to be professional. I know what a professionally called game sounds like. All announcing sounds so similar. Give me an announcer who’s just having fun any day.

  5. The Little Fish says:

    “Both Aristeguieta and Wenger conclude preseason play with four goals.”
    /\. /\. /\
    I just want to sit back and read that line again and again and again. I like to win. It feels good. ‘Nando now has 4 goals in 3 games. And Wenger continues to look like an MVP. I like it. We’ve got some decent options up front (both positionally and with personnel) and we’re going to need that firepower to compete with all the upgraded teams around us. Everybody got better.
    \/ \/ \/
    I wonder if Jim Curtain will roll out that same lineup against Colorado?!?

    • old soccer coach says:

      I am guessing that two of Jim Curtin’s primary objectives in setting up his game plan and lineup were to get Vincent Nogueira and Conor Casey game time conditioning. He’s known his roster since Valentine’s Day.

      He seems to be serious about two strikers as one of his primary tactical options. This version of the experiment played like a 4-4-2 with the central mids closer to next to each other horizontally than stacked vertically or staggered vertically. Analysis of the game should assume that he judged Pink Heifers to be a side of only moderate strength in the attacking central midfield. Even so they dominated possession in their attacking half in the last hour [I missed the first half hour]. If Pinkies had had a stronger second striker they would have scored a lot of goals. The wisdom of an observer a few days ago, that neither Edu nor Nogueira has single minded devotion to protecting the center backs at least when playing hext to each other, was well demonstrated last night, as is the wisdom of “Chopper” immediately above about Casey’s effectiveness playing a high pressure defensive scheme.

      My guess is that he starts with two strikers against Colorado with Casey on the bench, with Edu as a single defensive center mid behind Maidana. What I’d like to see him try against a weaker team as an experiemnt would be Edu next to Vitoria, Nogueira stacked behind Maidana and Sapong with Aristegueita up front.

      • I’m interested in that (experimental) formation as well. I don’t know how tactically sound it is, but the 4-1-3-2 is the best way to get our best players on the field at once:


        –Wenger—-Maidana—-Le Toux


        I think the problem with this formation would be that it looks like a high pressure formation, and Curtin’s shown he’d prefer to play counter-attacking bunkerball.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        When they were in the two striker set against Columbus with Sapong they were going high pressure. The last ten minutes of the first half last night looked like they were trying for high pressure but were getting shredded by turnovers catching edu and Nogueira both too far up field.

  6. M’Bohli is the real deal.

  7. Jim Presti says:

    Still the trend of last season of giving up a late goal. Needs to be addressed.

  8. WestmontUnion says:

    I’ve said all of last season, and I’ll say it again…I really hope Curtin (who I want to succeed, and like him) develops a higher strategic IQ through the first 5 games of the season, because staying in the formation he had in the first half while being dominated the entire half isn’t going to get us to playoffs. Grella (a USL player last year) dominated us down the wing. That was the most worrying part for me. Another observation, Casey needs to stay off the pitch until he’s fit (if he’s able to get to match fitness that is). Curtin needs to recognize that Le Toux upfront with Nando will be a way more dangerous combo than playing a half gassed Casey. Outside of that, I’m glad we have our core back and i think that in this league, that goes along way (see KC, LA, Seattle etc).

    • The Chopper says:

      As the old coach said above, Curtin was most likely getting match fitness for Casey who has managed to make it opening day ready to play for the first time in 3 seasons. He also wanted to see what Casey looked like next to Fernando. But I am confident he is committed to starting Sapong up there.

      With Wenger and LeToux on the wings, that is a lot of speed and attacking options surrounding the big beast in the middle. The question will be how to best utilize Edu and Nogs to help protect the open spaces behind the attack

      • I don’t see how sapong starts regularly ahead of maidana. He’s too good of a playmaker. Sapong likely comes off the bench and has spot starts to rest le toux/wenger/maidana/nando.

      • The Chopper says:

        Curtin is committed to bigger, stronger, faster. Chaco is smaller and slower. His legs can’t keep up with what Curtin wants. That is why right or wrong he will not be an opening day starter.

      • I love this comment. Whether wittingly or unwittingly on your part, it just echoed through the pinball corridor of American soccer for all time: Bigger, Stronger, Faster over the slow footed playmaker who to be honest, (+/-) 80% of the time reads himself into the proper positions on the field to affect the vertical game and deliver passes that result in opportunities in and around the box. If you have the proper players around the 10, the 10 does not have to be fast he needs to be smart. I am afraid you may be right on this and if Chaco doesn’t see high minutes watch the flow of this team bog down into lateral lateral lateral cross cross cross good old American soccer- Onion style. Good Grief.

      • The Chopper says:

        That’s why I said right or wrong. But, based on what I am hearing, that is where they are heading going into the season.

      • The Little Fish says:

        Gosh I hope you are wrong. Chaco must start. Too good to sit. The guy is our best passer. If he sits I for one will be pissed.

  9. Nice film of the game here: http://goo.gl/JkUT5n

    Obviously does not show what we want to see (philly goals) but has good shots of M’Bohli doing his thing…

  10. SoB Chris says:

    I couldn’t watch last night. Is there any way to watch a replay?

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Yes. Just checked it, altho’ didn’t think to try to get it to play. Go to philly.com/sports. Then click union on the bar across the top under what I would call the masthead. As of the moment the big headline with picture in the upper left is the textual article. In the article is a visual that states it is a pathway to a replay. Hope it works for you.

      • SoB Chris says:

        Thanks for the tip, but unfortunately the link doesn’t work. It’s just the same on the Union’s website.

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