Union match reports

Match report: Union 2-2 New York Red Bulls

Philadelphia Union came from two goals down at halftime to earn a point against New York Red Bulls in Chester, PA Sunday night.

CJ Sapong rifled home a penalty and Chris Pontius scored a minute later to cancel out Sacha Kljestan’s first half brace.

Jim Curtin named an unchanged lineup with Ken Tribbett retaining his place next to Richie Marquez in front of Andre Blake. Keegan Rosenberry and Fabinho were the fullbacks behind Ilsinho and Chris Pontius respectively. CJ Sapong started up top ahead of Tranquillo Barnetta, Roland Alberg, and Brian Carroll.

First half

In what would prove to be a moment of foreshadowing, the match started with New York forcing Ken Tribbett into a deep turnover. However, it was the Union who came closest early, with CJ Sapong coming back from an offside position to finish a deflected loose ball. The goal was waived off, though it appeared the ball may have hit a defender — and not Roland Alberg — on its way to Sapong.

Although New York’s press meant most of the play was in Philly’s half, the Union were able to counter effectively by finding space behind Red Bulls right back Sal Zizzo.

In the 20th minute, Mike Grella was impeded by Barnetta and used the moment as an excuse to slam the Swiss to the turf. Allan Kelly intervened and sternly decided that the play did not deserve a caution.

In the 22nd minute, a crazy few moments saw a Kljestan free kick hit off Keegan Rosenberry’s arm and fall to the ground in the box. It was fired on frame and deflected, but Andre Blake still managed to get down and push it wide. Bradley Wright-Phillips was following up from three yards out but Richie Marquez made a sensational tackle to put the ball out of play.

The Red Bulls went ahead in the 27th minute when Ken Tribbett was caught on the ball for the third time in the half. After taking a pass from Alberg, Tribbett dribbled into trouble and tried to flick the ball to Marquez. Wright-Phillips intercepted and moments later, Sacha Kljestan was passing the ball past Andre Blake and into the net.

In the 33rd minute, Philly launched a counter through Chris Pontius that should have been finished. The ball fell to Ilsinho in the box, and he simply fired it at the goalie when multiple men were free.

Three minutes before the half, Ilsinho committed a foul 25 yards out in the center of the pitch. Kljestan’s curler toward the left side of the box smacked off Barnetta as it passed through the wall and scooted past Blake, who couldn’t adjust to the big deflection.

Second half

For the first ten minutes of the second half, the match seemed like it might continue as it had in the first. But in the 55th minute, an early free kick across the field found Pontius in space and he signaled a willingness to put the Union on his back, forcing Robles into a good save.

In the 60th, Pontius got on the end of a corner and pushed it just wide of the near post. Five minutes later, Pontius beat Sal Zizzo to the spot and was hauled down at the edge of the six yard box chasing a gorgeous Rosenberry cross.

CJ Sapong took the spot kick and blasted it past Robles with interest.

Just as they did in the US Open Cup two weeks ago, the Union quickly doubled their total. Fabian Herbers broke up the right and sizzled a low cross into the box. CJ Sapong left the ball at the front post and Pontius arrived at the back stick to touch the tying goal past a stranded Robles.

The good times were soon to end for Philly, and Ilsinho received a straight red card in the 72nd minute for hitting Connor Lade in the face with his arm. The dismissal was harsh.

Surprisingly though, the Union continued to dominate the half despite playing down a man. Pontius was again on hand to put a corner kick around the post in the 74th minute, and Marquez followed up with a misdirected flick off a corner in the 75th.

In the 76th minute, Pontius was once again pushing for a winner but Robles proved unbeatable. The Red Bulls goalie pulled off his best save of the night in the 78th as he rose to palm away Barnetta’s 22 yard curler. He was called into action once more in the 79th when Rosenberry’s header was fizzed directly into the New York goalie’s arms.

In the 85th minute, the Union missed a great opportunity when Barnetta buzzed a low free kick from the right across the box. The ball spun under Brian Carroll’s foot and was inches in front of substitute Sebastien Le Toux.

Philly had one more chance to take three points in the 89th minute when Sapong’s effort on the break was bodied away from goal by Dax McCarty and smothered by Robles.

The Union are in action again on July 20 against New England Revolution in US Open Cup play.

Philadelphia Union
Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Ken Tribbett, Richie Marquez, Fabinho; Brian Carroll, Tranquillo Barnetta (Creavalle 90+3′), Roland Alberg (Herbers 64′); Chris Pontius (Le Toux 82′), Ilsinho; CJ Sapong
Unused substitutes: John McCarthy, Ray Gaddis, Leo Fernandes, Joshua Yaro

New York Red Bulls
Luis Robles, Sal Zizzo (Duvall 67′), Damien Perrinelle, Aurelien Collin, Connor Lade; Dax McCarty, Felipe, Sacha Kljestan; Alex Muyl (Veron 80′), Mike Grella; Bradley Wright-Phillips (Ronald Zubar 83′)
Unused substitutes: Kyle Reynish, Justin Bilyeu, Derrick Etienne, Sean Davis

Scoring summary
NYRB: Kljestan (Wright-Phillips) — 27′
NYRB: Kljestan — 44′
PHI: Sapong (penalty) — 67′
PHI: Pontius (Herbers) — 68′

Disciplinary summary
PHI: Carroll (unsporting behavior) — 36′
PHI: Ilsinho (unsporting behavior) — 43′
NYRB: Zizzo (unsporting behavior) — 66′
PHI: Ilsinho (violent conduct) — 72′
NYRB: Lade (unsporting behavior) — 73′

Philadelphia Union NY Red Bulls
16 Shots 8
8 Shots on Target 4
 5 Shots off Target 2
3 Blocked Shots 2
 7 Corner Kicks 4
 20 Crosses 17
 8 Offsides 1
10 Fouls 18
 2 Yellow Cards 2
 1 Red Cards 0
 292 Total Passes 398
 68% Passing Accuracy 74%
 43.2% Possession 56.8%
 49 Duels Won 50
 49.5% Duels Won % 50.5%
 7 Tackles Won 10
2 Saves 6



  1. el Pachyderm says:

    There are those games you slam shut like a book with an unexpected turn, to be overtaken by your senses and imagination, by the antiquated smell of paper and glue, the majesty of organization that is the Dewey Decimal System– allow feelings to settle, stir or savor depending on the POV or needs of the reader. Strange how many times I did that as a child while reading, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
    For the record, even I will argue the second yellow on Ilsinho was an officiating travesty.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I don’t think it was a second yellow but instead a straight red.

    • It was a straight red for an (fairly obvious) elbow to the face.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        If you look at the game recap it was a second yellow shown as a straight red, either way its parsing hairs— who cares.
        The call was light. NYRB player was draped all over him and Ilsinho was clearly fighting for his right to his space and the ball.
        Foul yes. Card (violent conduct)—- no way.
        And that’s all I have to say about the officiating in Chester, PA.

      • Game recap doesn’t really mean anything tbh. It was shown as a straight red, so generally that’s gonna hold as a straight red.

      • I was at the game. It was called as a yellow at the game, it will be listed as a second yellow.

      • Section 114 (Formerly) says:

        Yeah, because a PA announcer never ever gets something wrong.
        To be fair, he was probably trying to make sense of something that was completely nonsensical.

      • Hate arguing on the interwebs, but I was there, and there was no yellow shown. Ref pulled out the read right away. The RB player got the red after Ilsinho was off the field.

      • Broseidon says:

        you call that an elbow to the face? Have your ever actually taken an elbow to face? not even close. that was an arm swing that a midget walked into and then put on his acting shoes.

    • Matthew De George ‏@sportsdoctormd 11h11 hours ago
      Per referee Alan Kelly, Ilsinho was give a straight red for “violent conduct – illegal use of arm to face/head”

    • Man I wrote up this snazzy piece about a team resembling a fictional character and all you guys want to do is discuss the card… thereby making my argument I’ve been making for two years about – who gives a shit about the officials. .
      Yes they suck, get over it- in the end the great curve evens out towards justice as Dr. Martin Luther King espoused- I never should have even broached it.
      Damn people.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Ridiculous for the linesman to get the offsides wrong, Grella to get nothing, and Ilsinho to get straight red. We need consistent officiating.
    I think the red in Red Bull is because they are communist. I noticed that the away supporters section turned their backs to the field when the color guard brought out the flag.
    Hoping my trip to Boston Wednesday is worth it.

  3. Old Soccer Coach says:

    two observations.
    REdbulls midfield was moving the ball in the first half noticeably more quickly than the Union in the center of the midfield.
    Fabian Herbers at #10 was a revelatiion

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Cause Alberg kept getting caught upfield IMO.. too much room.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        IMO, their feet were just quicker. And their pace, I.e., foot speed, was just faster..
        Herbers changes that when he comes on.

    • John Ling says:

      I don’t think Herbers was at the 10, to be honest. I think they switched to a 4-4-2 when Herbers came on.

      • +1 I thought that same.

      • It looked to me likw Herbers was playing behind CJ when he first came on. Could be called a #10 or a 4-4-1-1, just semantics really. After the red card it looked like he came out to the right side.

      • John Ling says:

        Agreed he slid to the right after the red.
        Also agree it’s mostly semantics about what the formation was; just to me he seemed more “forward” and less “center mid” prior to the red, is all.

      • Subtle difference for sure, though I agree that he did play as more of a withdrawn striker with the intent of running off of Sapong (call it 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2). Alberg was often found in a flat line across the top with Pontius, Sapong, and Ilsinsho, and needed to check back a bit to help out a MF that was getting overrun for much of the first half. Interesting first sub from Curtin, and it paid off.

  4. Should have been a W. Two defensive mistakes: Tribbett’s mistake and a shitty wall. I was right behind the goal and the wall looked like a sieve. What impressed me was how they played a man down. Had an interesting conversation with Earnie before the game. Will post some comments about it on bigsoccer.com

  5. It is crazy how this team can turn it around! The official was crap! At least he did call the ok! Ilsinho delivered a nice elbow! I’m ok with playing with some edge! But he needs to be smarter about it.glad they got a result! And nice to go by the SOBs

  6. When Ilsinho went off the Union were much more dangerous. He slows the attacks up the right bc he loves to dribble and only tries to play centrally instead of pushing the ball out wide to Rosenberry. He’s also slow. One trick pony, the one trick being fancy dribbling. It’s a blessing in disguise that he’ll have to sit against Montreal.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Oh boy, because just what this team needs is another player deferring any sense of imagination by shuttling the ball out wide and passing off responsibility for the cross- you know, the modus operandi.
      If all you see is his ‘fancy dribbling and foot speed’—- too bad.
      I see a technical player with ideas and a sense to try and break teams down with sharp crisp short passing and movement or penetrating the defense on the ball and bringing discord…. but what do I know… we all have our limitations.

      • Agreed. Ilsinho is not a problem at all. Union got better after he went off because of pure adrenaline and effort. Plus Red Bull clearly has no idea how to play with a lead – see tonight and the Open Cup game a couple weeks ago

      • He’s another tool in the tool box, and an extremely important one when teams bunker against the union. Against a high press from the Red Bull, which required balls in behind to break the press of course Ilsinho didn’t look as dangerous as in past games. However, he still remains a vital part of the offense.

      • John Ling says:

        I agree Ilsinho wasn’t directly the problem – except that he looked gassed and maybe should’ve been subbed off. Curtin, of course, has no way of knowing the ref is going to absolutely lose his mind and give him a straight red; but I thought getting Ilsinho off just because he was gassed would’ve been a good move. (For example, toward the end, he looked much more like a forward than a wing – he wasn’t checking back defensively, etc.)

    • Man you’re clueless…….

      • May be clueless but I watch the games, Jason. You should consider doing the same… You’ll see. Attacks up the right side were tame prior to Ilsinho getting sub’ed off. All the dangerous attacks were up the left.

      • I meant prior to Ilsinho getting sent off…

      • Darth Harvey says:

        You mean all of those trademark Fabinho crosses from the left to no one? Fabs has been good this year, but we got the “hoof this cross into the box regardless of positioning” from Fabinho last night.

        The left was dangerous because Pontius was a playing like a man possessed. A trend I hope to see continue.

        There have been plenty of games this year where CP’s & Ilsinho’s impacts were reversed. Depends on the opponent’s defensive style.

        You’d know if you, ya know, watch the game

    • Jim Presti says:

      Same mind set from the Le Toux fan club. Ilsinho breaks down defenses through technical passing and on the dribble in tight spots. Please reference the first half of this match: Team needs more creativity and less hustle.

      • pragmatist says:

        A little overreach there…the team always needs more hustle. It just needs to be “hustle with purpose.”

  7. Whatever Curtin’s halftime speech was should have been his pregame speech.

    • Buccistick says:

      And whatever Jesse Marsch’s game plan, other teams of lesser skill will eagerly copy and attempt to stick to the U for a full 90.
      “… game plan” — and gamesmanship: Marsch looked like the Red Bull employee most invested in making an imapct on the match tonight. The man reached out onto the field for the ball … with his hands … twice. Naughty, naughty Jesse!

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Yes, never saw a MLS coach ever do that. He looked like a man desperate for a result here.

      • Did anyone else see him boot the recycling bin next to the NY bench after the 2nd goal? He immediately went and picked it up, like his mother had scolded him. He’s such a child!

      • I liked how he started the game with no jacket on but about 5-10 minutes in he put his suit jacket on. He couldn’t be out dressed by Curtin or a Red Bull advisor said hey Jesse, it’s a nationally televised game, put your jacket on.

      • OK, but, in THAT heat? I’ll support almost anyone who wants to take his coat off

    • I agree, but his halftime speech must have been great, just like his Open Cup halftime speech. I just wish he had done it before the game had begun. Also the officiating from the Riverend seemed suspect to say the least. Stats for the second half, if the game totals are correct, Union 15 shots 7 on goal Pink Stinks 4 none on goal

    • Jim Presti says:

      Curtin left the locker room with 5 minutes to spare before the start of the half. Whatever was said was probably handled within the team by the Captain(s).

    • Exclusive video of Curtin’s halftime speech:

  8. Ref was a joke. Flat out joke. Great come back by the team and damn near took all 3 points. A shame the Union only showed up for like 30 mins or so. Red Bulls were moving the ball and pressing exactly like the Union have done to teams all year… they definitely owned the first half. Union were out of sorts but stayed true. Happy they earned the point. Stadium energy was off the charts too. Awesome they got the SOBs poles for the tifos.

    • Oh and Tribbett needs a break… he was no so good tonight. Yaro needs to play.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Hoping someone ill ask why Tribbett.
        Red Bulls targeted him all first half. I would as well.

    • How on earth was Grella not carded for suplexing Tranquillo? I thought a Red could have been justified. That he didn’t even get a yellow is crazy. MLS needs a 5th official watching the broadcast apparently.
      And why is it Marsch who’s always crying about officiating?

  9. Barnetta is Swiss, not Swedish

  10. Zizouisgod says:

    What a weird match again between these teams.

    Never seen a team which is up a man bring off a striker for a 3rd center back. The Ilsinho/Lade and Barnetta/Gella incidents delivered weird interpretations by Alan Kelly. Violent conduct after getting fouling should be refereed more consistently.

    Glad that we got a point out of this after that first half.

  11. Andy Muenz says:

    The team really needs to learn to adapt to pressure quicker. They should have realized that the defenders were getting pressured every time they touched the ball and looked to get rid of it quicker. Similarly with the midfield. They need to know how many opponents are close by. I know Ilsinho can take on 1 opponent easily but he was trying to take on 2 or 3 and kept losing it. If you have 3 defenders on you, someone else must be open. Find them.
    Also, that high pressure is probably what hurt the Cows in the end. By the middle of the second half, they just didn’t have anything left in the gas tank and the Union took over. That may be why other teams don’t adapt the same strategy.

    • That’s what I’ve been thinking about these Red Bull performances: the back line is not fit enough to play Marsch’s scheme for 90. By minute 60, they’re gassed.

    • Same thing happened in the Open Cup game too. I will say I don’t think you give NY enough credit for their press. When they are fresh early on they really do a great job of it, probably the best in the league, but they can’t sustain it and fortunately we can sustain ours and have the talent to make them pay for being tired now.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I give them all the credit in the world for the job they’ve done in the first half twice at Talen this season. I don’t give them credit for a strategy that allows the opponents to dominate them in the second half when they are too exhausted to play.

    • Jim Presti says:

      The first half was a perfect demonstration of what not to do when compressed to the sidelines by an opposing defense – especially when your only Forward is battling two large CBs and losing those ariel duels. Can’t boot the ball over the top every damn time. The Union need to move the ball side-to-side with more pace. Plain and simple.

  12. Ugliest first half of the season. I couldn’t look at the product on the pitch for the last 10-15 minutes of it. Second half was exciting and the atmosphere electric, but I’m wholeheartedly taking this as 2 points dropped. Props to Curtin for righting the ship but this was a winnable game against a known opponent.
    Edit: Top 5 worst officiating I’ve ever seen live. Truly despicable display.

  13. el Pachyderm says:

    What a warm feeling this morning after listening to Gargauno talking with Jim Curtin- who called in to BS outside the purview of his media department. Could lead to a Meat Locker appointment.
    Well done Well done ~ Morning Show and coach.

    • Ugh, Philly sports radio is a disappointment. Their lack of dedication to the most popular sport in the world is stupidly nearsighted.

      • Yes and the fans of Union are just as culpable.
        Do you call in to talk with Anthony? I don’t– which is why I do not give the radio talk shows a hard time… they follow the demand. It is up to you and me to change the storyline my friend.
        It is clear Gargauno is trying to make space for the team, this is the third time I’ve heard him discussing Union in the last few months.
        A step in the right direction… beyond that, Philly Sports Radio is a —- psychotropic tardive dyskinesia… of which there is no cure.

      • +1
        Exept for that last part, which I am still waiting for Google to translate…(Although I’m pretty sure I agree with that too)

      • maybe wean them off the antipsychotics?

  14. Caught offside 8 times. That has to be a season high.
    I get trying to get in behind a team playing a high line but they have to be better. Alberg was caught at least 2-3 times that I remember which points to one of the problems I saw in the first half – he was playing way to high up the field again.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      A season high? It seemed like more than the combined total of the previous 19 games combined!

      • According to MDG on twitter, the Union were caught offside 1.2 times per game prior to last night’s game.

  15. ” Allan Kelly intervened and sternly decided that the play did not deserve a caution.” Well written, sir. That throw down on Barnetta was a well done jujitsu move that would draw a point in that arena, but doesn’t belong on a soccer field. And, Kelly got no better. He routinely took advantage from one side or the other (although as a Union supporter, it looked worse for the boys in blue), and was much too involved in the match after that. I don’t understand why Ilsinho drew that ejection at all; we have known all year that hands (or arms) to the head and face are a point of emphasis this year. On a yellow, why tempt fate? I thought that the high fullback line was well done, but frankly don’t think that a halftime discussion should be required to keep the guys paying attention to it and stay onside.8 to 1 on those calls felt more like 20 to 1 watching it. Still and all, I am glad that they pulled it back even. Two more chances with these guys; get six points from them.

  16. Was Ilsinho being mugged? Yes.
    Did he deserve a red car (straight or otherwise)? Absolutely.
    I knew it was coming as soon as it happened (right in front of me). Ilsinho has his opponent expertly frustrated and over reacting, the RB player was about to get a card…And then Ilsinho throws a wild elbow. That is going to be a red card EVERY time.
    It was stupidity plain and simple. You’ve got your opponent losing control, and then YOU lose it even more. No excuse. Need to be WAY smarter than that.

    • Your definition of “wild elbow” is a lot different than mine.

      • Even better, my view of replay is Ilsinho tapped him on the left cheek, but he cupped his left eye & cheek as he dove. Unless my eyes deceive me, it’s an embarrassment – especially after Grella’s throw down that gave The Calm an actual knock.

      • * right eye & cheek *

      • Indeed. It looked to me (also right in front of me) to be more of a “boxing out” move than a wild elbow. Credit to Lade (I believe that’s who it was), for drawing the card, frankly.
        Now, despite it looking like Ilsinho was trying to box out, it did look like his arm hit Lade’s face. Lade did a fantastic job selling it. And, to be honest, I’m not even sure Ilsinho *or* Lade heard the initial whistle for the foul Kelly was going to call on Lade. Point of the matter is, Ilsinho’s arm did hit the Energy Drink player in the face. It didn’t look intentional, but it’s not a foul that intent matters for as far as I know.

      • Dark Arts. Agreed. It’s up to official to adjudicate properly. That’s why its a foul but not a card.
        I love that Lade gets the call. What I don’t like is the official misinterprets what was happening.

      • John Ling says:

        And the linesman is right there on that play and *has* to say something to Kelly about the acting job Lade pulled off.

      • In the CSN highlights, they show Curtin arguing the red card by holding his hand about nipple height and saying to the fourth official, “It’s because he’s this high.” Awesome.

    • Agreed. But the blame is on Allan Kelly. When a ref lets go a DDT move in first 20, the tone is set. Who expects a top quality soccer match to break out? Yet the Union played a great half and had Marsch so worried, he played a 5 man line to hold a daw! This is your product on display in a marquee match for a national audience. Shame on you, Don Garber.

      • +1. I was trading texts with my dad (a DC United fan, so basically neutral for this game) during the game. Right after the DDT, he said that Kelly just lost the match. But that Ravishing Rick Rude would have been proud.

    • You MUST remember the ref doesn’t have the advantage of a replay. He sees it as it happens and usually on a dead run. It’s a split second.
      I get what you’re saying about different interpretations of “wild”, “boxing out”, cheek touching etc. But that’s after you’ve Zaprudered the tapes.
      Sitting 6 rows away watching it in real time, that guy is gonna get a card without any doubt. The point is, you can’t put yourself in positions for that “misinterpretation” to happen. It was stupid, just go the heck down!

  17. You can not expect this league to get any respect nationally or esp internationally with the collective group of HORRIFICALLY INCONSISTANT, “LEGALLY BLIND” Garber trolls he calls the MLS OFFICIALS. Not a single game officiated this year could be used as a successful part of a resume to get any ref or linesman a job opportunity in ANY top league thru-out the world. I picture the English pubs using “highlights” of our MLS officiating as a comedy relief show with most patrons saying ” this shit is made up right, this isn’t really how/what they call officiating a match in the US MLS?!? In all fairness the U didn’t deserve or earn not a single call with the way they played the first 55/60 minutes!!! Although hats off attaboys to the team and coach to push thru and secure a well earned point… UNION UNION UNION!!

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