Union match reports

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

Photo by 215pix

The Philadelphia Union made the quick trip up the turnpike to Harrison, NJ on Sunday for an afternoon match against the rival New York Red Bulls. Red Bull Arena, site of some of the greatest and worst moments in Union franchise history, sun-drenched and half full, was the perfect setting to showcase the talents of Union All-Star goalie, Andre Blake.

And Blake certainly performed.

Richie Marquez found his way back into the starting lineup, as did rookie Marcus Epps, whose inclusion into the XI moved Chris Pontius back to the left wing. With Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan enjoying the weather from the bench, the Red Bulls started five defenders, a tactic they and several other sides have used with real success to neutralize the Union’s limited attacking options.

“It was the New York Red Bulls versus Andre Blake” — Taylor Twellman

The opening minutes were a bit disjointed, with both sides threatening more in the spirit of a goal than in genuine pursuit of one. A giveaway by Keegan Rosenberry led to a 7th minute corner, however, that was cleared only as far as Connor Lade. Lade’s low, driven shot skipped just wide of the Union goal.

Rosenberry was again the focus of a Red Bull foray in the 12th minute. After Derrick Etienne got on the end of a clever ball sent through the channel, he cut inside of the retreating Union right back and skimmed his shot into Blake’s waiting hands.

Ilsinho’s control and vision, lacking in much of the other moments of the first half, found Chris Pontius with a head of steam in the 20th. The 2016 MLS Comeback Player of the Year drove to his left, only to be brought down by Michael Murillo just outside the box. The ensuing set piece was fruitless, and the extremely dangerous counterattack directly from it was snuffed out by a sliding Andre Blake a full twenty yards from his goal.

Blake turned away two consecutive powerful drives in the 26th minute, as Union defenders (and midfielders) continued to get caught in triangles or in allowing too much space to all manner of Red Bull attackers. The second save was a truly acrobatic one and on the corner that followed, the Union keeper collided with left back, Fabinho, and went down holding his neck. He stayed in the match after being looked at by the training staff.

The 32nd minute saw a perfectly weighted throughball by Muhamed Keita find a streaking Veron. His shot was parried by Blake, though, and the clearance, calmly gathered and then needlessly given away by an otherwise good Jack Elliott, sailed over the bar.

The 36th and 37th minutes saw shouts for penalties from both teams, but neither C.J. Sapong nor Veron found their respective prayers answered, and rightly so in both cases.

Some clever passing by the Union was undone by a Rosenberry turnover in the 40th minute, and the Red Bulls counterattack, even more clever in its build up, forced another diving save from Blake on Veron. A minute and a half later, Derrick Etienne danced his way past two Union defenders to the end line, but Blake was stout again and gathered the shot/cross/shoss. The Union were quick to move the ball upfield in response, where was Maruc Epps’s turn to dance. His was an assertive effort, but it succeeded only in finding the keeper.

Chris Pontius earned his statistic in the 45th minute. After C.J. Sapong forced a turnover, the forward found Pontius who drove toward the box, pirouetted, and sent his spinning shot sliding harmlessly at Robles.

The Union inverted their midfield triangle to start the second half after an opening frame described by Head Coach Jim Curtin at halftime as, “the worst half of soccer we’ve ever played without conceding a goal.” The second half started brightly, but half-hearted runs and lazy or nonsensical passes still dominated the final third.

A 59th minute give and go by the Union — the result of a fortunate deflection in midfield and some vintage Sapong hustle — was just an inch away from giving Pontius a look in the box. Veron took the quick counter down the left side but was stonewalled by Blake once again.

The 63rd minute saw Pontius win a flick-on from Sapong on the left wing. He took the ball to the endline and directly into Robles’s hands. As Taylor Twellman said: “It’s been that kind of year, in a nutshell, for Chris Pontius.” A minute later, Epps’ cross to Sapong was spot on but the forward’s half volley between center backs went high and wide.

Veron’s frustrating afternoon continued as he tried to catch a deflected shot at the top of the box with an audacious bicycle kick. He instead caught Fabinho’s face, earning the forward a yellow card. A minute later, the Brazilian dragged the Argentine down on the right flank and earned himself a yellow. The scramble that followed the ensuing free kick almost led to a Red Bull chance, though Kljestan’s touch let him down after going through on goal.

The Union began to drag and, in the 74th minute, a giveaway seventy yards from goal turned immediately into a one on one with Veron and Elliott. The rookie did a wonderful job keeping stride and forcing the striker wide, with neither player having teammates around for help.

Pontius then continued his frustrating 2017 when, instead of a shot, he tried a chipped attempt from an impossible angle in the 75th minute after a sly move to slip through traffic.  Moments later, Fabinho was nearly sent off for a reckless challenge outside the box on Bradley Wright-Phillips. The free kick that followed forced a monstrous double save and clearance from the Union, earning Blake more deserved plaudits for his efforts.

Rosenberry’s tireless afternoon of work earned a corner out of a double team in the 90th minute, and though Sapong won the ball in crowd of blue shirts, he put his header wide of the near post. Wright-Phillips was a step behind a through ball from Felipe in the dying minutes, too, and the Union salted away their rivals 0-0.


Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Fabinho (Ray Gaddis 88′), Richie Marquez, Jack Elliott, Keegan Rosenberry, Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Chris Pontius, Ilsinho (Warren Creavalle 45′), Marcus Epps (Jay Simpson 65′), C.J. Sapong
Unused substitutes: John McCarthy, Josh Yaro, Roland Alberg, Charlie Davies

New York Red Bulls

Luis Robles, Connor Lade, Michael Murillo, Damien Perrinelle, Sal Zizzo, Alex Muyl, Felipe, Derrick Etienne Jr. (Bradley Wright-Phillips 66′), Muhamed Keita (Sacha Kljestan 58′), Sean Davis, Gonzalo Veron (Tyler Adams 75′)
Unused substitutes: Ryan Meara, Aaron Long, Dilly Duka, Fidel Escobar

Scoring Summary

Disciplinary Summary
35′ — Michael Murillo
69′ — Gonzalo Veron
70′ — Fabinho

New York Red Bulls Philadelphia Union
 16 Shots 6
 8 Shots on Target 2
 6 Shots off Target 4
 2 Blocked Shots 0
 11 Corner Kicks 2
 20 Crosses 10
 1 Offsides 2
 9 Fouls 12
 2 Yellow Cards 1
 0 Red Cards 0
 504 Total Passes 318
 81% Passing Accuracy 72%
 61.6% Possession 38.4%
 48 Duels Won 48
 50% Duels Won % 50%
 11 Tackles Won 19
 2 Saves 8
 12 Clearances 31


  1. …not one young player on the field… buried in the deep basement and an almost totally irrelevant game. And no Andre Blake is not a young player. Adam Najem is barely a young player.
    Someone remind me of the 17 year old kid’s name for NYCFC who debuted last night… coming on for arguably the greatest deep lying playmaker of this generation.
    this is a big deal, is it not?

    • Well, it’s pretty clear Curtin can’t coach. He’s even worse at bringing along young players.


      Maybe he’ll figure it out in his 5th season.

    • and no Marcus Epps is not young.

    • Hey Pachy – Perhaps the organization decided that Najem and Jones were better served playing at Steel where things are more positive right now and they didn’t want them to become jaded playing with a bunch of vets who won’t be here next year. FWIW – Steel is pushing for the playoffs so they’re playing in meaningful matches.

      Not saying that’s the right mentality for the club to take, but it does appear that’s how they’re viewing things.

      • Definitely possible, but I think it’s too charitable to this organization. They have a poor track record of bringing young kids along.

      • Oh, you’re definitely right there. They have a terrible track record on this front.

  2. Glad you highlighted Twellman’s quote because the other 10 Union players were not difference makers

  3. Just padding the Andre Blake highlight reel for when that “FS/OBO” sign goes up in the Union front office window.

  4. Is there really anything else that needs to be said? This club is woefully lost. Ownership, front office, coach, players. Total lack of direction so of course there’s not real commitment. Worse still, there’s no real consequences for it, other than fans deciding not to re-up. Which of course gives ownership ANOTHER excuse for underperforming….

    Relegation is the BEST thing that could happen to a club like this, and they’re not even capable of doing that…

    I just pray no one gets injured before this waste of time that is a season is finally and mercifully over.

  5. I have literally been to or watched in full, whether live on DVR delay, every single Union game it has had in existence. I mean that too. I’m sure there are people on this site that have done the same.
    I didn’t watch the first half today. Didn’t DVR it. Didn’t care. I did watch the 2nd half on my iPad as I had the Eagles on the TV.
    I’m genuinely sad at the state of this team. They were out classed today and if not for Blake would’ve been embarrassed. So much has to change this offseason. I re-upped my tickets but mainly because I enjoy tailgating and games with my dad, and I could pay over 12 months and that was affordable for me. But that will be my last season going to games and financially supporting this team if they aren’t significant changes and improvements come next season.
    Fucking get it together Union. WSSM

  6. Interesting personnel shift after halftime, Medunjanin went to the #10 with Creavalle at the #6.
    The interesting thing now is to try to decipher their off-season moves from the patterns of recent player usage.

    • That is kind of like interpreting spaghetti stuck to a wall after a plate has been thrown at it.

    • They will sign a 17 year old to a Homegrown contract.

      They will ignore LB, CAM and #9

      Rinse, lather, repeat.

      Remember, the Children are Our Future. Teach Them Well and Let Them Lead the Way. But never, ever, play them in an actual MLS match.

      (Impales self on a corner flag after the Whitney Houston lyric)

  7. Can we please start the off season with a NEW COACH!!!
    This all begins at the top. We need a coach who is NOT learning on the job.
    I like Jim Curtin but it is clear he doesn’t learn or change, he can’t lead or coach. He should have been replace on July 1st. I am a founding member and will not be renewing my tickets until a new coach is announced.

    I was at the game in Minnesota and I want to have that same excitement for the future that their fans have. I have had it until this season but now I just don’t care… please do something

    • Yes. The first priority for this club is to look for a coach ….. wait for it…..with an impressive or even decent record who is not affiliated with the union coaching staff.

  8. Let me see if I remember…oh, yeah…”vision, plan, process”. Hey JC, you forgot bullshit, and that’s what I’m calling!!!! EVERY team has “vision, plan, process.” The difference is WE SUCK, and it’s all because of a tight wad front office and a “coach” (using the term loosely) who is just, plain inept at best. All they talk about is how proud they are of our youth program. Who really gives a damn?!?! I’m not taking time out to watch them. Homegrown or not, I just want an MLS team that can win more than lose, and at least look good even if we do get beat by a better team on the night. I’m trying my hardest to enjoy the home team, but JC just wants to keep giving out participation prizes! Nothing on the field! Nothing! The only thing I have left of this failure, is a jersey without the word “bimbo” on it! And that now sits in a bottom drawer while I wait for my Atlanta jersey to show up in the mail. Fire Curtin, and I may start watching again. Don’t fire Curtin, and it’s ….. curtains. Done.

  9. Once again this team decides to play kick and run ball and play from the defense to the offense, bypassing the midfield. Hey guys, PLAY TO FEET! Possess the ball first before going to goal. This team does not know how to be patient and to allow offensive ideas create themselves, to create opportunities instead of forcing the ball. I can do without Harris and Bedoya on the field at this point. Bring in Creavalle, Jones and Yaro.

  10. Maybe the Union can keep Jimmy boy on as coach but in the offseason hire an offensive coordinator to show these guys how to play offense when we finally possess the ball.

  11. The MLS in general, feels like I’m watching a high school game. More so when the Union are on the field.

    I agree with most of the comments above. The funny thing is that if you removed the names and left the rest of the comments, they could be posted under almost ANY Philadelphia team. Not sure when it happened, but all Philly sports comes down to the owners only caring about making money. Other sports at least have to put a team together that will compete and fake it. But with soccer, there will always be a mostly full stadium due to soccer moms and dads, who are casual fans at best, bringing the kiddos to the game. As long as the money flows, nothing will change. Hopefully the experiment has come to an end and the team can be sold to a group or individual that actually gives a damn.

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