Union match reports

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

Photo: Rob Simmons

Philadelphia Union travelled to Red Bull Arena Saturday night in search of their third consecutive victory. Their opponents, New York Red Bulls, were on the hunt for their fifth straight win.

Both streaks were snapped, however, as neither side could produce the winning goal in a 0-0 draw.

Union head coach Jim Curtin made no changes to the starting XI that thrashed Real Salt Lake 4-1 last week. For Union captain Alejandro Bedoya, it marked his 50th career MLS start.

Despite injury scares to left back Kemar Lawrence and midfielder Tyler Adams, Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch was also able to feature the same lineup which secured an impressive 3-1 victory on the road in Atlanta.

The Red Bulls were the more creative of the two teams during the early portion of the match.

Following a poor touch from center back Mark McKenzie in the 13th minute, Bradley Wright-Phillips collected the loose ball and cheekily left it for No. 10 Alejandro Romero Gammarra (better known as Kaku.) While the Argentine’s initial effort was blocked by center back Auston Trusty, his second found the outstretched arms of a diving Andre Blake.

Philadelphia struggled to create opportunities in the opening 20 minutes, but they nearly opened the scoring in the 18th minute. Midfielder Haris Medunjanin played a long ball in behind New York’s defense to winger Marcus Epps. He cut back in the box and curled a ball toward the net that beat goalkeeper Ryan Meara, but did not beat center back Tim Parker. The former Vancouver Whitecaps defender headed the ball off the line to keep the game scoreless.

It was again Epps who threatened to open the scoring in the 29th minute after Borek Dockal played a wonderful curled ball through New York’s back line. Alone with the keeper, Epps’ effort couldn’t beat the onrushing Meara.

Coming into the game Wright-Phillips had recorded a goal or assist in six consecutive games, the longest such streak in MLS this season. It appeared the Englishman extended it to seven games in the 32nd minute after deflecting a cross into the net, but the linesman correctly ruled offsides.

For forward C.J. Sapong, it’s been a season of missed opportunities. He missed a big one shortly after halftime.

Winger Fafa Picault danced by Red Bull right back Michael Murillo and sent a cross into the box. Epps struck a one-time volley that was blocked by a sliding Lawrence.

Fortunately for the Union, the referee determined it was blocked by an errant arm and pointed to the spot. Meara guessed the wrong way on the resulting penalty kick, but Sapong went with style over substance on the attempt. The striker opened his body and trickled the ball over the endline — missing the net entirely.

The rivalry came alive shortly after, with jarring tackles from both teams. This style suited the Union better. The outcome felt like it would be a coin flip, with neither team able to wrest control from the other.

Each manager attempted to dictate the final result with attacking substitutions, including the standard trio of Ilsinho, David Accam, and Cory Burke from Curtin, but neither side could create meaningful opportunities.

Neither side could argue they deserved more or less than a point when the final whistle was blown.

For the Union, it’s a solid result that builds on their recent success. They return home on Wednesday for a midweek clash against Chicago Fire, where anything less than three points will be disappointing. Kickoff at Talen Energy Stadium is at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

Three points
  • Shutting down the best: Trusty and McKenzie are the real deal. Entering the match, Wright-Phillips led MLS in goals while Kaku led in assists. Both had recorded a goal or assist in four or more consecutive matches. Both were kept off the scoresheet.
  • The Battle of Midway: In the center of the pitch it was the Union’s veteran leaders against the Red Bulls’ homegrown talents. Neither could really dictate play, which goes a long way toward explaining the scoreless outcome.
  • Making a point: Not all points are the same. The Union went on the road and secured a very good point against a very good opponent.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty, Raymon Gaddis; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Fafa Picault (David Accam 70′), Borek Dockal, Marcus Epps (Ilsinho 64′); C.J. Sapong (Cory Burke 82′)
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Fabinho, Jack Elliott, Warren Creavalle

New York Red Bulls

Ryan Meara; Michael Murillo, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence; Sean Davis, Tyler Adams; Florian Valot (Carlos Rivas 83rd), Alejandro Romero Gamarra (Vincent Bezecourt 90′), Daniel Royer (Alex Muyl 73′); Bradley Wright-Phillips
Unused Subs: Marc Rzatkowski, Vincent Bezecourt, Evan Louro, Aurélien Collin, Connor Lade

Scoring summary
Disciplinary summary

PHI: Mark McKenzie – 27′ (unsporting behavior)
NYRB: Bradley Wright-Phillips – 64′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Fafa Picault – 69′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Haris Medunjanin – 79′ (unsporting behavior

New York Red Bulls Philadelphia Union
12 Shots 10
4 Shots on Target 3
5 Shots off Target 3
3 Blocked Shots 4
6 Corner Kicks 4
15 Crosses 10
2 Offsides 1
7 Fouls 13
1 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
461 Total Passes 430
80% Passing Accuracy 80%
52% Possession 48%
59 Duels Won 55
54.1% Duels Won % 45.9%
11 Tackles Won 16
2 Saves 4
12 Clearances 19


  1. I feel like the first half was shaky to put it nicely, but we came out in the second half and matched them and even had the better chances in the second half.

    – CJ Sapong needs to sit for a long time.
    – The chemistry between Bedoya, Ilson and Rosenberry on the right is magical.
    – After some nerves in the first half Trutsy and McKenzie really settled down in the second half.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    That felt like 2 points lost. No excuse for Sapong not putting the PK on net. Credit to the Cows for stopping Epps twice.
    That being said, the Union midfield need to play smarter. They take too many chances playing East-West and when they turn the ball over it becomes a dangerous situation. Fortunately McKenzie and Trusty are beasts and are still a year a way from their sophomore slumps.

  3. el pachyderm says:

    maybe, just maybe, “what if we are a good team.”

  4. Old Soccer Coach says:

    The heat took Red Bull’s out of their press after about half an hour.
    90 degrees the first time is a difficult obstacle.

  5. John O'Donnell Jr says:

    Red Bull arena and two nineteen year olds start and produce a clean sheet, Dockal had another strong game and Epps had some moments as well. I’ll take the point and let’s hope for three more on Wednesday.

    • Joel Pterasaur says:

      Yeah I agree. Two weeks ago this was an automatic loss, probably by a lot. We stood toe-to-toe with probably the best team in MLS and looked like we belonged. We played well and kept a clean sheet with two “rookie” CBs. The Union of old would have missed the penalty and then coughed up a goal in stoppage time on a corner. Some have said we should demand more… sure be pissed CJ missed, but one mistake away from a win ON THE ROAD… that’s progress. Even Messi misses penalties.

  6. I would say while there were a lot of mistakes, it did look like there was GOOD effort by the boys tonight.

    The one thing I did notice is that there seemed to be just SO many times where the ball would blocked, or “cleared” only to be set up IMMEDIATELY for some RB player. Part of the result tonight was RB not capitalizing like they had been most of the season so far. Still, good point for a match where I had clearly written off as a goal-difference bruiser.

  7. A point at RB Arena is a good result. Better than any one would reasonably expect. I’ll take it.

  8. Lazlo Hollyfeld says:

    No more penalty kicks for Sapong; how about Bořek Dočkal instead?

  9. OneManWolfpack says:

    2 points lost for sure. Other than CJ who someone said above and I totally agree with – needs to sit for a long time – I thought they were good. Sure a few moments of pressure but they were on the road against a solid squad. I’m getting close to thinking we might have something here if we could just get someone to freakin finish even a little more consistently than “basically never”.
    3 games in a row – 7 out of 9 points – 2 of those on the road. I will take that no matter the opponent.
    Please Curtin for the sake of everything there is in this world – start Burke on Wednesday.

  10. scottymac says:

    They played well.
    Sapong is a liability in the way this team now plays with speed on the wings.
    His touch is poor.
    His shooting percentage on frame has always been bad, especially beyond 6 yards.
    His vaunted “hold up play” merely holds down the attack if the defense can regain their shape. The players he’s holding it for are already upfield now.
    I’m the last guy to call for youth. Play Burke.

  11. In 10 minutes of play Burke showed every reason he should be starting. I’ve defended C.J. in the past, but when Burke shows he can give you so much more, you are hampering the team.

    • Burke showed he should be starting from the one game he played. Held up play, shedding defenders, attacking defenders, taking shots, and scoring. Exactly what you want from a forward.

      CJ is a liability at this point and falling into Markelle Fultz syndrome. Missing the whole goal on a penalty shot is not going to help.

  12. John Harris says:

    Good effort; poor result. True one may not have expected a point but just as inarguably the were two dropped points. CJ’s poor game was not limited to the blown PK. Question: are there consequences only for poor practice performance or does game performance count too? We shall see.

  13. This game was supposed to be a real test playing against #1 team in MLS power rankings. Well, we outplayed Pink Cows at their home and were unlucky not to walk away with 3 points.

    If we continue to play like in the last three games, we will make the playoffs.

    Young and athletic defense – very solid.
    Experienced midfield starting to dominate games and we finally have a #10.
    Dangerous and fast wings, need to start Burke and hopefully CJ will come out of the slump.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Unlucky is the keeper guessing which way to go on the PK and getting a hand on it. Missing the net completely is shooting yourself in the foot.

  14. Baby Steps….. If Epps scored and Sapong did not miss the penalty the Union would have turned the corner on their lack of success away and their psychological weakness at Red Bull Arena. Burke and Epps need to start and play until further notice. Sapong would be a beast to handle off the bench against a heat fatigued team in the summer heat. Philly now must win at home against the Fire to take the next baby step.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I agree that Burke should start Wednesday but would have no problem if Epps (and Fafa) get a rest given that they have 5 games in 13 days (including the open cup).

  15. OneManWolfpack says:

    Jim, why does Accam sit (correctly) when he’s clearly out of form… but CJ plays every game without question? Serious hypocrisy there. Just wanted this out there.

  16. WeAreSteel2K18 says:

    Burke and Epps need to be starting every week.

    I love how well Trusty and McKenzie are playing.

    Anyone know what happened to Ayuk? He hasn’t been playing for Steel. They tried him at RB for a few games and now he’s gone again.

  17. WeAreSteel2K18 says:

    Burke and Epps need to start every game!

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