Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By JOEL HOOVER
CHESTER, Pa.– After more than two years and five disappointing results, the Philadelphia Union have finally reminded their fans what it feels like to beat the New York Red Bulls.
A brace from Conor Casey, coupled with a controversial red card for New York’s Lloyd Sam, helped guide the Union to a 3-0 win over the Red Bulls in front of 19,013 at PPL Park. The victory was Philadelphia’s first over the Red Bulls since a 1-0 victory on April 9th, 2011.
On a night when the normally reliable Jack McInerney struggled to put away the numerous chances that came his way, it was Casey who picked up the scoring slack, scoring goals in each half to drive the Union to their second straight 3-0 victory.
Antoine Hoppenot rounded off the scoreline with a late finish from the substitute’s bench in the 88th minute.
Handed consecutive league starts for the first time since early May, Casey headed home the opener for the Union in the seventh minute on a cross served in from Sheanon Williams, then doubled his tally in the 64th minute with a finish off a rebound from a Keon Daniel shot.
Hoppenot added a third from a low cross from Sebastien Le Toux in the 88th minute to give the Union their most lopsided win over the Red Bulls in team history.
“We needed this kind of win,” manager John Hackworth said in postgame. “We needed to beat someone above us in the table and to really make sure we played a complete game. I’m not saying it was a complete game, but the performance and what we did for 90-plus minutes was really important for this club.”
The two goals give Casey three in his last two league matches, a deserved return after a strong game playing at the target and giving Markus Holgersson and Heath Pearce a difficult time in defense.
“We had a lot of chances throughout the game,” Casey said afterward. “As long as we’re creating chances, that says a lot about the direction the team is going.”
Such chances were created and utilized despite an off game from the league’s joint-top scorer Jack McInerney, who had several golden opportunities saved by New York goalkeeper Luis Robles.
New York’s midfield and defense struggled from the onset, clearly missing suspended midfielder Juninho and defender Jamison Olave, as well as injured midfielder Tim Cahill. Without their help, the Red Bulls lacked cohesion in both defense and attack, misplacing several passes and struggling to space themselves properly.
Such absences were further compounded in the 28th minute, when midfielder Lloyd Sam was issued a red card after appearing to step on sliding Union midfielder Danny Cruz. The referee issue him a straight red, while an injured Cruz would eventually need to be subbed off just a few minutes later.
“I thought it was a hard challenge, where two guys were definitely laying their bodies on the line,” Hackworth said of the card. “I have not seen it to know what it looks like, but it does change a game.”
In spite of some initial New York pressure following the red, the Union took control of possession and the chances in the second half, forcing Thierry Henry to drop deeper and deeper into the midfield and leaving the visitors’ attack blunted.
“It took us a little bit to get used to the new formation they were playing,” said Union defender Sheanon Williams. “I thought we could have done a little better once we went up a man, but we came in at halftime, made some adjustments, and I thought we did much better.”
After Casey’s second took the air out of the game, the Union continued to press for more goals, which substitute Antoine Hoppenot delivered in the 88th minute. The young forward steered home a finish off Sebastien Le Toux’s cross to pick up just his second league goal of the season, both coming from the substitute’s bench.
“It’s all about confidence,” Hoppenot said. “I got a few goals in the past few friendlies and that really helped me gain some confidence in front of goal. It paid off today.”
The Union now look ahead to their upcoming home fixture with West contenders FC Dallas this Saturday at PPL Park, while New York will host Houston this coming Sunday. Both teams also have an eye on their final fixture against each other, which comes August 17 at Red Bull Arena.
“A goal of this year was trying to make sure we are competitive in these little series’, and now it’s even (with New York),” Hackworth said. “I think the last game of the season against them is going to be a huge one.”