By RYAN TOLMICH
After seven straight games at home without a win in MLS, the Philadelphia Union finally picked up three points at PPL Park.
The visiting New York Red Bulls were knocked off by the Union on Wednesday evening, with Conor Casey, Fred and Sebastian Le Toux all scoring goals for the home side to defeat the Red Bulls, 3-1. MLS goalscoring leader Bradley Wright-Phillips’ scored his team’s only goal in the defeat.
The Union didn’t take long to find the back of the net, as they opened up the scoring in the ninth minute via Casey. The veteran forward, whose goal was assisted by Andrew Wenger, received the ball in the center of the Red Bulls penalty box before taking a touch past young Red Bulls centerback Matt Miazga. Casey slotted home to give the hosts an early 1-0 lead, which stood until the half.
“I don’t know what this trend is,” Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “It’s a trend that we have to find a solution to, giving up early goals, but the worst part about the early goals that we’re giving up is that it’s just our own mistakes.”
The Union doubled their advantage just six minutes after halftime through early-substitute Fred, who entered in the 38th minute due to a Cristian Maidana injury. Coincidently, the 34-year-old Brazilian hadn’t scored in MLS play since a 2010 encounter with the Red Bulls at PPL Park.
Union fullback Sheanon Williams made a run down the right side and hit a cross into the path of an onrushing Casey. The 32-year-old Casey got the slightest touch onto the pass, sending the ball into the path of the streaking Fred, who smashed his shot past Robles.
“It feels so blessed today,” Fred said. “I didn’t expect Chaco to get injured. I feel so sorry for him. Everyone has to be ready to play.”
The Red Bulls pulled one back nine minutes later by way of the now typical connection between Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry. Red Bulls defender found the surging Henry in the box with a long ball from the Red Bulls’ half.
The 36-year-old took a touch and put the ball into the path of Wright-Phillips, who was left unmarked near the top of the Union box. The Union defense failed to close down and Wright-Phillips pushed the scoreline to 2-1 with his 16th goal of the season.
It appeared Wright-Phillips had tied things at two just six minutes later only for the 29-year-old forward to be called offside by the linesman. Wright-Phillips got onto the end of a Tim Cahill through ball, but the forward’s shoulder was ruled slightly offside.
The Union took advantage in the 69th minute, as Red Bulls midfielder Eric Alexander conceded a penalty that was converted by Le Toux. Robles got a hand to Le Toux’s penalty, but the shot powered past the Red Bulls goalkeeper, putting the game out of reach for the visiting Red Bulls.
“We created a lot of chances,” said Red Bulls midfielder Lloyd Sam. “It was a game that we could have took more from. The timing of giving away the stupid penalty, when we had them on the ropes, is what changed the game.”
After the game, Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke pointed to fatigue being a major factor in his team’s performance with just four days between Wednesday’s loss and a 4-1 win over the Columbus Crew Saturday.
“We could tell in the warmup that we were a bit tired,” Petke said. “As you saw in the first half, we had three or four guys coming into our centerbacks real close to collect the ball. It’s a sign of a little bit of fatigue.
“It’s strange for me because, I don’t want to disrespect, but out of all of the Philly teams I have faced, I felt that this was the most vulnerable team that I’ve faced,” Petke said. “This is the team that was most ripe to take points.”
Fatigue or no fatigue, the Union emerge from PPL Park with their first home MLS victory since a 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution March 15, much to the pleasure of goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
“It feels like it’s been forever since we won at home,” said MacMath. “We’ve played well for stretches in games but hadn’t been able to close it out. We finished it strong fashion tonight and I’m really happy for the fans.”
With the victory, the Union climb to sixth place in the Eastern Conference, while the Red Bulls hold onto the conference’s fifth position. Both sides now face quick turnarounds as both the Union and the Red Bulls are back in action Saturday against the Chicago Fire and San Jose Earthquakes, respectively.
Here are the game highlights: