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Union pounces on flat Red Bulls in 2-1 win

LeTouxMendes (GettyImages) 

If you didn't know anything about the two teams facing off at PPL Park on Saturday, you couldn't have been blamed for thinking the Philadelphia Union was the first-place team and the New York Red Bulls were the ones playing out the string.

Playing their last home game of the season, the Union overwhelmed a slow-starting Red Bulls side, scoring two first-half goals before holding off a late charge from New York to post a 2-1 victory on Saturday.

The Red Bulls pulled one back just after halftime on a Danleigh Borman goal, but the visitors saw their bid for a late equalizer saved when Fred cleared a Juan Agudelo header off the line in stoppage time.

The loss prevented the Red Bulls from clinching the Eastern Conference regular season title, while giving Philadelphia its ninth win of the season.

Philadelphia out-hustled and out-played New York for most of the first half, starting strongly and pressuring a lackluster New York side playing without starters Thierry Henry and Roy Miller. The absent starters couldn't account for New York's lack of energy or its toothless offense.

The blame for that fell squarely on a central midfield that provided little in the way of creativity or possession, and a 4-5-1 formation that once again struggled with Juan Pablo Angel playing as the lone striker.

Fred and Michael Orozco Fiscal scored the goals for Philadelphia on a pair of poorly-defended set pieces, with Orozco's goal coming after a poor clearance attempt.

New York looked much better in the second half, helped by a tactical shift to a 4-4-2, with Salou Ibrahim replacing an ineffective Tony Tchani. Head coach Hans Backe also shifted Joel Lindpere into a central role, while pushing Mehdi Ballouchy to the left wing. Lindpere's tenacity helped New York gain control of midfield, while Ballouchy was given more freedom to operate. He responded by combining with Borman on Borman's early second-half goal. Borman also enjoyed an improved second half after struggling badly in the first half.

Rookie Juan Agudelo nearly played the role of hero when he skied for a free header, but his would-be equalizer was cleared off the line by Fred, denying the U.S. Under-20 national team striker his first professional goal.

Another subplot from Saturday's match was the MLS Rookie of the Year battle between Tim Ream and Danny Mwanga. The two enjoyed a good battle, playing each other to a standstill.

The Red Bulls will have a chance to clinch the first regular season conference title in club history on Thursday with a win against New England at Red Bull Arena. Philadelphia closes out its season with a visit to Columbus.

In case you missed them, here are the highlights:


What did you think of Philadelphia's victory? Worried about New York's recent form? Looking forward to seeing how the Union looks in 2011?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. The interesting thing this year is that the entire league played home-and-home with every team; exactly how things are done in the European (single table) leagues. So the conference designations in MLS are purely labels; they don’t mean a thing as far as who plays whom how many times. So why should they mean anything as far as how the playoff bracket is structured?

    Since every team played every other team twice, it’s pretty fair to say that LA and RSL are the best teams, with FCD, SEA, NY, and CLB being a level below (albeit a small level, ~6 pts separating my theoretical “tiers”). LA and RSL are actually being punished, in a sense, for being in the stronger conference. LA may draw the red-hot Sounders in the first round, instead of (possibly) easier matchups vs. SJ or COL. I’d prefer a single table, with playoff seedings straight up 1v8, 2v7, etc.

  2. I was at the game last night and I have to say it was the best atmosphere all season at PPL Park, thanks to the strong contingent of fans from the NY Red Bulls.

  3. Corrected copy:

    History has shown that when there is player movement involved the Bulls play less enthusiastically… Hope this game was a one off and they move on!

  4. History has shown that when their is player movement involved the Bulls play less enthusiastically… Hope this game was a one ogg and they move on!

  5. Not worried about the Red Bulls’ form. They looked excellent in the second half. Obviously the 4-5-1 is not the way to go. 4-4-2 all the way. It’s silly to think that Angel and Henry can’t play together. They’ve actually combined pretty well.

  6. Is it just me, or is Tchani gradually losing his starting job? It’s becoming clear that when everyone is healthy, Angel, Henry, Ballouchy and Lindpere all belong on the field ahead of Tchani, with Richards and Marquez completing the front six.

  7. Absolutely man, the RB fans really made a difference. During pre-game they were in full voice and I think it raised the SOBs game last night. In fact , even the non- SOB sections that were around them were really getting up and involved which was great to see. I was behind the benches and seeing the back and forth was awesome. Great job on both sides. Great win for the U!

  8. Playoffs are truly messed up in this league, #4 plays #8, while #1 plays number #6 and #2 plays #3 overall, wtf?

    (SBI-Matt, there are conferences, so the seedings aren’t really applicable. You aren’t going to get a perfect layout of seeds when you have conferences. That isn’t the case in any league (least of all when teams play each other). The issue right now is the West is way stronger than the East. the system itself isn’t “messed up”. The balance of power in the conferences is what’s messed up.)

  9. So now the Sounders are tied with the Red Bulls.

    4th in the West = 1st in the East.

    To add insult to injury Dallas and Seattle have to stay in the West for the playoffs. That is what you get for finishing ahead of San Jose and Colorado.

  10. Pity. RBNY should have wrapped up the Conference title last night. I will be pissed if they squander the opportunity to host the semi-final at Red bull Arena.

    Credit to the Union, though. Well done.


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