By JOEY SAMUEL
CHESTER, Pa.– It was a back-and-forth and exciting match, but only one team emerged with three points on Sunday afternoon as the New York Red Bulls defeated the Philadelphia Union, 3-2, at PPL Park.
Kenny Cooper scored the game-winning goal in the 78th minute to lift the Red Bulls to their fourth straight win, a victory that moved New York into first place in the East.
An eventful first half saw Joel Lindpere put the Red Bulls up in the 17th minute, only for a lively Freddy Adu to find Lionard Pajoy in the box for an equalizer in the 31st. Adu's masterful performance ended early after he was shown a second yellow card for a dive in the penalty area.
In the second half, Pajoy scored again early to give the Union a surprise 2-1 lead. But the man advantage became more apparent as the half wore on, and New York equalized in the 68th through Markus Holgersson before Cooper netted the winner.
"I think [the Union] got tired," Red Bulls coach Hans Backe said. "To give away a goal like that, confidence-wise, it's not the best way to start the second half. But overall, we were able to finish them off, as they wore down."
After an opening fifteen minutes in which Philadelphia controlled most of the possession, New York shocked PPL Park when they marched quickly down the field and Mehdi Ballouchy set up Joel Lindpere, who fired the ball into the net from the edge of the box in the 17th minute.
Fourteen minutes later, Lionard Pajoy finally managed to finish one of the many chances he'd been getting, heading in a cross from Freddy Adu. The first half hour of the game had been marked by the outstanding play of Adu, who was terrorizing the Red Bull defense, beating several defenders with each run down the field.
Right before halftime, though, Adu's day came to an early end, as he was deemed by referee Jorge Gonzalez to have dived in the box and was issued a second yellow card.
Philadelphia responded the best way possible after halftime, scoring again through Pajoy to take a 2-1 lead.
But as the game progressed, the Red Bulls took advantage of their extra man on the field, and began to dominate possession. It paid off in the 68th minute, when Markus Holgersson got up high to head in a goal off a Brandon Barklage cross. Holgersson had been nightmarish defensively up to that point, but he made his mark offensively to tie the game up.
Then, in the 78th minute, Rafa Marquez found Kenny Cooper, who beat Carlos Valdes and goalie Zac MacMath in one motion before tapping the ball into an open net. At that point, New York dropped back, and did their best to hold onto the lead.
Philadelphia seemed to wake up, and came at New York with waves of pressure in the closing minutes. In the 86th minute, Michael Farfan found himself looking at an open goal with the ball at his feet from only a yard or so out. But somehow, he put his shot all the way along the goal line and wide.
In stoppage time, the Union had another golden opportunity when a Farfan free kick fell to several Union players, but Red Bulls goalie Ryan Meara was able to heroically grab it.
New York held on for the three points, putting them atop the Eastern Conference above struggling Sporting Kansas City. Philadelphia, meanwhile, were left to rue a number of missed chances and were left puzzled about the Adu situation.
“It wasn’t a foul or anything. But in that instant, I’m not just trying to bait the ref into calling it," Adu said. "I’ve already got a yellow card. I’m not gonna go out there and be stupid and try and dive. I was just bracing myself to get hit. He stuck his foot out, but he didn’t get me.
“I didn’t stay down and complain for a call or anything like that, I was just trying to get right back up and play, but he blew the whistle," said Adu. "Everything happened so fast, and he just decided ‘You try to bait me, I’m gonna give him another.’ In my opinion, if a player’s already on a yellow card and something like that happens, I think you get a warning.”
While Backe recognized that Adu's sending off was a factor in his team's win, he also said he doesn't really like playing with a man-advantage, because it can lead to certain problems.
"We talked quickly before halftime, but this happens nine out of 10 times," Backe said of Philly's goal to open the second half. "I hate playing 11 against 10. You should have more possession and outplay a team, but something happens. You run less, and you have too much time on the ball. So we said at halfitme you need to run more, we have to give more options, and we have to use the one-two pass game. But I think we need to practice that more."
Regardless of how they needed to do it, New York earned the three points against a hated rival in Philadelphia. It was their fourth straight win after having lost three consecutive games.
The Union, meanwhile, were left struggling to find positives in a game where they scored two goals in a match for the first time this year, but still lost.
“Today, a full ninety minutes across the board, everybody played great,” said Nowak after the game. “I’m very proud of the effort. It’s always disappointing to lose the game, but the fashion we presented ourselves, that was the real Union team that we want to see.”
Next week, each team takes to the road, as New York travels to Montreal for a date with the Impact while Philadelphia heads to Dallas.
What do you think of the Red Bulls' away win over the Union? Did Adu deserve to be sent off? Can New York keep up this level of play without Thierry Henry?
Share your thoughts below.