Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
One team’s starters played like a cohesive unit. The other side played like a club still developing chemistry.
The New York Red Bulls defeated the Philadelphia Union, 2-1, in a rainy preseason match at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. on Wednesday night, but the scoreline was not indicative of how the two Eastern Conference teams played.
The Red Bulls were clearly the more dominant side in a first half that saw both clubs field many of their projected starters, and it took them just eight minutes to open the scoring through a Lloyd Sam finish. Sam also set up Thierry Henry on the winner late in the opening stanza after the Union had temporarily pulled level through a Jack McInerney free kick.
New York, which is bringing back many of the same players that won the Supporters’ Shield in 2013, mixed long spells of possession with quick counterattacks and interplay in the opening 45 minutes. Philadelphia struggled to cope and went down quickly in part because of its players’ unfamiliarity with one another.
Sam broke in free behind the defense on the right flank and dribbled towards goal, unleashing a low shot that went underneath starting Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
The Red Bulls continued to look like a team in midseason form, but the Union struck next. New York goalkeeper Luis Robles was whistled for holding onto the ball too long in the penalty area and a free kick was awarded to Philadelphia inside its opposition’s 18-yard box.
McInerney atoned for an earlier 1-on-1 miss against Robles by blasting the ball into the back of the net to pull the Union level.
It did not take long for the Red Bulls to pull ahead again. Sam made another dribbling run forward on the right flank and got to the edge of the penalty area when he heard Henry shout for the ball. Without looking, Sam played a pass right to where he thought New York’s captain would be and the Frenchman made no mistake with his effort from the top of penalty area.
New York had other chances to score, most notably on a Tim Cahill shot that went an inch wide of the far post, but went into the break with a one-goal lead.
That would be enough, as both teams played disjointedly after fielding the majority of their reserves at the start of the second half.
Union goalkeeper Andre Blake shone during the final 45 minutes, looking sturdy in goal and make an impressive double save on Eric Alexander and Amando Moreno to keep Philadelphia within striking distance.
What do you think of the Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over the Union? Were you impressed with New York? Not surprised Philadelphia struggled?
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