By RYAN TOLMICH
With time ticking down and a one-goal lead in the back pocket, the New York Red Bulls were just three stoppage-time minutes away from a third straight win. All they needed to do is avoid giving up a late goal.
Three minutes was just long enough for the Philadelphia Union to spoil the Red Bulls’ plans, and just long enough to put the Red Bulls on the negative end of a questionable call after having some other questionable calls go their way in the past week.
Red Bulls defender Ibrahim Sekagya conceded a 90th-minute penalty, which Philadelphia Union forward Sebastien Le Toux converted, as the two sides settled for a 2-2 draw Saturday at a rainy PPL Park.
The late-game penalty was drawn by Union rookie Pedro Ribeiro, who also bagged a goal of his own in the 41st minute. In the first minute of second-half stoppage time, Sekagya whiffed in a clearance attempt close to goal, which allowed Ribeiro to step in and attempt a shot. Replays showed Sekagya blocking the ball as Ribeiro stepped in to kick the ball, with both players falling in a heap. Referee Allen Chapman pointed to the spot, setting up LeToux’s penalty, even though replays failed to show a clear foul by Sekagya.
The penalty was one of two controversial ones awarded by Chapman on the day, with the first coming in the first half after Peguy Luyindula went down under soft contact from Ethan White. Luyindula converted that spot kick.
Thierry Henry was there to double the Red Bulls’ lead just three minutes later with a long distance effort that fooled MacMath with a wicked bounce off the soggy turf.
Upon receiving a bouncing pass from Red Bulls defender Chris Duvall, Henry struck a powerful first time volley into the path of MacMath. With the rainy conditions surely playing a part, the Union goalkeeper failed to keep hold of the ball, as the shot bounced off MacMath’s hands before slowly rolling over the line to double the Red Bulls’ advantage.
The hosts responded immediately to pull within one via Ribeiro, who poked home an Andrew Wenger cross to pull the score back to 2-1. With Wenger dribbling to the left of the box, Ribeiro made a run toward the near post and the ensuing cross rolled right onto his left foot for a close range finish.
The Union’s quest for an equalizer was stopped time and time again by Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles, who made a pair of outstanding saves to preserve his side’s lead. The best of Robles’ efforts came in the 76th minute, as the Red Bulls goalkeeper kept out a close range effort from the Union’s Maurice Edu.
Despite the goalkeeping heroics, the Red Bulls failed to take advantage, as Robles was left helpless on Le Toux’s penalty, forcing the visitors to settle for just one point.
With the draw, the Red Bulls maintain their one point advantage over the Union in the Eastern Conference standings. The Red Bulls sit in fourth place in the East, while the Union have slipped into sixth place, behind the Columbus Crew via tie-breaker.
The Union now turn toward the U.S. Open Cup final, which will be contested against the Seattle Sounders Tuesday at PPL Park.
Meanwhile, the Red Bulls face midweek action of their own with a trip to Montreal to take on the Impact in CONCACAF Champions League action.