Welcome back to another edition of Three Takeaways, a segment in which I dive in after each Philadelphia Union match, revisit and take a closer look at what went well and what ultimately did not.
On Saturday, May 26, the Philadelphia Union settled for a scoreless draw with the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena, in Harrison, New Jersey. Philadelphia’s record stands at 4-3-5, which is good for 7th in the Eastern Conference and 15 points in 12 games.
There were, as with every Union game, things that went well, and things that ultimately did not go so well. So, without further delay, here are my Three Takeaways from the Union’s recent game against the Red Bulls.
Battling a Good Team, Not Falling to a Good Team
In all honesty, I expected the Boys-in-Blue to be decimated by Red Bull. Entering the match against Philadelphia, New York had earned 21 points from 10 games and were on an impressive four game unbeaten run.
But Philadelphia managed to hold their own and didn’t let New York, led by dangerous forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, score once. It was an especially remarkable feat as this hadn’t happened to Red Bull since March 17, when Nick Rimando and Real Salt Lake shut them out 1-0 in Utah.
Philadelphia managed to slow down the pace of play, and forced New York to play at a different tempo. In turn, it was the Union who were clearly in control for 90 minutes. Good passing, patience, and a solid back line helped the Union get a point on the road.
New York’s draw with Philadelphia shows that the Union can go toe-to-toe with a top tier team in the East. Fans may not know just how good this team is until they find a way to win on the road, against a top-tier team. However, the Union have recently shown signs of coming together as a team and results have begun to fall their way.
Solid Chances Overall
Throughout the match on Saturday, the Union forced backup keeper Ryan Meara into multiple uncomfortable situations.
Perhaps the best example of this came in the 18th minute, when Union winger Marcus Epps received a long pass from teammate Haris Medunjanin and put the ball past Meara, only to have it denied by defenseman Tim Parker. Parker denied Epps a sure goal, clearing his shot off the line, with a last-ditch header.
While obviously, it would’ve been better if Epps had scored, there are some positives, in addition to negatives with this play.
First, Epps was ready for that long ball, and Medunjanin was ready to send it, showing a solid understanding of positioning and ability between the two Union teammates.
Second, Epps was able to beat his defender and get a shot on goal past the keeper. Now, there really isn’t a downside to this play, other than the fact that the ball didn’t make it to the net. And while scoring is the fundamental objective in soccer, fundamentally speaking, that play was fantastic.
Later, Epps found himself in on a breakaway, after a pass from Borek Dockal.
Meara made the save this time, however, Epps showed off his blistering speed and did well to get another solid shot on goal. It was another opportunity for Epps and the Union that could’ve changed the tide of the game.
So, What Went Wrong?
Obviously, three points would have been better than one, and the Union, while they were not perfect, probably deserved to take three from the match on Saturday. Neverthless, here are some of the things that I believe went wrong.
I have to talk about CJ Sapong. I haven’t been satisfied with Sapong’s performances over the last few weeks, and his penalty miss last weekend left my head shaking in pure disbelief.
Everything was set up for Sapong. He stood 12 yards from the net, with no one in his way except for Meara and some turf. Meara even dove the wrong way, leaving a wide open net.
Yet Sapong’s shot didn’t even come close to the goal, ending up at least a yard from the net. No. 17 needs to drastically improve, or he could find himself switching places with Corey Burke on the depth chart pretty soon.
New York had several, solid shots on goal throughout the game, which I believe shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. However, Philadelphia’s back line held their own for the majority of the contest, but they did let several shots slip through.
Mark McKenzie was turned around in the 13th minute when Wright-Phillips played the ball to midfielder Daniel Royer, leading to two shots. New York’s second effort was arguably its best chance of the game.
Overall, I am fairly happy with how the Union played against the Red Bulls, on Saturday, and I consider these mistakes to be nothing more than anomalies, although they still deserve to be addressed.
Make sure to check in later this week, when Lister analyzes the Philadelphia Union’s performance on Wednesday, against David Accam’s former club, the Chicago Fire.