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Union snap losing skid, but can’t find back of the net against Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Union

The Philadelphia Union managed to avoid a sixth straight regular season lost Saturday night against Eastern Conference rival New York Red Bulls in oppressive heat in Chester. Both teams managed a handful of chances registering an expected goal metric of over 2.5 each, but ultimately the match ended scoreless in a 0-0 draw.

Amidst protest from the club’s foremost supporters group which resulted in near silence for the first five minutes of the match, Philadelphia avoided a chorus of end of match boos by earning a draw and a much needed point.

The momentum swung frequently from the opening whistle until about the 75th minute. From that moment on, it began to look all too similar for Union fans as Red Bulls were knocking on the door often and almost converted for a game winning goal twice in the last 10 minutes of the match.

In total, Philadelphia fired off a total of 15 shots while New York rifled off 16. Both sides managed just five total shots on target each.

Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin rotated his keepers once again. Andrew Rick was between the posts tonight and came up clutch to preserve the draw and maintain a clean sheet. Rick, with his five saves, became the youngest keeper in club history to earn a clean sheet at just 18 years young. The draw also extends the club’s unbeaten streak against rival Red Bulls to 13 matches dating back to the 2019 season.

Curtin also decided to shift the formation Saturday night to a 5-3-2, likely due to the return of Jamaican center back Damion Lowe coupled with the absence of defensive minded midfielders Jesus Bueno (ankle injury) and Jose Martinez (international duty). It proved effective… enough. Though Red Bulls likely could have netted two goals themselves if their forwards were a bit more clinical in front of goal.

The momentum seemed to swing in either direction every five to ten minutes. But Philadelphia failed to apply enough pressure on the ball defensively throughout much of the first half and were luck to head into the halftime whistle unscathed. Red Bulls also deployed a very high line of pressure which left the Union backline with little time on the ball to pick out forward passes. Add in the lack of midfield depth, and the Union ended up neutralized a handful of times when attempting to build up out of the back.

Red Bulls managed two dangerous moments prior to the 25th minute. Poor spacing from the Union center backs allowed forward Dante Vanzeir to sneak in behind to receive a long ball pass on the run. Vanzeir managed to get a shot off but Rick was up to the task making an early clutch save followed by a crucial clearance by Lowe. A minute later, Lowe thwarted a chance of his own by sacrificing his body to block a Lewis Morgan shot from inside the box.

Fast forward to the 33rd minute, just after the hydration break, and the Union managed a chance of their own thanks to Daniel Gazdag. However, Gazdag was a bit over-eager on his chance and sailed his shot 20 yards over the net and into the stands. Gazdag’s shot was the end result of a Jack McGlynn cross to the back post for Leon Flach who neatly headed a pass onto the onrunning Gazdag.

One more chance occurred in first half stoppage time. This time Tai Baribo fired off two close range shots but both were blocked by Red Bulls defenders.

The second half started with New York on the front foot. But Rick, once again proved worthy in net by making another timely save in the 53rd minute on a Cameron Harper shot. Rick was quick with his reactions and made a key left footed save from close range.

Curtin went to the bench early in the 55th minute swapping Chris Donovan for Quinn Sullivan. Sullivan proved lively but ultimately failed to make the key decisions and passes in the final third late in the match.

He came close to netting the game winning goal in the 74th minute. Once again, the chance was created by the left foot of McGlynn. Sullivan’s chip attempt from inside the box trickled just wide.

In the 79th minute, Union veteran midfielder Ale Bedoya returned to action in place of Flach. But ultimately neither sub was able to help create the deciding goal.

The last 15 minutes were all Red Bulls. Philadelphia were squandering a bit to close out the game, much to the chagrin of the Union fans who decided to make the trip and sweat it out for the club.

In the 83rd and 87th minute, New York came very close from revving up the boo birds.

Swedish defender Noah Eile ventured forward all the way to the final third and ripped a well hit shot just a foot over the bar. And shortly afer, Elias Manoel, a second half sub, used his pace to find an opening between Union’s three center backs inside the box. Manoel’s sliding attempt at a shot went just wide.

Philadelphia managed to stop the bleeding. A clean sheet is a positive, though at this time it feels as though were scraping at the bottom of the barrel for any and all positive notes. Unfortunately, the most creative player on the field for Philadelphia aside from Daniel Gazdag is now departing. Jack McGlynn will soon depart for the USMNT U-23 team along with right back Nate Harriel.

But Jose Martinez should be back in action soon and so too could Mikael Uhre if recovers from injury quickly. Philadelphia can now enjoy a week long break before returning to action north of the border against Toronto FC July 13.

 

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