The Boys in Blue battled back from an early deficit and got the tying goal with a hustle effort from Jakob Glesnes to tie things up midway through the opening half before the game turned with a second yellow to Red Bull’s team captain. The Union took advantage of the extra man with back-to-back goals from Damion Lowe and Julian Carranza in a two minutes to break things open. Kai Wagner teed up his club record-tying third assist late in the match as he found Daniel Gazdag to make it 4-1. The pushes the Hungarian into sole possession of second place in club history with 37 career goals in league play.
With a trio of midfielders unavailable for selection, Head Coach Jim Curtin returned to the 3-5-2 formation with Damion Lowe stepping back into the starting lineup alongside Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes to make up the backline. The pressure was on the Union going into the Sunday night contest with a national television audience tuned in and Eastern Conference results 24 hours earlier to keep up with.
It took just 12 seconds after the opening whistle to show that neither side were willing to give an inch with Alejandro Bedoya and Daniel Edelman colliding after an aerial duel with the Red Bull midfielder drawing the foul after taking the brunt of the battle. After a lengthy stoppage to make sure the visiting player was alright, play resumed when John Tolkin floated a free kick into the box that was cleared out by the Boys in Blue. The club from New Jersey regained possession and attempted a quick volley over the top to Frankie Amaya, but Andre Blake made sure to shut the door despite the offside flag raised.
Philadelphia Union earned the opening corner with a direct ball from Kai Wagner down the left side for Mikael Uhre, and though the the Danish forward gave center back Andres Reyes a taste of his pace, the opportunity was dealt with by the Red Bulls.
Playing direct, the Union thought they had a counter attack chance in the sixth minute with Daniel Gazdag collecting a tipped ball raced past the center stripe. However Red Bulls’ captain Sean Nealis got the crowd into the match with a tactical foul that saw him pull down the Hungarian and collect the game’s first yellow card.
While the Boys in Blue dominated the attacking chances early in the match, it was the visitors getting a fortunate bounce to claim the opening goal in the 11th minute. Omir Fernandez was the troublemaker as he snuck inside the box to receive a hard pass from the wing and ripped a one-timer toward the near post. The shot was blocked by Lowe but the rebound went right back to the midfielder who again took a follow up shot in stride that snuck inside the post.
Much like the last time they squared off in Leagues Cup, the Union sought a quick response after falling behind and took control of the match throughout the rest of the half in search of the tying goal.
Philly earned a corner chance two minutes after Red Bulls' goal, with the intial service cleared out by the visitors but quickly regained by the Union’s counter press. Again getting the ball to Wagner for a cross, the left back went to the far post where Jack Elliott whipped in a cross of his own to Bedoya. The Union captain took it off the volley and blasted a left-footed shot that was saved by Carlos Coronel. The former Union goalkeeper was quick to react as he jumped on the loose ball from the stop just before Uhre could pounce on the rebound. Moments later the Union again attempted a shot from distance that forced the keeper into a difficult position where he could only stop it with a diving punch.
The Union kept the momentum building and turned to some sweet moves in the 20th minute with the forward duo creating a scoring chance. Julian Carranza floated out to the right flank to collect possession and tee'd up a low cross into the box toward Uhre. With his momentum taking him away from the net, the Dane redirected the pass with a backheel flick that forced a difficult reaction save. Red Bulls didn’t escape the pressure after the stop with the counter press again getting the Union a second bite at the apple. Tipped out wide to Kai Wagner on the left side, the German floated a cross to the back post for homegrown Nathan Harriel to rise up and place a headed effort on frame, only to be denied by the crossbar.
While Philly didn’t get a goal quite yet, the pressure kept building and put the visitors in a more precarious position in the 24th minute when Reyes was booked for denying a possible breakaway for Uhre. Four minutes later, the goal that was building for the Boys in Blue finally came off a set piece with a fortuitous bounce. With a corner chance in the 28th minute, Wagner swung an inswinger that forced a punch from Coronel but deflected off the back of own of his own players. Glesnes jumped on the ball and snuck a shot through the crowd of players that had Subaru Park erupt behind the Norwegian and the scored tied at 1-1.
Both sides continued to trade chances after the goal but the Union gained an added advantage late in the half when Uhre sought a one-man counter attack. The forward battled Sean Nealis and turned toward the open field where he flicked a forward pass to get around the center back. The ball crashed off Nealis and the early yellow card came back to haunt him as he was shown a second yellow and sent to the dressing room.
With the man advantage, Philly thought they had the goal advantage going into halftime as Carranza took a quick pass from Gazdag and converted in the 1v1 chance against the keeper. The Video Assistant Referee intervened and summoned the referee for a second look where it was determined the Argentinian was inches offside and not held on by Tolkin.
Down a defender, the visitors brought on Kyle Duncan at the break in place of striker Elias Manoel and shifted into a back four to stymie the Union’s countering speed. Despite the defensive lineup it was Red Bulls with the first chance of the final 45 with defense turning into offense in the 49th minute. Tom Barlow shielded the ball and tipped a pass out to the playmaking Luquinhas in stride. With a 3v2 counter attack and running down the middle of the park, the Brazilian threaded the needle to slip the ball by a diving Lowe and present the goalscoring Fernandez with a chance at a brace. The midfielder took one touch to get into the box and ripped a shot that was saved by Blake and avoided a possible deflection in by Glesnes as he recovered.
With a defender on a yellow card, Philly’s plan was to go right at Reyes with the center back going shoulder to shoulder against Gazdag and ultimately remaining on the pitch. While the River End was rooting for the second send off, the Union earned a free kick after Carranza was fouled by Amaya. Wagner hit a left-footed blast right into the six where Lowe battled Reyes and won with a diving finish to make it 2-1 for the Boys in Blue.
A one-goal lead quickly became two as the Union again took possession and went hunting for another goal. Bedoya won possession and hit a cross to the far side of the field for Wagner to race onto. The left back hit a difficult pass into the ground that went between a pair of Red Bulls and right to Carranza for a left-footed shot that nearly tore a whole in the yellow netting and had the Union up 3-1 in a matter a minutes.
New York kept on challenging to claw a goal back and pushed numbers forward in hopes of trimming the deficit. With the game in hand, Curtin awarded an MLS debut to forward Tai Baribo who took to the pitch to a roaring ovation from the crowd. With the numbers up field, the Union continued to feed a hot boot and put Wagner on the ball. Seeing Gazdag in a full sprint toward goal, Wagner timed a perfectly weight pass to spring him 1v1 against the keeper which the Hungarian deposited into the back of the net to claim sole possession of second place in club history for goals scored.
Philadelphia Union is back in action after the FIFA International Window break on Saturday, September 16th when they host Eastern Conference leaders FC Cincinnati. The match also serves as the club's Kick Childhood Cancer and Phang's Birthday Celebration. Kick off from Subaru Park is set for 7:30PM ET.