In its second of three games in the span of a week, the Union was upended 2-1 by I-95 rival the New York Red Bulls, done in by a pair of second half goals fueled by counter attacks.
For the Union, the loss has the team still seeking its first win ever at Red Bull Arena while New York celebrated its first win of the season. Talismanic striker Thierry Henry put the Red Bulls up first scoring his second of the season in the 57th minute. Just 10 minutes later, midfielder Lloyd Sam made it two when he flicked a cross into the box from Eric Alexander to the far post of Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
“Not only did we let them off the hook, but we should have had them in the second half too,” said Union manager John Hackworth. “We knew they were going to be dangerous if we let them hang around for as long as we did. Very frustrating to play as well as we did in some aspects of that game and then be down, 2-0.
The Union (1-2-4, seven points) managed to pull one back in the 78th after a handball in the box from Ibrahim Sekagya gave the Union a penalty kick and sent Sekagya to the locker room after receiving an ejection. Union midfielder Sebastien Le Toux stepped up to the spot and buried yet another of his trademark penalties into the corner. And while Le Toux later told philadelphiaunion.com that Red Bulls (1-2-4, seven points) goalkeeper Luis Robles knew where he was going, he took solace in the fact that he has never missed a PK as a member of the Union.
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“He knew where I was going,” said Le Toux, who was a teammate of Robles’ in New York for part of the 2012 MLS season. “I felt lucky to get it by him because he knew where I usually put them. I am happy to get a goal, but I would have been happier if it meant we won. It’s unfortunate because for much of the game, I thought we were the better team tonight.”
It appeared that the second goal from New York was the one that truly took the wind out of the collective sails of a Union side that found it difficult to contain the quick counterattacking style of Red Bulls. Though the Union did find chances in the box late, they were unable to make them count.
“It’s baffling to watch [the two goals New York scored] back,” said Union manager John Hackworth. “You look at the plays we got right in this game and then we let those kinds of goals happen…it’s just not good enough. When I looked back at those two goals [postgame] in the locker room, I see breakdowns. I see our back line get pulled apart when we want to make sure that they are staying compact. We are talking about two balls that are crossed in the box and [the Red Bulls] win both. At the end of the day, we feel like we played well but they were just better in the box than we were.”
The final stats show the Union again the better team in possession (52.5 percent) and in accurate passing (83.5 percent) a statistic that would dictate that the controlled tempo kept New York on its heels for much of the contest.
The Union will now look to shake of the frustration of coming up short and focus energies on another Eastern Conference foe when Houston visits PPL Park this Saturday (4 p.m., purchase tickets).
“It’s frustrating because we’ve had a couple chances to win here and I thought today was one of those good chances as well,” said Union defender Amobi Okugo. “We had a really good first half, but just didn’t bring that into the second half and they punished us. It’s annoying, but we have to take how disappointed we are and build on it for Saturday.”
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Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org