Philadelphia Union earned their first win of the season tonight against their Eastern Conference rivals New York Red Bulls 3-0 in front of a crowd of 16,297 at Talen Energy Stadium. The Union were led by striker CJ Sapong who recorded a hat-trick to secure the victory. It was the third hat trick in Union history.
The Union controlled the tempo of the match during the first half of the contest. 2016 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake was spectacular for Philadelphia in net on Saturday night. The Jamaican star came up big for the Union in the 20th minute as the Red Bull attack pressured the Union zone.
After New York’s Daniel Royer sent a ball in the box that found the foot of Kemar Lawrence who seemed destined for goal, Blake made a two-handed save to keep the ball in play. Bradley Wright-Phillips sent a shot towards the net after a Jack Elliott clearing attempt, but Captain Alejandro Bedoya deflected the shot keeping the match scoreless. The first 45 ended with neither club on the scoreboard.
The Union had to adjust on the fly in the 63rd minute after both Ray Gaddis and Roland Alberg left the match. MLS All-Star Keegan Rosenberry and Academy product Derrick Jones entered the match. The Union were denied for the final time on the evening after a sensational save from Red Bull goalkeeper Luis Robles who denied Sapong the first goal of the match.
The floodgates opened for Philadelphia in the 74th minute. After Haris Medunjanin sent a ball into the Red Bull zone, Sapong was able to pounce on the loose ball and attack the Red Bull defense. With Bedoya on his left Sapong dribbled into the box and sent a shot towards the net. The shot took a deflection off a New York defender and bounced over the head of Robles and into the back of the net to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead.
In the 80th minute Blake stood tall yet again. This time, he denied Wright-Phillips from equalizing the match with a diving one-handed stop, leaving Wright-Phillips dumbfounded. A minute later Sapong struck again. After a nifty cross in the box from the near side of the pitch from Fabian Herbers, Chris Pontius was able to get his head on the cross and send a pass for Sapong who tapped in his second goal of the evening to push the Union lead to 2-0.
The clincher came in the 84th minute after Pontius tried to send a pass but was deflected by the hand of a Red Bull defender leaving the official no choice but to award Philadelphia a penalty kick. Sapong stepped up to the penalty spot and buried home his third goal of the night, recording the first hat-trick of his career. Sapong joins Sebastien Le Toux (4/10/10 vs. DC) and Roland Alberg (6/22/16 vs. CHI) as the only players to record hat tricks for Philadelphia.
The final whistle blew moments later and the Union finished with a decisive 3-0 victory of the New York Red Bulls. The Union will be back in action this Saturday when they travel down I-95 to take on Eastern Conference rival D.C. United for the final time at RFK Stadium. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be seen on The Comcast Network.