A second half Kaku penalty kick lifted New York Red Bulls to a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia Union in Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Union looked the stronger side, but Ted Unkel awarded the visitors a penalty after going to VAR and determining that a corner kick had hit Ale Bedoya’s arm in the air. The Union can still take third place in the Eastern Conference and secure a home playoff match by defeating New York City FC next Sunday in Yankee Stadium.
In a tightly contested first half, both teams created opportunities that walked right up to line of a big chance without being one.
Philadelphia created the first look when Cory Burke beat Tim Parker down the left channel and cut the ball back. Luis Robles got down and put a hand to the ball and nobody could knock it home in the ensuing chaos. Things quickly became physical as Auston Trusty left a shoulder in on Bradley Wright-Phillips as the two battled near the sideline.
The Red Bulls had a sight of goal in the 23rd minute when they got behind Keegan Rosenberry and Kaku played Marc Rzatkowski in space on the top right of the box. The winger cut onto his left and spun a shot into the center of the goal that Andre Blake easily corralled.
Philadelphia responded through Fafa Picault. CJ Sapong played Ale Bedoya wide on the right and the captain drove a pass to Picault’s feet in the box. The winger faked a shot as he sought an opening and eventually lofted his left-footer over the bar.
Picault continued to charge forward, beating Murillo to the endline moments later and putting in a cross that was beat away for a corner.
Red Bulls hit the post in the 35th minute after Trusty and Blake miscommunicated in the box, and on the rebound Adams tried to set up Rzatkowski but Ray Gaddis made a great step forward to clear the danger.
The Union then had their best chance of the half in the 40th minute. Picault’s wonderful long ball to Sapong was knocked around to Dockal and Bedoya, who set up Rosenberry for a hard low cross that both Bedoya and Picault tried to swing at simultaneously.
As the half finished, Kaku had a chance to shoot on goal but it was blocked away. The New York creator then fell on top of Bedoya and tried some funny business. Referee Ted Unkel had turned his back as he blew the halftime whistle, but after looking at the play on VAR, he indicated that no cards were required.
After Philly looked the stronger side in the first half, Chris Armas went to his bench to start the latter frame, bringing on Derrick Etienne Jr. for Rzatkowski.
The Union continued to push Red Bulls back but could not make their dominance count. Haris Medunjanin put a pair of free kicks over the head of everyone in the box before New York began growing into the match. First Gaddis and then McKenzie were caught on the ball in their own half, though both times the Union defenders worked hard and prevented any danger from building.
In the 65th minute, a good Red Bulls move down the right was cleared for a corner by McKenzie. On the ensuing kick, Bedoya appeared to be pushed into the back of Burke and both players stayed down in the box. Unkel ignored the fallen bodies and waved play on, and eventually Medunjanin gathered possession and played Picault through on the left. Robles and Picault came together, with the goalie sliding in with his cleats in the air.
Unkel blew play dead and indicated a video review would take place. It turned out the review was for a handball on the corner in the Union box, and Unkel determined that the ball had hit Bedoya’s hand in the air. What Jim Curtin later deemed a “soft penalty” was awarded and Kaku tucked it away.
New York shut up shop, dropping players deep and simply looking to counterattack through Etienne and Wright-Phillips.
Curtin turned to Ilsinho and Jay Simpson as the Union looked to penetrate New York’s defense. The closest they came was a Burke shot that was deflected over the bar, and on the corner that followed a Medunjanin drive just above the goal when the ball popped out up top.
In extra time, Burke had an opportunity to spin the ball back post to Bedoya, but could only clip it into Robles’ hands.
With DC United defeating New York City FC and Columbus Crew falling to Orlando City, the Union can still finish in third place in the Eastern Conference with a win over NYCFC next Sunday afternoon.