Union Roar Back to Salvage Point Against Red Bulls
CHESTER, Pa. (973espn.com) – A furious Philadelphia comeback was stunted by an Ilsinho red card late in the game and the Union were forced to settle for a 2-2 tie with the New York Red Bulls on Sunday night.
Down by a pair of goals the tables turned in the 66th minute when Red Bulls midfielder Damien Perrinelle dragged down Chris Pontius in the box. C.J. Sapong was chosen to step up and the striker blasted his sixth goal of the year past New York goalkeeper Luis Robles to cut the lead in half.
It didn't take Philadelphia long to even things. In the next minute Fabian Herbers, who had just come on as a substitution, put a brilliant cross onto the foot of Pontius, who put it in the wide-open goal for his seventh of the year.
All the momentum was going the Union's way but in the 72nd minute Ilsinho was sent off with his red card after delivering a forearm on a contested ball.
Playing a man down, you would think Philadelphia would have played for the tie but it was the Union who kept the pressure on in the final minutes of the game with Pontius dueling the brilliant Robles, who basically carried the Red Bulls to a point with a number of brilliant saves.
By the 82nd minute the heat and humidity of a sticky July day had finally gotten to Pontius and he came off for Sebastien Le Toux. It still remained all Union, however.
With the tie the Union (8-6-6, 30 points) are now deadlocked atop the Eastern Conference table with New York City FC and the Red Bulls (8-9-4, 28 points) are just two points behind with about one-third of the MLS season remaining.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is now 7-1-3 at Talen Energy Stadium this season, meaning 24 of their 30 points have come courtesy of the home pitch.
It was Robles' counterpart, MLS All-Star Andre Blake, who kept the Union in the came early with his own spectacular work in net.
But, a long stretch of sloppy play finally cost Philadelphia in the 27th minute after an egregious turnover by defender Ken Tribett, his second of the half, gave Sacha Kljestan a golden opportunity and the midfielder beat the Blake on the far side for his third brace of the season.
The Union's best chance to even things in the first half came in the 34th minute when Pontius won a 50-50 ball and sprinted down the left side before crossing to Roland Alberg, who in turn touched-passed to Ilsinho. Coming off a two-gal game in Philadelphia's last MLS match, Ilsinho got a lot on the attempt but Robles had cut down the angle and made the save.
A yellow card on Ilsinho proved to be costly in the 43rd minute as Kljestan again found the back of the net off a free kick from straightaway and about 10 yards outside the area. The Red Bulls did a good job of disguising their intent on the try and Blake was fooled, barely moving as the ball sailed past him to the left.
Philadelphia finished with 16 shots on the night with 15 of them coming after intermission. Eight reached Robles and seven in the second half. Conversely the Red Bulls finished with eight shots and four finding the target, all of them in the first half.
New York was the hefty leader in possession (56.8 percent to 43.2) and also connected on more passes (74.4 percent accuracy to 67.8 for the Union).
-John McMullen covers the Philadelphia Union for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen.