While a loss can be placed on any team not able to score a goal, it was an outside influence that ultimately doomed the Union in their Father’s Day match up with New York Red Bulls.
The hot and humid temperature in Chester was a strong indicator of the type of match Philadelphia and New York were poised to play. This rivalry has had its moments over the years and today was just another indicator of why so many Union fans mark this day on their calendar every season. And while Father’s Day is always a fantastic opportunity to bring the kids out to a game, the atmosphere within Talen Energy Stadium was one that perhaps should’ve come with a parental warning due to the nature of the battle at hand.
The Union were strong early in creating chances for their attacking players. While the flow of the game was back and forth, Philadelphia led the first half in chances created and shots on goal. They also led in a category of fouls conceded which to their credit was not all their fault.
The Philadelphia Union endured a brutal day in front of their home crowd that came in the form of numerous calls (or no calls) from head official Allen Chapman. While nothing can be completely blamed on a referee, Chapman was certainly instrumental in leaving his mark on the game.
C.J. Sapong was berated up top with challenges from behind with very few of them being called against New York. The visitors found themselves set up in the Union’s final third many times from set piece opportunities that seemingly never ended for a long stretch of the game. But the real controversy arose in the 53rd minute when a Derrick Jones slide tackle on Felipe was deemed to be a dangerous effort and he was shown a red card after only one previous infraction the entire match.
Playing shorthanded meant head coach Jim Curtin had to adapt in order to see out a favorable result for Philadelphia. Ilsinho was immediately replace by Warren Creavalle and the Union began to absorb pressure left and right from the intricate buildups of New York. The two centerbacks Jack Elliott and Oguchi Onyewu occupied their space well and Andre Blake was called into action several times that kept Philadelphia in the match well into the 85th minute.
But the wear and tear of chasing a clinical side like the Red Bulls eventually became too much for this Union squad and in the 87th minute, Bradley Wright Phillips worked into the 6-yard box and delivered the crushing blow off a cross that ultimately delivered the crushing blow to the 17,720 fans in attendance. Forced to throw all their numbers forward, Philadelphia just couldn’t find that final touch to get them back into the match. The New York talisman Phillips added another goal in stoppage time that sealed the game in favor of the visitors by a final score of 2-0.
Much can be said about the offense not being able to capitalize on chances created; scoring only one goal in the last three MLS games. The same goes for the defense’s slightest of mistakes that cost goalkeeper Andre Blake yet another clean sheet. But this game completely changed when Chapman produced the red card that sent off the young Union midfielder and both players and coaches were adamant in defending their man.
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“I think everyone can see it was not a red card. It killed our game.” said Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin following the result. Frustration among fans and personnel alike was evident in walking around Talen Energy Stadium for that very reason.
Head coach Jim Curtin was in the same mindset when asked by the media. “Ref’s can’t be so quick to make a decision like that. I don’t think it was a red card. Felipe’s a player that can get under your skin and I think he baited the ref to make the call.” Not only was the tackle in question by everyone in attendance, but eyebrows were raised when Curtin elaborated on what the call was marked as: “Think it was written down as violent conduct… You really can’t make a tackle in this game without showing the cleats”
By any measure, this result is never one that’s ideal or can be rightly justified by placing the blame on something that has always provided controversy in the sporting world. But this is a result that should not dishearten Union fans because the game was simply taken away from them. That said, it’s now time to look ahead and wash this bitter result clean off the slate. Philadelphia will host D.C. United on June 24th in an effort to climb back up the eastern conference standings.