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Kaku penalty pushes New York Red Bulls past Philadelphia Union

Oct 21, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; General view of the Commodore Barry Bridge outside of Talen Energy Stadium prior to a match between the New York Red Bulls and the Philadelphia Union. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

CHESTER, Pa. — The Philadelphia Union’s final home game of the regular season didn’t go as expected, but there’s still a good chance they return to Talen Energy Stadium in the postseason.

The Union fell 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls on Sunday afternoon, but because of results elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, they remained in fourth place ahead of their Decision Day clash at Yankee Stadium with New York City FC.

Kaku netted the lone goal for the visitors, who stayed alive in the Supporters’ Shield race with three points. 

The penalty was awarded to the Red Bulls on the second video review of the match by referee Ted Unkel. 

“Here they change it every game,” Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin said. “I don’t know what you even can expect here. It can happen in any game. Are we gonna stop now or are we going to control the play? You can’t do anything about it. It is what it is and we’re still in the same position with everything in our hands. If we win next week, we’re going to be third, but we can also be sixth.” 

As boos rained down from the crowd, Kaku stepped to the spot and handed the Red Bulls a one-goal advantage in the 69th minute. 

“It looked like a two-handed punch,” Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas said. “It looked a little strange. I’m not sure. I saw on the replay. But nowadays, with the VAR, you get those right. So it had to be clear and obvious. They got it right, I’m sure. For us, we designed that play and our guys executed and put them in an uncomfortable spot, which maybe helped us earn that.” 

The first half didn’t produce much in terms of significant chances on net despite the Union earning a good amount of set-piece opportunities. 

A fracas at the end of the first half produced the first video review of the game as, after Unkel blew the whistle for halftime, Kaku appeared to make contact with Alejandro Bedoya while he was laying on the ground. 

A few players from both sides got into it with each other before Medunjanin, Luis Robles and Bradley Wright-Phillips discussed the call with Unkel. 

After review, it was ruled Kaku had no malicious intent during his involvement with Bedoya in the middle of the penalty area. 

The second video review was more consequential, as Bedoya’s aerial handball off a corner kick was caught by the replay official.

“They’re doing their best with the VAR stuff, but it’s chaos in terms of we go end-to-end in that moment and in fact, I thought they were reviewing maybe Fafa had some contact on him and they communicated that they maybe saw what was a handball in the box,” Union coach Jim Curtin said.

“Again, they do their best with it, but there has to be maybe a clearer way for the fans in the stadium of knowing what’s going on,” Curtin said. “Coaches don’t really know exactly all the details. People still don’t have a grasp of the rules and what is reviewable, what is not. And there are some things where it’s a new process and it’s one they’re working through. It’s a tough call. Does it hit his hand? Yes, it does, but no advantage was really gained from it. It’s one you can probably let go.” 

After a quick trip to the monitor on the left side of the field, Unkel awarded the Red Bulls a penalty, which was coolly converted into the right side of the net by Kaku. 

The Union weren’t able to answer the spot kick from their rivals to the north, and their best scoring opportunity came in the 89th minute, when Medunjanin sent a blistering shot off a corner kick into the stands. 

“If you don’t score, you don’t win,” Medunjanin said. “I think the first half we had a lot of chances. In the second half, maybe some opportunities not that clear, but still we have everything in our hands. We play next week against New York City, who is also struggling, but you never know.” 

“We also played a cup game against a struggling team like Houston and they beat us,” Medunjanin said. “If you don’t go in there focused and 100 percent, like we played the first half here and some parts of the second half, you’re not going to get results over there.” 

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