HARRISON, N.J. — The New York Red Bulls clinched a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs late Saturday night when three different results involving Eastern Conference teams went their way
On Sunday, the Red Bulls proved they can be a postseason threat, defeating the Philadelphia Union 2-0 at Red Bull Arena.
“I feel right now, everything we need to do, we need to do that with urgency,” Kemar Lawrence said. “We need to be aggressive and we need to stamp our class to show people that when you play us that we will run you over.”
It was the second consecutive win for the Red Bulls (14-13-5, 47 points), who leapfrogged Toronto FC and D.C. United temporarily into fourth place in the East, five points behind the Union (15-9-7, 52 points), whose hopes of finishing atop the conference took a hit with their first loss since a 2-0 defeat at Chicago August 17. United moved back into fourth following a 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders later Sunday.
“The sprit of this group remains. I think there’s something to be said about that,” Luis Robles said. “And I think a great reflection of that was the Portland game. And we continue to show that spirit tonight.”
Tom Barlow scored the first goal in the 32nd minute, capitalizing on a gaffe by Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, who spilled a Josh Sims cross in front of goal. The lanky Barlow pounced to tap in his third goal of the season.
“Obviously we clinched a playoff spot last night, but our mentality was come in, win the game, get three points and start pushing for a higher seed in the playoffs coming up in a couple weeks,” Barlow said. “But it was a good, good performance by the guys and yeah happy to get the win.”
Danny Royer put the game away deep in second half stoppage time, taking a feed from Bradley Wright-Phillips and scoring off Blake.
Blake got the better of Royer early, diving to his right to parry away an attempt after the Austrian received a feed from Marc Rzatkowski, turned and fired on frame from 22 yards out in the 13th minute.
Three minutes later, the Union had their first quality chance when Fafa Picault was played into the box on a quickly-played Jamiro Monteiro free kick. Robles raced off his line to make the save, but Picault slipped a ball over to Alejandro Bedoya, whose shot at the open net was cleared off the line by Aaron Long.
In the 29th minute, Monteiro latched onto a Kai Wagner corner kick and fired just wide of a rooted Robles. Two minutes later, Bedoya played back to Kacper Przybylko, who took a touch around a sliding Sean Davis but just missed an open shot from the edge of the 18-yard box.
Royer had a chance to double the Red Bulls advantage in the 53rd minute, receiving a ball cut back toward the penalty area by Kyle Duncan. But he scuffed wide a first-time shot.
In the 70th minute, Royer flashed to the near post to latch onto a Kaku corner kick, but he fired wide. Two minutes later, Sims teed up Wright-Phillips, whose deflected shot had Blake lunge the wrong way, but the ball caromed out for a Red Bulls corner kick.
In the 73rd minute, Wright-Phillips took down a Cristian Casseres service into the box, but Blake batted down his shot. Three minutes later, Blake parried away a Kaku shot for another corner kick.
Lawrence made two huge defensive plays in the 83rd minute to make sure the result held, stretching out to cut off a service to Przybylko and then dived to block an open Sergio Santos shot.
“Overall I’m still happy with the team’s performance,” Union coach Jim Curtin said. “It’s not often you come to Red Bull and have that much of the ball and are able to create chances. We just didn’t finish them off tonight, and again, we’ll go back, we’ll look at the tape, we’ll get better from it and move on to the next two games.”
Sep 22, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Marc Rzatkowski (90) plays the ball against the Philadelphia Union during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The Red Bulls return to action next Sunday, taking on rival D.C. United in their home regular season finale while the Union have a double-match week beginning with the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium Wednesday.
“This is a big week, obviously we make the playoffs,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. “And maybe we’re playing these last few games better than we’ve had all year in terms of controlling things.”